Ohhhhhhhhh~ Miami!
Jan21

Ohhhhhhhhh~ Miami!

Informex got off to a glorious start last night with a cocktail reception at the Skydeck here in Miami. So far, the big story is that the annual conference and exhibition survived being in Anaheim last year, a choice of venue that I like to think of as a kind of ironic joke at my expense. We are only getting started, with the day of business and technical presentations that precedes the exhibition hall days at Informex. The event, now organized by UBM Live, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, by the way--a testimony to the strength of the fine chemicals community within the "Chemical Enterprise". This is in no small part thanks to the efforts of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, which, when it was the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association, introduced Informex in, I believe, Atlanta (a few card tables and I think you were allowed to smoke). SOCMA grew Informex to fill a sizable exhibit hall every year, regularly holding it in New Orleans for a good stretch before handing the reins over to UBM. Which reminds me of a cab ride in Las Vegas when Informex hit that city some years back. My cab driver asked what show I was in to see. Me: Informex. It's the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association meeting. Driver: Oh. Driver [following ten minutes of silence]: Can a chemical be synthetic and organic? Me: Good question. I was particularly impressed today with Maximillian Yeh's presentation on highly-potent active ingredients. Yeh is a North American account director with Evonik based in San Francisco. I also liked the talk Stephen DeSalvo, the U.S. marketing director of Fabbrica Italiana Sintetici  (FIS), gave on that company’s recent investments in everything from an anti-cancer active pharmaceutical ingredients pilot plant to Delmar Chemicals, an API producer near Montreal. FIS, with headquarters and primary manufacturing in Vicenza, Italy, is investing heavily in building Delmar into a North American sister site with capabilities similar to those it has in Italy. The two talks touched on themes that are dominant now in the fine chemicals sector—specialization and expansion. I will be giving a talk tomorrow at 3:00 pm in “Theater 1” at Informex titled, “State of the Vibe in Pharma Chem”. In it, I will expand on these two themes and others as I gloss the changes in the pharmaceutical sector and those in the field of fine chemicals. One delightful surprise so far was a visit from Walter “Skip” Mongen, a sales executive with C&EN for many years who retired about five years ago. Skip hit the Skydeck on Monday. We reminisced about the night...

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CPhI Day Four: Clean-up
Oct24

CPhI Day Four: Clean-up

Day Four of CPhI, the third day of the exhibition, is always clean-up day. If you find someone who is still around, he or she will likely have time to chat. I finally caught up with Xavier Jeanjean, vice president of sales and business development at Isochem, the French pharmaceutical chemicals firm. Like others, Jeanjean is guardedly optimistic about the drawn-out recovery in contract services for active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). He likes the complex molecule/service package angle that is shaping up for the CPhI Review article on Nov. 11. Like many others, including Markus Blocher, CEO of Dottikon, he sees the call for high tech manufacturing and services as a vindication of a long-standing strategy of marketing chemicals as part of a comprehensive technology/regulatory/quality package.  It was interesting to hear that Isochem is making an effort to concentrate primarily on the pharma market next year, given that other players, notably Saltigo, have shifted their emphasis to specialties and agricultural chemicals of late. But Jeanjean gives one very good reason to lean into APIs just now: “Innovation is back.” The complex molecules I have alluded to all week are real. They are currently coming forward with momentum and their owners are in need of a lot of specialized support. Review to come. Cultural Note I: C&EN got beat on tweets! Congratulations to our good friend in the Press Room, Brandi Schuster, editor-in-chief of ChemManager. No “I-prizes” are given for blogging, unfortunately. Cultural Note II: I noticed that Josh Fischman tweeted about my Day 3 post—The tweets were rolling on big video screens around the Messe all week. A regular birdhouse, it was! Thanks Josh and Ann Thayer for twittering about Fine Line at...

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CPhI Day Three: All the King’s Horses?
Oct23

CPhI Day Three: All the King’s Horses?

Wow! What a morning. The usual stops really paid off. Take, for example, my visit to the Weylchem/Corden Pharma booth, housing two groups of companies owned by the voraciously acquisitive International Chemical Investors Group (ICIG) based here in Frankfort. I came by at the invitation of Andrea Missio, business development director for WeylChem International. We had a great talk, but while I was there I also caught Laura Coppi, managing director of Farchemia, a Milan area company in the Corden group. Then, I ran into the Achim Riemann, the managing director of ICIG! Laura, you will recall, is late of Fabbrica Italiana Sintetici (FIS), where she came in as commercial director with the departure of Roger LaForce two years ago. She explained that she is now leading a profit center that operates rather autonomously within a conglomerate. One of her first tasks is to prepare a “strategic growth plan.” I asked for more details on the plan: “Hey! I’ve only been here two weeks!” she said. “Come on!” Fair enough. Missio and Coppi discussed how companies within ICIG and its two chemical subdivisions synergize and autonomize. Missio begged off questions about a recent ICIG acquisition, that of Allessa, the German fine and specialties chemicals group. Both WeylChem and Allessa are composed of former Hoechst chemical businesses and have assets in the Frankfurt area. The operational synergies for these sites are obvious. Not so the synergies between WeylChem’s and Allessa’s operations elsewhere in Europe and the U.S. ICIG’s press release highlighted the reuniting of the Hoescht businesses. I asked Reimann if  ICIG, which most recently purchased DNF, a former Clariant detergents business, is attempting to build a large German chemicals conglomerate. No, he said, the firm is looking to create two integrated global businesses—one, Corden Pharma, focused on APIs, and the other, WeylChem, focused on non-cGMP fine chemicals. He concedes that operations are still centered in Europe with some U.S. sites and none in Asia. The company continues to look at China, but finds the cost of setting up operations prohibitive, says Reimann. Sources with other companies are skeptical of ICIG’s approach, viewing the deals as largely financial in nature. David Simmonet, president of Axyntis, says his firm recently purchased a French API plant in Calais, France, which had gone into bankruptcy—it was originally part of Tessenderlo, another company acquired by ICIG. Simmonet says Axyntis, which already has a plant with R&D assets in Calais, hopes to integrate and revive the Calais facility. Day three ended with the European Fine Chemicals Group’s annual dinner, at which keynote speaker, Utz-Hellmuth Felcht, showed a slide (yes, another PowerPoint presentation at the EFCG dinner!) illustrating all the...

