CPhI Day One: Theme Time

"The Blinding of Samson," Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1636), the Städelsches Kunstinstitut , Frankfurt

“The Blinding of Samson,” Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1636), the Städelsches Kunstinstitut , Frankfurt

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 keep talent from moving to the U.S. and Europe. Panelist Ian Lennon, senior vice president of global business development at Chrial Quest, a Chinese API supplier, says the firm guarantees workers in some positions that if they leave the company, they can have their jobs back if new positions don’t work out. Reva Pharma, an Indian generics firm, pays for workers’ marriages in a bid to keep them local, according to CEO Gurpreet Sandhu, another panelist.

There was another panel on biosimilars that my colleague Ann Thayer attended. Here is her recent cover story on that topic.

This should serve as a quick overview of the discussions ahead in Frankfurt. Ann and I will be in touch—Ann on Twitter, I at Fine Line.

Cultural note 1: When in Frankfurt, visit the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, better known as the Städel. It is Frankfurt’s Prado (OK, I wish we were back in Madrid) and has some fantastic Modern and Old Masters paintings. No photograph I take at CPhI could compete with what I will use to illustrate my posts this week, paintings from the Städel, starting with the amazing Blinding of Samson (or Simson, as he is called in Frankfurt) by Rembrandt. I swung by the museum yesterday and will return after the expo on Thursday evening for a special exhibit of the work of Albrecht Dürer, which opens later this week.

Cultural note 2: To follow Ann’s tweets from CPhI, reference: @annmthayer

Author: Rick Mullin

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