2020 has been a year where no part of society has been left untouched due to COVID-19. This also goes for Novo Nordisk Pharmatech, who for better and worse, has been able to navigate this challenging business environment.
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In March, the company reduced its operation to a minimum due to lock-down, while at the same time experiencing a surge in demand for Insulin and Quats. The increased insulin demand was driven partly by stockpiling in the biopharmaceutical industry and partly by an increased activity due to COVID-19 driven activities. The Quats product group also experienced a surge in demand as a former large customer unexpectedly returned and a general COVID-19 driven demand as Quats is used in disinfectants and hand sanitizers. The company managed to serve all customers and as summer approached, the supply chain returned to normal. The full year 2020 results are better than expected and this can in part be explained by the COVID-19 driven demand.
In 2020, the company continued its investments in IT infrastructure and digitalisation. The production IT infrastructure was renewed, and the first laboratory went paperless, visualisation systems were enhanced throughout the company and the ‘digital twin’ was introduced across several processes with optimisation and capacity increase as objectives. During rebuild of an enzymatic purification facility, we have used the opportunity to implement robotic filling solutions and intelligent components allowing condition-based maintenance. In Sales and Marketing a forced acceleration to digital marketing and sales was implemented due to COVID-19 that cancelled all physical conferences and trade shows. An organisational structure was implemented to secure progress and alignment on our digital journey. The company remains focused on harvesting benefits on digitalisation and will continue to invest in this area to improve operations.
The quality performance in 2020 remained at a very high level. Customer audits were to a large extent converted to virtual audits due to COVID-19 and nevertheless with a very satisfactory outcome. Efforts to simplify our quality management system were continued and the outcome has been more simple and transparent processes that release resources for other purposes.
In R&D, we progressed our pipeline mainly within resins and enzymes. Several resin application studies were initiated with customers and contract research organisations to test different libraries of novel resins. The enzymatic pipeline has grown and is also progressing well although some application studies were cancelled due to COVID-19 focus on vaccines. The future production platform to manufacture pipeline molecules was also slightly impacted by COVID-19, resulting in a minor delay.
Novo Nordisk Pharmatech operates according to the Triple Bottom Line, where we seek to balance financial, environmental and social performance, and the Circular for Zero strategy launched by Novo Nordisk has been adopted. All energy consumptions are sourced from renewable sources (wind and biogas) and in 2020 10 electrical charging stations for employees’ cars were installed. The digital twins have also proven valuable as the modelling system has pointed towards several opportunities to reduce consumption of raw materials, and finally, R&D has initiated work on regeneration of waste streams and potentially substitute unwanted chemicals with non-toxic and sustainable raw materials.
Despite a challenging year, Novo Nordisk Pharmatech ended the year with record external sales, record net profit, a solid pipeline progress and a robust operations setup that was able to navigate through a COVID-19 pandemic, first and foremost through a very engaged workforce. A very satisfactory result.