Drug Solutions Podcast: FDA Weighs in on Advancing the Science of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

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In this episode of the Drug Solutions Podcast, Chris Spivey, editorial director, interviews Michael Kopcha, Sau Lee, and Cindy Buhse of FDA about not being afraid to try new approaches and how they invite fresh ideas and abundant communication.

Quality will forever be a topic of discussion for the pharmaceutical industry, and who better to share their insight than FDA? Director of FDA’s Office of Pharmaceutical Quality, Michael Kopcha,deputy director of science, Sau Lee, anddeputy director of operations, Cindy Buhse, join Chris Spivey, editorial director, for a discussion about:

  • Emerging technology programs
  • The framework for regulatory advanced manufacturing evaluation (FRAME)
  • Quality management maturity ratings
  • Quality as a co-dependent variable of economic outcome
  • Advanced versus traditional manufacturing
  • Pandemic pressures and improved communication
  • Keeping up with biotech and emerging therapies
  • What attracts people to work at FDA
  • Re-shoring drug manufacturing to the United States
  • What manufacturers need to understand about advancing pharmaceutical science


Michael Kopcha, PhD, R.Ph., is the director of FDA’s Office of Pharmaceutical Quality (OPQ). This office has more than 1,300 staff responsible for assuring the availability of quality medicines for the American public through assessment, inspection, surveillance, research, and policy. OPQ contributes to the assessment of nearly every type of human drug marketing application including new drug applications (NDAs), abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs), and biologics license applications (BLAs), including 351(k) applications (i.e., biosimilars). OPQ also performs the quality assessment of investigational new drug applications (INDs) and establishes quality standards for over-the-counter drug products and facilities. Dr. Kopcha earned his doctorate and master’s degrees in pharmaceutical science and a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Rutgers University. He served as an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutics at Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers.

Sau (Larry) Lee, PhD, is the deputy super office director of science in the Office of Pharmaceutical Quality. He directs the activities of staff members in OPQ sub-offices responsible for the quality assessment of regulatory submissions (OBP, OLDP, ONDP, and OPMA). He represents OPQ in programs and activities that impact quality assessments by coordinating with OPQ, the Center of Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), and ORA. He also serves as the point person for the pharmaceutical industry and scientific/academic groups in developing programs to support science- and risk-based application assessment and approval. Prior to joining FDA, Dr. Lee received a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia with a minor in materials science and a PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton University.

Lucinda (Cindy) Buhse is currently the acting senior advisor for scientific operations in the OPQ in the CDER in the FDA. Dr. Buhse joined FDA in 2001 in OPQ’s office of testing and research. She was the director of the office of testing and research from 2013 to 2017 and the director for the office of quality surveillance (OQS) from 2017 to 2019. Before joining FDA, Dr. Buhse worked in management positions in production, validation, and analytical services at Sigma Aldrich Corporation and as a senior research scientist for Rohm and Haas Company. Dr. Buhse received a B.A. in chemistry from Grinnell College and a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. OQS assures that quality medicines are available through signal detection, data analysis, review of the state of quality, and proactive stakeholder engagement.


About the Drug Solutions Podcast

Pharmaceutical Technology presents the Drug Solutions podcast, where the editors will chat with industry experts from across the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical supply chain. Join us as experts share insights into your biggest questions—from the technologies, to strategies, to regulations related to the development and manufacture of drug products.

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