Featuring: Eric Edwards, MD, PhD
RCMDA: To get us started, tell us a little bit about your background (school, training, personal life, etc.)
Eric: I was born in Richmond, VA and grew up in a loving, Christian household that included my parents and three brothers. I am an identical twin and we did everything together until we split off for college where he focused on Engineering, and I headed down a pathway of becoming a physician. I knew I wanted to enter the medical field early in my life. When I was in high school, I had several experiences shadowing phenomenal physicians, including Dr. Harold Young, a local neurosurgeon, who inspired me with his patient rapport, excellence in practice and passion for the field. This led me to investigate medicine further which included joining the local rescue squad and becoming a paramedic prior to medical school to pursue emergency medicine (as an aside, I continue to ride on the ambulance to this day and support in training other advanced life support providers as a medical director). While in Medical School at Virginia Commonwealth University, I took a couple years off to work on my first company, Kaleo, and co-invented Auvi-Q (epinephrine injection, USP) alongside my twin brother. We grew up with life-threatening food allergies and struggled in adhering to our physician’s recommendation of having epinephrine with us at all times. God provided us an amazing opportunity to innovate and build a company, get the right team on board through providential relationships, and raise the millions of dollars of capital required to obtain FDA approval. During my time at Kaleo, I also obtained my PhD in the Pharmaceutical sciences, then finished medical school and re-joined the Kaleo team as their Chief Medical Officer and later V.P. of Innovation, Research and Development. After spending over a decade working at Kaleo, my brother and I felt we were being called to leave and spend more time with our families. We left in 2018 and I began to consult in the healthcare arena. It was during this time that I began working on drug shortage challenges, with a focus on pediatric drug shortages which led to me co-founding Phlow Corporation.
RCMDA: When did you first get involved with CMDA?
Eric: I began attending our local CMDA Bible Study in my first year of medical school, back in 2003. My wife was also engaged with the Side-by-Side Ministry of CMDA. We both had the pleasure of being mentored by Dr. Ed Read and his wonderful wife, Debby during their time leading the Richmond CMDA organization.
RCMDA: What impact did the Richmond CMDA have on you during your medical training as a student?
Eric: CMDA had an extraordinary impact on me during my medical training. It was absolutely pivotal in helping me manage the rigors of my medical education while also starting a family and building a company. The ability to participate in authentic community with a group of like-minded students was critical to helping navigate the many challenges associated with medical school. Further, being able to network with amazing Christian physician leaders who helped provide perspective on what is really important in life when balancing career/professional goals amidst the desire to be a loving Christian husband and father, was invaluable. I often joke (but am really serious) when I tell others that the CMDA saved my marriage on numerous occasions.
RCMDA: Have you participated in any CMDA leadership roles?
Eric: I became active on the local council in the middle of medical school and have remained engaged on the local level for many years. I was then blessed and fortunate to be nominated to the National CMDA Board where I have now served for over 5 years. The National CMDA board is one of the best run organizational boards I have ever had the pleasure of serving on. God continues to abundantly bless this organization in so many ways and I am fortunate to be a part of it.
RCMDA: Did you maintain your involvement with CMDA as a resident? If so, what impact did that have?
Eric: Dr. James Anderson was my primary attending in residency and he is on the RCMDA council. My connection to him, and his great leadership, guidance, care, and academic tutelage, helped me stay connected.
RCMDA: Where are you currently working and what is your professional passion? (consider sharing the vision for your current project, the funding you’ve received as much as you are able/willing to share)
Eric: I am currently the co-founder and CEO of Phlow Corporation. I am passionate about casting a Big Vision to solve major unmet medical needs in the healthcare arena and following through. Phlow’s vision reflects this boldness as we believe every human being should have access to the essential medicines necessary to sustain life and conquer disease. The story of Phlow began over eighteen months ago as I was seeking to understand the challenges associated with drug shortages for the Country’s most essential generic medicines. As a Paramedic, Medical Doctor, and Pharmaceutical Scientist, I was stunned at how simple drugs used in emergency medicine were no longer available to treat patients who were seeking pre-hospital emergency care. I met with a long-time mentor and friend, Frank Gupton to discuss this issue and Frank introduced me to the great work at VCU’s Medicines for All Institute, funded primarily with over $40 Million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focused on increasing the availability and lowering the cost of generic HIV, TB and Malaria medications. Frank had successfully lowered the costs of these generic medicine ingredients, proving the platform over 3 years, and had suggested applying the technology to domestic drug shortages. He then introduced me to a Physician Executive and Leader, Dr. Marshall Summar – Head of the Rare Disease Institute at Children’s National Hospital. When we met with Marshall, I had a life-changing experience shadowing him and his clinical team of pediatricians and neonatologists. After spending a week with him, I witnessed firsthand neonates and pediatrics unable to receive simple, critical medicines that were available just a few years ago. This led to the start of Phlow, focused on re-patriating an end-to-end supply of essential medicines and their ingredients, using advanced “flow chemistry” to re-imagine the chemistry of how medicines are made to drive down costs and improve quality. Our initial focus is to manufacture essential medicines in shortage required for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. We were recently blessed to be awarded a Federal contract of up to $812 Million to support this COVID-19 response effort as well as to begin a massive infrastructure build here in Richmond and in Petersburg, VA to ensure supply chain resiliency for future pandemics.
RCMDA: What has driven your entrepreneurial endeavors? (This may be answered in question 5, so no need to re-answer if that’s the case)
Eric: My entrepreneurial endeavors have been driven primarily from my faith in God, allowing Him to use the gifts and talents he has bestowed upon me towards working on inventions and programs that are much bigger than anything I could have ever imagined. It has been humbling to see His awesome hand in everything that has come to be so far in my life and, as I continue to grow in my faith, I am learning to surrender more… to let go… and allow God to use me however he sees fit towards his ultimate purpose.
RCMDA: How have you been able to incorporate your faith into your career?
Eric: One of the most amazing and satisfying aspects of building a new company is having the ability to incorporate your Faith into the foundations of the work environment. I am blessed to have a team that respects my Christian faith, allows me to pray before meetings, and to be open about my Faith in God in decision making. My faith shows up in how we are building our culture and in our values. For example, one of our values at Phlow is servant leadership. On almost every team huddle, I try and share a servant leadership proverb from David Steven’s Leadership Proverbs book.
RCMDA: CMDA’s new vision statement is “Bringing the hope and healing of Christ to the world through healthcare professionals.” What does that mean to you?
Eric: As an alternative medical professional who is working with an amazing team at a pharmaceutical company organized as a public benefit corporation, it means to live like Jesus, putting others before ourselves, and to practice the fruits of the spirit while serving this Country well in our mission. It means bringing hope to parents that the medicines they thought were not going to be there for their children suffering from critical illnesses, will be available to help heal because of God equipping us with the ability to execute on this awesome plan. It means spreading the love of Jesus in how we treat our employees, partners and patients.
RCMDA: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Eric: I have witnessed firsthand God working in miraculous ways to leverage my relationships built at the CMDA and through my medical education to do some extraordinary things. I challenge all believers to trust God to write your story and use the events in your life to give Him all the glory.