CPhI Worldwide is taking place this week in Frankfurt, Germany. Senior Correspondent Ann Thayer, Senior Editor Rick Mullin, and I have been in the city since Monday to attend this annual conference on pharmaceutical ingredients held in Europe. C&EN’s formal coverage will include a news item from Thayer in the Oct. 31 issue and a review from Mullin in the Nov. 14 issue.
To whet your appetite for my colleagues’ stories, here are some tidbits from my roamings and company visits in Frankfurt’s massive Messe.
First stop: Evonik, where Jurgen Krauter, vice president of communications, told me how the company hopes to change its image from old industry to provocative. The latest pharma brochure, “We love your problems,” features some offbeat photos, including of someone that reminded me of Lady Gaga:
Evonik seems to be serious in thinking out of the box in its messaging. Here’s an ad on a taxi:
Next: Roquette, where Sophie Chesnoy, pharma project development and marketing manager, briefed me on the company’s advances in formulations. One technology Roquette is touting is called Kleptose, cyclodextrins that, among other uses, masks the bitterness of APIs by trapping the molecules inside the cyclodextrin helix. When a tablet is in the mouth, only the cyclodextrin contacts the taste sensors, Chesnoy explained.
On my way to my third stop, I chanced upon David Ager and Andre H.M. de Vries, of DSM. I noticed a prominent embellishment on the DSM logo, as shown in this photo of the logo embroidered on Ager’s green DSM shirt:
The logo looks like a hat of multicolored feathers to me. Dave dutifully pointed out that in the middle of the colored arcs is the hexagon, an icon of organic chemistry. Dave also called my attention to the new tag line: Bright Science, Brighter Living. Sounds like they’re making light bulbs, I thought.
DSM’s marketing and communications director, Guy Tiene, explained that DSM is moving away from an image of industrial, heavily petroleum-based chemistry to life sciences, and the logo aims to send the message of novelty, freshness, health, and sustainability.
My third stop was AllessaChemie, where I met Thomas Buttner, the president and CEO, and Michael Hassler, director of marketing and business development for exclusive synthesis. Both conveyed confidence in the company’s growth despite the economic unease especially in Europe. They credit three factors for the steady course the company is now taking after the economic downturn of 2008: a good management team, a good workforce, and an owner who is not out for quick money in the next quarter.
That owner is Karl-Gerhard Seifert. When he retired at age 55, he told me, he could choose to play golf or build a company. He chose the latter, turning 25,000 euros in 2001 to a multi-million-dollar business today.
Next up was Hovione, where CEO Guy Villax told me that the economic unease in Europe is not yet having a significant effect on the API business, “because at the end of the day, people will have to keep taking their medicines.”
Others at CPhI corroborated AllessaChemie’s and Hovione’s reading of the business climate. Manoj Mehrotra, vice president and head of Dr. Reddy’s Custom Pharmaceutical Services suggested business is good enough that he can aim to grow sales by almost 300% in five years.
Stuart Needleman, president of scientific operations at Aptuit, said he has no worries about the economy. “The APIs are coming back,” he says, adding that “anyone who says business is great is lying. It’s not great, but it’s trending in the right direction.” Aptuit CEO Timothy Tyson predicted “significant growth in 2013.”
AMRI‘s U.S. manufacturing plants are full, churning out APIs and intermediates, said Mark Sawicki, vice president for business development in Europe. “We’re not back where we were in 2008, but we’re getting there,” he said. Outsourcing of manufacturing to China is turning around, he noted. Big pharma now realizes that only turn-the-crank type, well-established synthesis can be done well in Asia. Anything that requires people to troubleshoot and work through problems doesn’t work in Asia.
Even a stranger–a CPhI visitor who purchases APIs–I sat with on a lunch counter thought the crowd in CPhI 2011 was more upbeat than in recent years. That corroboration gives me confidence that the business executives who talked to me aren’t just putting on a brave face.