Remembering recently visits during the 1980’s to the then Glaxo company in Greenford-London, the Glaxo factory was built (in an art-deco design) in the 1930’s, and represented very much the birth of the modern pharmaceutical industry in the United Kingdom. I was told during my visit that the Glaxo factory was originally a milk powder producer, and that during the Second World War, the factory at Greenford was pressed into manufacturing penicillin products to help the war effort. Glaxo obviously took this opportunity presented by the war, and went on to become a pharmaceutical super power within the industry. In the meantime GlaxoSmithKline have now moved out of the Greenford site and the site now awaiting sale and redevelopment. The latest news is old Glaxo factory is going to become an apartment complex, that’s progress!!
This got me thinking about how both companies and industries evolve. There is a definite life cycle both in a company and the surrounding pharma-sector. We are only too aware of this in Ireland at the moment where some of our manufacturing companies are currently experiencing the patent cliff on a number of their products with the accompanying drop in sales. The modern industry here was initially built around the advent of the blockbuster drug but has quickly had to adapt what it does due to the demise of some of these successful products due to patent expiry and also manufacturing competition from other countries. From being very much gone from having a pharma industry based around the manufacture of bulk ingredients, the sector has looked for opportunities to both move down stream and evolve. So we have the addition of formulation manufacture to some of the bulk ingredients plants. Many of the formulations and products included hard to handle materials and complex manufacturing. But again, many countries now offer this type of production, so again we had to look further into the manufacture of biologics and new biotechnology products. Ireland has successfully attracted companies such as Amgen, Genzyme, Weyth Biotech (now Pfizer), Janssen Biotech, Biomarin, Alexion and Regeneron. The move from small to large molecule synthesis and formulation is well under way!! As both companies and the sector grows, Ireland is also developing an accompanying pharma service sector. This is represented by such companies as Alkermes, PPD, TopChem, Almac and Icon. They deliver chemical and biological development skills right across the life time of a drug product from discovery chemistry through to manufacture and distribution. These service companies need skills and knowledge in how to communicate globally effectively with sponsors/clients and deliver projects and development on time. It is not just anymore a case of being a toll manufacturer of bulk ingredients operating from a recipe developed elsewhere. Now service companies find themselves at the heart of a worldwide development process both in clinical development but also at the manufacturing stage.
The future? This must involve discovering and bringing to market new drugs and medicines here in Ireland. Central to this effort, the government has been developing and supporting centres of research excellence at the Universities and also putting money into organisations such as the excellent National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT). This is exactly the type of government intervention that is needed and will help support the evolution of a research based industry in future years.
For further information of companies mentioned in this blog please go to www.pharmaservicesdirectory.com