Five minutes with Ed Price, President, PCI Synthesis – DCAT Week ‘18
PH: I understand you have just had an important anniversary and some other important milestones recently.
Price: Yes, our 20th. I founded the company, it was incorporated in 1996 but began operating in January 1998. In 2017, we got two approvals, bringing us to a total of eight commercial products. And this was our fourth year in a row of double-digit growth.
PH: What areas are you working in?
Price: We are involved in two main verticals: our portolio of generic actives and our contract business, where we are working primarily with small and emerging pharmaceutical companies and putting their products into the clinic. We are typically doing 12 to 15 clinical projects per year. About 80% of our business is in the Boston area, where we are based – they appreciate having a contract developer right on the spot. At the end of the day, these companies are driven by time and quality more than prices. The ability to work efficiently and collaboratively pays a lot of dividends to their programmes. And the business is growing strongly because the portfolio of products we worked on five to seven years ago is finally maturing.
PH: Have you made any recent investments in terms of new capacities or capabilities?
Price: Historically we have spent about $1 million/year in capital, but in the last two years it has been more like $2 million. Until two years ago, the infrastructure improvements we made were just that – infrastructure: more utilities, cooling tower water, chilled water … In the last year, we have been making investments in technology. For instance, we have added 1,000 gallons of cryogenic capacity where before we had 50, helping us to scale up projects. We also put up a 1,500 gallon reactor from Pfaudler with very specialised glass that allows us to handle reflux HCl at high temperatures because we have two projects that require us to do that. We also installed a large-scale chromatography system, a Biotage 150, last year and we also got approval from the DEA to handle controlled substances. There could be more to come, but it will probably be project-specific.
PH: You have made some predictions about the industry in 2018, including continuing strong M&A in the industry. Why do you think that?
Price: It will all depend on whether or not the money is available. The downturn of 2009-10 is in the rear view mirror now. Eventually there will probably be another one, but for now business is good, people are continuing to invest and consolidation continues in the CRO sector as well as in CDMOs and pharma. At the scale at which we operate, PCI is one of the last of the independent companies. Whether we stay that way depends; if something compelling comes along that makes a lot of sense, it would be irresponsible not to consider it. We were much smaller at the time of the last downturn and we continued to grow as some of our competitors declined. It was the lessons learned then that drove me to change the company strategy and develop a commercial portfolio of generic actives. These will always be needed and having them will help to sustain us if the contract business has another downturn; it’s a hedge against what might happen. Both sectors have enabled us to grow as we have.