Report from Asia - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Report from Asia
Contract manufacturing organizations throughout Asia are increasing their capabilities to meet market demand and attract foreign investment and partnerships.

Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 35, Issue 8, pp. 18-20

Unique partnerships

Four to five years ago, the way to gain access to biomanufacturing was by outsourcing to CMOs through traditional procurement processes, or by building or acquiring facilities to assert control in supply. In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift toward merger-and-acquisition (M&A) strategies.

Michael Banks, head of sales and business development for biological manufacturing at Lonza, says, "The strategies are diverse, including local or CMO–border partnerships, outsourcing strategy, and manufacturing optimization. As it has a lot to do with increased cost pressure, the shift is a result of accumulative technical experience and maturing of technologies."

Interestingly, many companies outside the pharmaceutical business are taking a plunge into the biomanufacturing market as well. In February 2011, Japan's Fujifilm announced that it will acquire Merck's Biomanufacturing Network for $490 million. South Korea's Samsung established a joint venture with Quintiles (Durham, North Carolina), whereby the latter will commit $30 million to support Samsung's entry into the biopharmaceutical market.

The move by these high-tech companies bears significance for the industry. "These are positive CMO–industrial moves for the biologics market," says Banks. "In the long run, it will strengthen the biomanufacturing value chain and fuel a full-fledged regional supply chain involving raw materials, talent, and various adjacent CMO establishments. These ancillary factors will further encourage the growth of the Asian innovator's pipeline and contribute significantly to the health of the global biopharma market in the near future."

Training and education

A key challenge facing the biomanufacturing business in Asia is gaining access to an experienced workforce. According to Banks, "Biomanufacturing is a young sector and a people business. It is therefore important to develop, troubleshoot, and optimize the processes, and ensure know-how and expertise to achieve timely delivery and cost effectiveness."

To get ahead in this area, Lonza, for instance, has trained the majority of its workforce under the Strategic Attachment and Training program with the Singapore Economic Development Board in Singapore.


Overall, the biologics market is predicted to be next area of growth in Asia and globally as companies aim to compensate for their potential loss of revenues from current small-molecule blockbusters. Many companies have already embarked on biologics programs, facility establishments, and related partnerships and acquisitions. Flexibility will be crucial, says Banks. "It is important to address to both market and technological demands. As a biomanufacturer, it is imperative to consider market segments and production demand instead of focusing only on blockbuster drug development and orphan drugs," he says.

Jane Wan is a freelance writer based in Singapore


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