Five minutes at Informex
with Dr. Uwe Westeppe, head of marketing, sales and R&D at RohnerChem
PH: Your booth highlights that MCP is ‘coming soon from Rohner’. What is MCP?
Westeppe: MCP stands for ‘multi-customer products’. We are sticking to our strategy in custom manufacturing but, like all CMOs, we face the issue that some of our technologies sometimes sit idle for four to six weeks. The idea is that, based on our know-how in specific areas like catalytic hydrogenation, we will make multi-customer products. We haven’t done that since the old days when we sold dyestuffs. We launched this initiative earlier this year and believe it will add value for the company but will not impact our strategy or the projects we are doing. We have defined about ten products that we will focus on, mostly value-added pharmaceutical and agrochemical intermediates, for launch this summer. Some arose out of customer enquiries, others are based on pipeline analysis we did. There’s nothing new under the sun, but we are very confident.
PH: Are you having to invest to do this?
Westeppe: A little bit, in the process development. Our philosophy is that nothing goes into the plant unless it has been safety-evaluated by our experts and that applies to these products too. So we did a bit of R&D, defined the process and got the safety data.
PH: How is business?
Westeppe: Good, we had a very good year last year and the start of this year has been good too. Growth is difficult to quantify but we made our budget. Demand is picking up and we have some very nice projects under discussion, with Big Pharma as well as smaller biotechs. I have the impression that a lot of capacities are blocked right now. There has been a significant improvement in the last 18 months, the point when I joined Rohner.
PH: Is this down to the revival of the pipeline generally or the return of projects from Asia?
Westeppe: Both. Definitely these are the key developments of the last 18-24 months. FDA approval started with Fast Track designation, which gave a clear push. That created a lot of demand. Another strategically important thing is that, especially in the US, there are lot of virtual companies who are looking for serious partners. They usually have only one baby and they want a partner with someone who will take care of their baby. That is an advantage for a mid-size company like Rohner. I am on the board and I know each and every project, so we are talking at the same level as the customer, which may not happen with big CMOs. Focusing the whole organisation on the customer pays off.
PH: How does the show format here work for you?
Westeppe: On the first day, we had a lot of passers-by, more than last year. For me, though, it is still the wrong time. May is too late. In my previous job, we were used to having a show in February. The budget is done in January, then people go out and select suppliers. Next year in April is too close to DCAT Week as well. Even here, with customers right around the corner, we have found it difficult to get some to come to the show. Especially in the US, if there are business issues within a company, they react fast and cut travel. If that happens around a fair, you really see the effects.