Five minutes with Dr Marco Gil, Senior Director – Commercial Services, Hovione – DCAT Week’18
PH: How is business right now?
Gil: Business is going well. The CDMO industry is quite busy, not just Hovione. It comes naturally from the good environment that investors found in the biotech sector overall, so there are many programmes ongoing in development. Business is well funded, there is a lot of activity and CDMOs benefit from that. Also, large pharma continues to divest manufacturing assets. The trends of recent years remain and I think they will continue for the next months. The off-patents business is growing too. There is a lot of interest in niche, specialised APIs with specific properties from a physical standpoint
PH: What specialised technologies are you investing in?
Gil: Spray drying is one of our core technologies, where we are the market leader. We have developed a lot of science around the technology but also in terms of capacity. Looking to the next three to four years, we see a lot of products coming to the market. We started activities early this year in a new Size 3 pharmaceutical spray drying unit in New Jersey, we completed a new machine in Portugal and will have a Size 2 machine up and running in Portugal later this year for GMP. The trend is continuing in poorly soluble APIs and we see a growth in interest for spray drying in both large molecules and inhalation.
PH: Have you made other investments in the US recently?
Gil: At that site, we are also continuing the qualification of the continuous tabletting technology that will enable us to produce tablets continuously from the APIs and excipients on a GEA Consigna 25, which we are doing in partnership with a pharmaceutical company in Boston. We also started a new pilot plant in New Jersey last year with reactors of up to 3,000 litres. It’s a good point of contact for our US customers and for small volume drugs developed for the US.
PH: Some say there is too much financial interest in the industry these days and that there could be a fall like there was at the turn of the century. Do you agree?
Gil: It’s always difficult to say when there is too much until it actually happens. But I don’t see too much overcapacity right now. I think that the capacity that is needed nowadays is different to what was needed some years ago; the types of drugs being developed are very different to the old blockbusters. They are more often low volume, higher potency drugs and the skill sets required is much more flexible and adaptable. That is a trend that manufacturers like us can adapt to, but it is more difficult for the sites that large pharma companies used to have.
PH: You have an ex-Big Pharma site in Ireland…
Gil: Yes, we acquired it in 2009 and it is now a large-volume, commercial site. We have introduced a range of products into it and are actually restarting a second building that we decommissioned when we acquired the site now that we are getting more contracts. It will start operating in May.
PH: You recently sold your diagnostic reagents business, iMax.
Gil: It was a great business to have down the years but we felt that it was the time to focus on our other businesses. We have already drawn up investment plans for €300 million over the three years to 2019. That will be mostly in capacity to serve our customers: we will build more API capacity in Portugal, continuing to invest in spray drying, in drug product with the continuous tabletting and in batch manufacturing for small-scale indications, mainly to support spray-dried dispersions.