Five minutes with…
François Baduel, Axyntis CEO/Directeur General Adjoint en charge des activités Chimie Fine
Chemistry Today: Good morning François. Can you introduce Axyntis and how is the market going for your company?
Baduel: Axyntis is a French group, an independent intermediate-sized enterprise (ETI) with 460 employees, leader of the fine chemical sector in France. It is hold at 50% by a Japanese group, Fuji Silysia, as well as David Simonnet, President & CEO of Axyntis, partner in Axyntis Invest with some Axyntis managers. All our six plants are located in France. Five of them are busy with fine chemicals, one is instead devoted to the production of dyes -the latter are not for pharma or food, but more for paper industry etc, and I am not involved in them now. The fine chemical part of Axyntis is covering two big fields: Pharma final users (60%) and non-pharma (40%).
CT: This combination of a French and a Japanese identity is interesting, and could open up opportunities on the Asian market.
Baduel: This is the result of our partnership with Fuji Silysia, a company producing silica for various applications among which silica beds for preparative Chromatography . We make fine chemistry, silica beds. Fuji Silysia buying out 50% of the Axyntis share of course allowed us to write off our debt, but there is more. Fuji Silysia has the same size, a family management -which is similar to ours, even if we are not a family company- and a similar long-term strategy. At the end you have two CEOs, two presidents that fit well. Money is important, but the way people work together is actually the key to make business.
Speaking of the market: Of course you could say Fuji Silysia opens up even more our position to Asia, but I would say it is more the other way around. From scratch, Axyntis had a specific interest in Japan. Our purchase director has worked for twently years with Japanese firms, I myself know Japan since twenty years, we already had a significant affinity with Japan. No doubt that has helped during negotiations.
CT: Are you entering the cosmetics market?
Baduel: We are developing some devices for purification, no active ingredients. But if somebody comes to us with a molecule to do, we can do it. We are not special targeting this market but have the regulatory and quality frame fitted for pharma which can be easily adapted to cosmetic constraints and the ground capabilities for purification, distillation etc. are there.
CT: What is the technological focus of Axyntis?
Baduel: Axyntis so far has around 800 cubic meters capacity dispatched in five plants. So you can imagine there are quite a lot of things we can do -and a bit of things we cannot do. We have a specific focus on hydrogenation, we do hydrogenation on all our plants. We offer high pressure and low pressure chemistry. We feature some specific technologies as cyanuration for example In general, we can say we have a range of chemistry that is hard to find elsewhere in Europe for environmental or regulatory reasons – you can find them maybe in China, or India, but we offer them in the West in a GMP or almost-GMP procedure. We can make Friedel-Crafts in large quantities, we have access to lots of Grignard reagents, we can make some brominations. Simple products in terms of chemistry, difficult in terms of management and safety. That is where we have the capacity, to do it with a high level of quality and capability.
Thanks to Fuji Silysia we have developed more preparative chomatography, we can tackle APIs in an earlier development phase. This is something we did not do before. This is a bit more risky as far as long term view is concerned but enables us to handles new chemical entities from early stages of development. But we now have the necessary technological resources for development, analysis and quality control.
CT: And what about flow chemistry?
Baduel: This is of course something where we would like to focus on. We had some experience with that. In fluorination and nitration reactions, for example. The nitration project is in development, and if the project works well in terms of quantities and our customers want to go with this technology, we will.
I think one of the issues many companies have met in the past is investing too early, mainly in the late ’90s-early ’00s, without a commitment from customers and or the market. You then find yourself sitting on these 20, 30 million Euro investments that you cannot put to good use. I’ve seen several big companies with this issue. We want instead to play the long game: to make reliable investments, not only in terms of tech, but also financially. Not only for the benefit of Axyntis but also the customer. A customer must know that the company will be there in 10 years, with the same people. The time of development, the lifetime of the molecules, the importance of IP require a long-term view and not just a one-shot with customers.
The key is transparency. There is risk in transparency, but at the end of the day trust is important. If you don’t trust your supplier or your customer, the relationship is not good. At Axyntis, we build relationships on trust. It means sometimes we do not do the highest margin. But then we can share your issues with the customer and work together to find a solution.
CT: What is your impression of ChemSpec this year?
Baduel: Well, I do not care much about the impression. All I can say, it seems to me more calm than the other years. But for me, this is not important. Yes, ChemSpec is a small show, it is not CPHI. But the global influence, the number of people coming is not so important. What is important to me is that I have important meetings with important customers. At ChemSpec, I know I will have time, to discuss seriously about the projects. I will have my booth and the opportunity to work efficiently with customers and prospects.
CT: Are you going to attend DCAT?
Baduel: Not anymore. I don’t know if I should say that but… the format of DCAT, I do not like it. Running between hotels, meeting people between rooms, I find it to be bizarre. And it is not so much our market. I like having a booth, scheduled appointments and so on. DCAT is not my preferred format.