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CPhI Day Two: Complexity Prevails
Oct22

CPhI Day Two: Complexity Prevails

  I combed the disperse and multi-tiered halls of the Frankfurt Messe today, immediately picking up on one of the themes put forth at Monday’s conference. Ashland and Dow announced new drug dispersion polymer product line extensions. Both companies are addressing the need to improve the dispersion and delivery of complex molecules that are beginning move forward in the pipeline. Christophe Massip, global marketing director for Dow Pharma & Food Solutions notes that 70 percent of the drugs across current industry pipelines are now rated Class 2 (poorly soluble), or Class 4 (poorly bioavailable). In essence, all the low hanging fruit of easy soluble molecules has been picked in drug R&D, he says. Massip’s division, by the way, is one of five at Dow, including Dow Polyglycols, Surfactants and Fluids and Dow Water & Process Solutions, contributing to a new Dow Healthcare division that will focus on drug delivery, process purification and separation, and active pharmaceutical ingredients. Several companies, including the French firm Novasep, report new FDA inspections for high potency APIs, antibody drug conjugates, and other advanced technologies, responding to an increase need for high tech products and services. Some, like Fabbrica Italiana Sintetici (FIS) in Vicenza, Italy, are making big investments in R&D, upping high potency capacity and experimenting with flow chemistry. The “new complexity” in API supply “does not come only from the molecule and the chemistry, but also from an increased uncertainty about what our customers will request,” says Franco Moro, general manager of FIS. “Outsourcing is not just outsourcing the product. It is outsourcing of services, including R&D, analytical and regulatory services, and quality” In broadening its offering, FIS, in fact, has done some sub-outsourcing, forming several manufacturing and service partnerships. The company has been working with Enantia, a Spanish firm specializing in chemical R&D, and with a partner in the U.K. on crystallization research. FIS also has a Chinese partner manufacturing APIs. Andreas Weiler, head of strategic marketing at SAFC, closed the day with a talk in the Messe Forum entitled, “Is There a Future for Western CMOs,” referring to contract manufacturing organizations serving the drug industry. His answer boiled down to “yes,” as long as they are ready to deal with the kind of drugs that have been introduced in the last two years—drugs that will require low volume, high potency APIs. More on all this and a gloss of announcements at the press conferences tomorrow. Cultural Note: I plan to revert to images from the Städel collection tomorrow, unless another excellent choice of images from the show presents itself....

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CPhI Day One: Theme Time
Oct21

CPhI Day One: Theme Time

The fine chemicals world has funneled en masse to Frankfurt this week, as it needs to be somewhere in Europe at this time of year for CPhI, one of the major events on the “pharmachem” calendar. Frankfurt is a favored venue for the event—this is the third time since 2008 that CPhI has convened here. Day One consisted of a series of conference sessions that nicely cued up the major themes in the industry in 2013: The impact on contract chemical suppliers of the high tech/complex molecules characterizing new drugs, and the changing regulatory and business landscapes in India and China. Perennial themes, yes, but they are not alone! Emerging markets were also on the docket, with one event titled “Generics and Super Generics in Emerging Markets." I shared the moderator’s view, given during his introduction, that there is no such thing as a super generic, and left immediately to attend a session called "Drug Delivery Systems." That seemed a bit more cut and dried. Speakers from BASF, Hovione, and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma outlined the challenges of achieving the necessary standards of safety and bioavailability at a cost that insures profits when tackling problems of getting new drugs into the patient. Each firm, as a supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), has launched a drug delivery technology service associated with finished-form APIs. While each can claim to have pioneered advances in areas such as spray drying or polymer micronization, I found it interesting that some of the real pioneers have come from other, perhaps not-so-unexpected, industries. Take the plastics industry, where we find the architects of melt extrusion, a variant of which has been deployed by BASF for API production, according to Nigel Langley, head of marketing for pharma ingredients and services. Meanwhile, at Hovione, where spray drying is a specialty, efforts to mask the bitter taste of drugs has led the company to take a page from the book of the chocolatier, according to Conrad Winters, director of drug product development. In an after-lunch event titled "API Sourcing in Emerging Markets," panelists discussed the new regulatory pressures in China under president Xi Jinping. There has been a bit on that in Fine Line recently as well as in the magazine. On India, discussion centered around recent depreciation of the rupee and growth that is slowing at such a rate that it will soon break back into the single digits. Both countries still claim cost advantages over the West, and panelist point to the growth of cGMP and high tech manufacturing and research services. There were ome interesting bits on how companies in the two countries are working to...

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