Five minutes with Michel Spagnol, CEO, Novasep – DCAT Week ‘18
PH: Your recent news announcements have generally been about investments in advanced technologies like monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), viral vectors and cryogenics. Is this reflective of the way the company is going?
Spagnol: When I took over the company a few years back, we identified bio as an area we wanted to get more into. We decided to specialise in two main fields: immunotherapy and mAbs. We went full speed ahead with these and have been very successful. Our first investment was in antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) at Le Mans some ten years ago. We also divested some non-core assets to raise the cash for investment, like the Pharmachem site in the Bahamas and a small site near Boston. Now we are heavily into this area as we are deploying about €60 million into gene therapy commercial manufacturing and a fill-finish facility at our site in Belgium at that site. Our latest mAbs investment at Pompey in France is essentially about the development phase. We are trying to find differentiating areas with margins to grow the business. That does not mean we are leaving the other areas of our business untouched; we are continuing to invest in our small molecules business and modernising our sites. The small molecules we are seeing now are more complex and require us to invest in specialised technology and quality. This is another differentiator.
PH: Is Novasep solely a CDMO?
Spagnol: We have our CDMO services but also our chromatography equipment activity, which is also booming nicely and had a really good year last year. That is really supported by markets like insulin peptides and biosimilars – it is a nice growth platform.
PH: Is the turnaround you were brought in to manage now complete?
Spagnol: We did some further transformation last year, simplifying our business into two business units that reflect the services we offer. One is called Manufacturing Solutions and is essentially our CDMO offer for small and large molecules – the offer is the same for both. The other is Process Solutions and is about engineering and construction of equipment, which may be simply an HPLC in a lab or a full plant dedicated to purifying raw materials. It is the combination of chemicals and purification that we have already been known for. We sell services, not just the equipment.
PH: Is pharma your main market?
Spagnol: 65% of our sales go there, followed by the food market, such as sugar refining, and amino and organic acids. That, too, is going very well for us and we are also selling full services there too.
PH: Finally, what is your take on the state of the market? Can these good times last?
Spagnol: I have been in this business for more than 25 years and have been through the ups and downs. Clearly these days it is an ‘up’. In the areas of bio we are in, there is no capacity free. As a CDMO, we live in a good world. I’m convinced it is not going to last. It is when you are doing well that you should think ahead to the next cycle and that is what I’m doing right now – but certainly outsourcing pharma is a good place to be. We are still seeing a lot of companies coming back from Asia, that trend is certainly continuing.