Coronavirus: Kodak pivots to become a strategic drug manufacturer

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Best known for making cameras, Kodak has branched out into drug manufacturing and has just secured a $ 765 million (£ 592 million) loan from the US government.

The fallen giant of the photography industry will manufacture ingredients used in generic drugs to help fight the coronavirus.

In announcing the loan, the U.S. government said it wanted to reduce reliance on foreign countries for medical supplies.

Kodak shares climbed more than 60% on Tuesday after the announcement.

Pharmaceutical companies are in a race to find a vaccine for the coronavirus with a handful of ongoing human trials.

“Kodak is proud to help strengthen America’s self-sufficiency in the production of the key pharmaceutical ingredients we need to keep our citizens safe,” said Executive Chairman Jim Continenza.

When launching Kodak Pharmaceuticals, Mr. Continenza said it would take three or four years to reach full-scale production.

“If we’ve learned anything from the global pandemic, it’s that Americans are dangerously dependent on foreign supply chains for their essential medicines,” said Peter Navarro, a White House spokesman.

US President Donald Trump called it “one of the most important deals in the history of the US pharmaceutical industries”, referring to Kodak as “a great American company – you remember this company”.

Kodak isn’t the only photography company to change direction in drug manufacturing. Japan’s Fujifilm is working on a potential Covid-19 vaccine and hopes to start human trials soon.

Fallen giant

The Eastman Kodak Company was founded by George Eastman in 1888. The Brownie Box was one of its most popular cameras and helped Kodak become a dominant player in the photographic industry.

The company rose to fame for its “Kodak Moment” slogan, but began to struggle financially in the late 1990s as consumers shifted away from photographic film to digital photography.

At its peak, Kodak employed more than 145,000 people, but now has a global workforce of around 5,000.

In 2012, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States and focused on printing and professional services for businesses. But it still makes digital and instant cameras for consumers.

Kodak began manufacturing pharmaceutical ingredients four years ago and will now dramatically increase production at its New York and Minnesota facilities.

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