We sat down with Rasmus Hother le Fevre, Managing Director and Corporate Vice President of Novo Nordisk Pharmatech, to talk about the impact of COVID-19, and look ahead at the strategic vision for 2021 and beyond.
Question: Let’s start with a look back at 2020 and, of course, the coronavirus….
Rasmus: Working in the pharma industry, we are used to working with different risk scenarios to maintain a strong supply chain. However, the coronavirus was not on that list! Our history of working with risk management definitely helped us to adapt to the situation – and a pandemic scenario will be on our list going forward.
Q: What impact did COVID-19 have for you and your customers?
R: At the beginning of the year we experienced three things: Firstly, we saw a rise in demand for insulin as the hunt for the vaccine started, together with nearly double the normal demand for Quats, which have been used in the fight against COVID-19. Secondly, we were challenged in getting the raw materials for our Quats. And thirdly, with cargo routes disrupted around the world, we also had some difficulty distributing our finished product.
Q: How did Novo Nordisk Pharmatech respond?
R: I am incredibly proud that we were able to accommodate all our customers’ needs, delivering our products as promised and without disrupting planned manufacturing processes. It’s thanks to the hard work and flexibility shown by everyone here at Novo Nordisk Pharmatech – from the supply chain managers who managed to get all the raw materials we needed, to the manufacturing teams who sometimes had to change their schedule several times in one day. Reliability is a word we live by – not only in terms of the quality of our product, but the quantity that our customers need – and it’s a great satisfaction to meet this goal.
Q: Looking ahead, what is the strategic vision for 2021?
R: We’ve set out a number of key focus areas to further support our customers in biopharma and regenerative medicines around the globe. A new manufacturing facility will be finished by the end of February. This will not only enable fully closed, digitised processes to support superior quality – the multi-purpose facility will also provide a platform to launch new products, with a robotic filling line for custom packing. This means we can provide our customers in the biopharma and regenerative medicines industry with process enzymes with superior functionality and purity and in packing sizes that further benefit their manufacturing processes. We are also excited to be opening a new office in Boston, MA, so we can better service our US customers.
Q: What new products are in the R&D pipeline?
R: Novo Nordisk Pharmatech has the vision to enable customers to develop better medicines. We do this by addressing all the process steps in the traditional biopharma chain. Speciality enzymes with superior functionality and custom resins are a natural next step for us to support our customers. In fact, we already supply Novo Nordisk with enzymes for insulin manufacturing, ensuring superior quality and security of supply.
We are now thrilled to launch our first enzyme for the external market in 2021. We will continue to expand our portfolio over the coming years with more speciality enzymes and customised resins to support the biopharma and regenerative medicines market. We will also be exploring how we can combine our enzymatic technology with resins to further enhance and improve manufacturing processes in the regenerative medicines space.
Custom packing will allow us to meet customer needs for packing size and packing type. If there’s a specific customer need, we’re always willing to look into how we can enable that. Custom packing can help our customers improve their manufacturing and keep their processes under control, for example by avoiding extra sampling, repacking or splitting batches.
Q: How else will Novo Nordisk Pharmatech support customers around the globe?
R: In 2019, we established an office in Singapore to better support and have a stronger presence in the Asia Pacific Region, and we will continue this focus in 2021. Here, we can offer our customers not only a high quality product, but a strong regulatory package that can help facilitate regulatory approval, and give regional manufacturers access to global markets.
We are also excited to be opening an office in the US in 2021 to enable even closer dialogues with our American customers. Based in Boston, MA, this office will be well placed for the many universities and start-ups in the area, as well as collaborate with Novo Nordisk’ existing research hubs in Boston and Seattle, WA. We believe we can help our customers here, not only with our Quats, but also with our upcoming customised resins, working closely with customers to help solve manufacturing issues as they develop novel treatments.