There is a lot more demand these days for medication than photographic film, so Eastman Kodak has decided to get into drugs, and the Trump administration is supporting its initiative with a $765 million loan.
The new business unit, according to Kodak, will produce “critical pharmaceutical components” to help rebuild the national stockpile depleted by COVID-19. Once fully operational, Kodak Pharmaceuticals will develop up to one quarter of the active ingredients used in non-biologic, non-antibacterial, generic drugs while supporting more than 1,500 jobs.
“By leveraging our vast infrastructure, deep expertise in chemicals manufacturing, and heritage of innovation and quality, Kodak will play a critical role in the return of a reliable American pharmaceutical supply chain,” Executive Chairman Jim Continenza said. Existing manufacturing plants in Rochester, N.Y., and St. Paul, Minn., will be retooled for the new division.
Since the company’s founding by George Eastman in 1888, Kodak has been supplying consumers with cameras, film, chemicals, and paper. The firm is no stranger to complicated compounds: In 1920, Tennessee Eastman was founded to manufacture chemicals needed for film photography products; more than 70 years later, Eastman Chemical was spun off as a separate corporation, which became a Fortune 500 company.
“We are pleased to support Kodak in this bold new venture,” Adam Boehler, CEO of capital provider US International Development Finance Corporation, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with this iconic American company will promote health and safety at home and around the world.”
It remains unclear exactly what potions Kodak Pharmaceuticals will be brewing. The Wall Street Journalhinted at antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which Donald Trump has touted in the treatment of coronavirus; DFC revealed only that the components are “essential,” but have lapsed into chronic national shortage, as defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
Kodak isn’t the only photography firm fighting coronavirus: As the BBC pointed out, Japan’s Fujifilm is working on a potential COVID-19 vaccine, and hopes to start human trials soon.