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PEOPLE WATCH
Commited To Asia
The opening of Thermo Fisher’s first dry powder media facility in Asia Pacific this month was designed to meet the needs of an increasingly robust biosciences market. Sulastri Kamis has a quick chat with Greg Herrema, President of BioSciences, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Cory Stevenson, Vice President and General Manager of Cell Culture and BioProcessing, Thermo Fisher, on insights on biopharmaceutical trends in the region and the company’s commitment to Asia

A PROMISE TO SINGAPORE AND APAC

Thermo Fisher is one of the largest life sciences companies in the Asia-Pacific region, generating more than US$2 billion annually in the region. The company began making its footprint in Singapore in 2001 and has since grown to have six different sites including its latest facility, a new manufacturing facility to produce dry powder media, a crucial raw material used in the cell culture phase of the drug discovery, development and manufacturing of biologics. The dry powder media segment is estimated to grow at 20% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 2016 in Asia alone, the highest in the world for media products according to a BCC Research report on “Global Markets for Media, Sera and Reagents in Biotechnology”.

With Thermo Fisher’s already strong presence in Singapore, it is not surprising for the company to continue expanding within our shores in support of Singapore’s bid to become the regional biopharmaceutical hub. The company is committed to expanding the market sector and is exemplified in this latest addition.

PERFECT SENSE

When asked why set up a dry powder media facility over other media products, Herrema mentioned that the Asian pharmaceutical industry is one of their fastest growing markets. It made perfect sense to provide redundant manufacturing of dry powder media. Furthermore, the rising costs to transport media products out to Asia from their Utah, U.S facility, lends more weight to the benefits of setting up camp here. The increasing cost has also affected media product trends, it seems, with companies preferring to import dry powder media as it weighs less.

“Animal-free type cultures - that is the trend right now,” Herrema adds as he explains that there is a growing race for biosimilars and research for novel therapeutics in Asia.

The opening of the facility is all the more timely, given the shifting trends. Currently, Thermo Fisher’s dry media powder is being exported out to Asia from the Utah facility but “in the future, it will be exported out from Singapore to the APAC region and globally as well.”

A UNIQUE CHALLENGE

The Singapore facility is state-of-the-art and features a pin milling manufacturing operation that allows for high-throughput, scalability and customized processing. It represents a major strategic investment of more than US$8 million in its internal design and construction. It will be able to manufacture lot sizes of up to 5200kg.

This came with its own set of challenges. Singapore, an island city state located one degree north of the equator, is one of the most humid countries in the world. Aside from replicating the facility back in Utah, the product produced must also meet the high standards of its sister facility.

“It was a big challenge designing the facility due to Singapore’s high humidity levels and tropical climate,” Stevenson says.

He added that, “We spent time talking to other manufacturing facilities in Singapore and in the region on how they coped with the climatic differences. We did our research.”

Humidifiers and heat-dissipating features were installed to cope with the warm weather. Another challenge was the installation of the pin mill, which was pre-assembled in the States and had the milling room built around it.

The facility is expected to begin manufacturing in September 2013 with ramp up continuing into 2014, requiring only 8 personnel to begin with before a gradual expansion of the team managing the facility.

About the Interviewees

Greg Herrema joined the company in January 2002 as President of the Environmental Instruments Division, based in Franklin, Massachusettes. Greg was promoted to President of the Scientific Instruiments Division in May 2006, based in San Jose, California, and President of the Analytical Instruments Group in May 2008. In January 2012, Greg was named President of the BioSciences Division based in Waltham, Massachusettes.

Prior to joining Thermo Fisher, Greg served for 14 years at General Electric including two years at Borg Warner Chemicals (acquired by GE Plastics). While at GE, his career progressed through multiple sales, marketing, and general management roles within the Plastics and Transportation Systems businesses.

Greg has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Greg serves on the Board of Directors for the Analytical, Life Science and Diagnostics Association and the Board of Advisers for the University of Winconsin Chemistry Department.

Cory Stevenson is the Vice President/General Manager of the Cell Culture and BioProcessing business at Thermo Fisher Scientific, with Centers of Excellence located in Logan, Utah USA. Cory joined Thermo Fisher Scientific in June 2008. He has over 25 years’ experience in the life sciences industry. His background includes Group President Pelican Life Sciences, Vice President and General Manager of Oncology Pharmaceutical Services at US Oncology, President of Fisher Healthcare, a Division of Fisher Scientific.

Cory has an MBA from Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA, and received his Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting from the University of Utah.

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