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Paul Downing

General Manager, Hovione Ireland

Contract development and manufacturing organisations drive pharma innovation by offering specialised drug development, particle engineering and scalable manufacturing solutions for the drugs of the future.

Over the past few years, contract development and manufacturing organisations (CDMOs) have played an increasingly important role in supporting pharmaceutical companies to bring innovative new drugs to market.

Particle engineering addressing solubility challenges

Industry specialist Dr Paul Downing explains that the molecules for new drugs are becoming harder to manufacture as they become more potent with smaller amounts of drug per dose.

“Some molecules have a solubility challenge,” he explains, “which necessitates advanced formulation to enhance the bioavailability and effectiveness of the drug. As manufacturing techniques get more specialised, we are seeing big pharma innovator companies outsourcing their chemistry business to CDMOs.”

CDMOs provide comprehensive services to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including product development, formulation, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. Their role is growing as the drug development landscape evolves.

Customised molecule scale-up and production

Downing, having spent his entire career in the pharmaceutical sector, is general manager of Hovione, a CDMO based in Cork. With foundations in the antibiotics field when it was founded 65 years ago, it has moved to custom synthesis of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), particle engineering (modifying particles into a defined shape and composition), continuous tabletting and inhalation.

It works with specific molecules developed by pharmaceutical partners and is a world leader in resolving technical challenges around particle engineering by offering spray drying (forming a dry powder from a liquid) services and a route towards production at commercial volume.

“We take their molecule, scale it up, adjust the synthesis to make it more effective and then offer a commercial supply,” he says. The company employs 2,400 people globally with headquarters in Portugal and manufacturing sites in Ireland, the United States and Macau, with chemists, engineers, pharmacists, data scientists and project management at the core.

CDMOs provide comprehensive services to
pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Evolving CDMO–pharma collaborations

As drugs grow more complex, the company believes the future of drug development lies in stronger CDMO–pharmaceutical collaborations. Downing also acknowledges the sector must continue to evolve. “We are constantly looking at how the landscape changes with new modalities and drugs getting more sophisticated with more personalised medicine,” Downing says.

As an innovative, customer-focused organisation, Hovione is dedicated to responding to client needs to help develop the drugs of the future [WF(H3] That could involve improving the bioavailability of drugs, so they better enter the patient’s system; adopting advanced manufacturing techniques; and exploiting their global reach. “We are nimble, flexible and responsive,” he adds.

Strategic relationships and sustainability

Recruiting specialised talent and listening to the market are critical, insists Downing. He also emphasises the importance of strategic client relationships for upcoming innovations and strong academic partnerships worldwide.

“Together, these provide a fuller understanding of the problems we need to solve for customers, as well as the access to the latest technical solutions and talent to bring into our R&D team,” he adds. Hovione has a strong regulatory record, backed by Ireland’s recognised regulatory frameworks. “That allows us to operate at the highest standard and lowest risk and that translates across the whole group because we share our best practices,” explains Downing.

Additionally, the company adopts sustainable practices, reducing the Cork site’s carbon footprint by 40%. Full electrification via wind turbines is being evaluated, aiming for net zero by 2030.

Ireland as a major hub

Downing further underlines the value of a presence in Ireland as a major pharmaceutical hub with over 40 chemical biopharmaceutical companies; a talent pool that feeds from academic institutions and enables the company to hire for global roles; a supply network; and an ecosystem of pharmaceutical industries that attracts candidates from across the globe.

“Plus, the customer intimacy relationship that Ireland brings makes it an ideal place for us to be.”

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