Five minutes with Dr Andrew Bulpin, Head of Process Solutions, Millipore Sigma – DCAT Week ‘18
PH: The company has been through a lot of changes recently. Can you outline where your business unit sits within it?
Bulpin: Merck KGaA of Darmstadt, Germany has three sectors: Healthcare, which is mostly the former Serono; Performance Materials, which covers liquid crystals, pigments and cosmetics; and MilliporeSigma, which is the life sciences group. MilliporeSigma in turn is split into three businesses: Research Solutions, which offers tools, materials and reagents for bench scientists working in discovery; Applied Solutions, which serves the non-pharma sectors; and, Process Solutions, which serves the pharma industry. Our customers are pharma companies engaged in the development and cGMP production of therapeutic drugs, both large and small molecule.
PH: What products does Process Solutions bring together?
Bulpin: The filtration, chromatography, excipients and APIs part of EMD Millipore, and, from Sigma-Aldrich, cell culture media, their contract manufacturing of APIs, high potency APIs and also the contract testing organisation BioReliance.
PH: What did BioReliance bring to you?
Bulpin: It acts like the glue in our ability to supply not just physical products but also services. So now, for example, when we want to work with a company on contract manufacture of an ADC, we can manufacture the payload, the antibody, the linkers, and do the conjugation and all the assays that go with it. Likewise, in biology, we not only make the viral vectors but also do the testing assays. In fact, our site at Carlsbad, California, is one of only two sites in the world approved by the FDA for viral vectors for gene-editing therapies.
PH: Much of your recent news has been related to Asia, such as distribution centres in India and South Korea, an integrated cell culture facility in South Korea and Mobius single-use manufacturing in China. Is that an accurate reflection of the way the company is moving?
Bulpin: That’s part of it, because there is a lot of movement in Asia and we have invested a lot there – for instance, a new M Lab collaboration suite in Shanghai, China, and a new BioReliance lab in Asia. But it’s not to the exclusion of other regions: we have also doubled capacity for gene therapy at Carlsbad and had a big expansion at our life sciences centre at Burlington, Massachusetts.
PH: What prompted that?
Bulpin: The lease expired on the original building! And it was an opportunity to consolidate several sites on a single hub. We also brought in an M Lab collaboration centre here and now we effectively have a pilot-scale wet lab, where we can bring customers in, show them how our products work and enable them to do troubleshooting which they can’t do in their own FDA-approved facilities. Additionally, we can do training there and we also have a BioReliance lab for microbial challenge testing on our filters so customers can get them validated.
PH: Has business been good lately?
Bulpin: Yes. For the last three to four years we have grown consistently ahead of the market, even though there have been headwinds in the past year. There are primarily five major players in the bioprocessing vendor space, including ourselves, competition is good for the industry, and it is a good market space to be in.