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EVENTS – Hopes and commitments for our tomorrow

Our readers certainly don’t need me to introduce Sigma-Aldrich® Corporation, as well as SAFC® Commercial, its custom manufacturing services business unit. Everybody knows about this global leader in life sciences. Yet, one thing is to read about something, while seeing it in person, meeting faces, listening to the people that make this company a global player is totally different. I’ve just come back from a press event at the “home base” of Sigma-Aldrich and SAFC in Saint Louis.
The press event was held to announce “that SAFC® had completed the expansion of its St. Louis facility to support commercial-scale antibody drug conjugate (ADC) manufacturing. The facility is in final validation and expected to go online as planned in the third quarter of 2015. Once validated, customers will benefit from working with a single supplier from discovery to commercialization”.

Designed to meet SafeBridge® category 4 compound handling to safely accommodate usage of highly-active compounds, the St. Louis expansion creates commercial-scale manufacturing capacity for ADCs and other targeted therapies. The expanded capabilities in St. Louis are further enhanced by expanded commercial capacity for highly-active manufacturing and storage at the company’s Madison, Wis. facility. SAFC’s offers include cell-line engineering and media, linkers and payloads, along with significant conjugation expertise using both highly-active and non-potent compounds. The St. Louis expansion complements other recent additions in ADC capabilities, including the announcement of SAFC’s ADC ExpressSM service for preclinical ADC and bioconjugation services, and a collaboration with industry leader Baxter BioPharma Solutions for formulation and fill/finish services.


As always, along with spoken words, also unspoken words count. Meaning that what counts is the manner and true intention words are spoken with. Anyone working for a company, whatever company this is, is an ambassador for that company, a spokesperson, a witness of the work it carries out. We, the press, have the task of amplifying these words, broadcasting what we receive to the larger audience. This is why I titled this article “Hopes and commitment for our tomorrow”, because this is what I’ve received and taken home from this press event.


The world of chemistry/biochemistry is often seen as something distant, unapproachable. Yet, chemistry couldn’t be closer. It provides us with tools to face health issues and our everyday life.


A few words by Gilles Cottier, President of SAFC

“The ADC market is a growing market, and is expected to expand over the next few years. This strategic expansion is the latest in a series of enhancements in our ADC offering designed to support this important therapeutic area and to help our customers to seamlessly scale ADC production from preclinical to commercial phases. Our offer can bring customers’ molecules to the clinic faster, with the ease of working with one supplier from start to finish. With the added support of our recently launched ADC Express service, we believe SAFC presents the most comprehensive offer in the contract manufacturing market.”

In a few words: “better”, “cheaper”, “safer” and “faster”, are the key-words of this new investment.


 Three contributions

Three presentations given at the press event expanded and completed Cottier’s words.


Sunitha Baskaran, VP of R&D and Marketing on a “Manhattan Project” for the life sciences, recalled the war on Cancer. In 1975 an announcement was given that the war against cancer would have been won, yet the battle is still underway today and is fierce. It’s a war that has been going on ever since, with references to it that date back to 1500 B.C., at the time of the ancient Romans. Obviously known by other names, tumors were anyway already being treated with the remedies of that time.

Prevention has always had an important role, which in recent years has triggered a strong campaign against smoking that has led to a significant reduction of lung cancer.

The number of patients suffering from stomach cancer has also declined thanks to the improvement of environmental, housing and employment conditions, to the reduction of salt in food preservation, thus the increased availability of fresh food, resulting in improved eating habits.

Unfortunately, when cancer with metastases in progress is diagnosed, it is often too late and the remedies are much more invasive and difficult to bear: chemotherapy kills many cells, not just cancer cells. ADCs have improved this because you can more accurately target just the cells that actually need to be eliminated. Indeed, we have today new technologies available that give renewed hope to win this tough battle and this is very important news.

To stress the importance of it, Sunitha ended her presentation with a final slide that simply showed the word “HOPE”.


Cynthia Wooge, Global Strategic Marketing Director on the technology of targeted treatments, gave a presentation that also provided a particular piece of personal information. Cynthia told the audience that when it came to deciding what job she wanted to do, her willingness to help others concretely drew her towards being a doctor. On second thought, she reckoned being a doctor would have allowed her to help many people, yet dedicating her life to research and development probably would have helped many more. Good thinking! When we think of the huge number of diseases affecting millions of people all over the world, of cancer, of infectious diseases - the Ebola emergency is still not over, just to name one crisis, we can well understand the importance of working in research, as well as appreciating how such a strong willingness to aid the others can be a valuable and indispensable resource in a company like Sigma Aldrich.

We’ve referred to ADCs, the next-generation therapeutics, and the benefits they carry earlier on in this article.

Every ADC has around 30 sub-products, which tells a great deal about the intense R&D work that ADC manufacturing carries and which we had the opportunity to witness while being showed around the production plant and R&D premises.

After Cynthia’s presentation, Matt Hanson, Director of Marketing on high complexity introduced the audience to ADC ExpressSM preclinical development services within its Contract Manufacturing Services portfolio. This ADC offering includes rapid preparation of development grade conjugate constructs for clients to use in their target molecule identification.


I was referring earlier to our visit to the new Saint Louis site, the Cherokee Facility (thanks to Kelly Foster, Manufacturing Director at Sigma-Aldrich for the warm welcome and for showing us around) and then to the Laclede Facility (for which we thank Patrick (Pat) Sullivan, VP of R&D for Sigma-Aldrich). These two visits showed us the very facilities where synthesis and analysis are carried out. It was a key moment of the entire press event, giving us the chance to truly “experience” and become well aware of the company’s commitment in offering something so important for everyone’s future.


Thank you to:


Besides the people I’ve mentioned above, we wish to say thank you to Kevin Ray, R&D Manager at Sigma-Aldrich, Mike Bienkowski, Process & Analytical Development Manager; and also to all the Lauras, Kens, Davids, Marions and many other of their colleagues we’ve met in the company’s laboratories.

A special thought goes to Beth Willers and Kristi Fortschneider which have organised this wonderful press event, and who have been so effective, friendly and kind.

Thank you to everyone in Sigma Aldrich for letting me go back home with renewed hope. Keep up the good work! In the end, it’s all about letting hope drive us to effectively commit through passion and professionalism to the work we do, as the Sigma Aldrich people have shown so clearly. Hope is what you trigger in anyone looking at you, at the work you carry on to better our lives. And we all long for hope. I mean this as a person who believes in it, rather than a journalist reporting on it.




Chimica Oggi - Chemistry Today (TKS Publisher)


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