Editor’s note: The innovative research and technologies bid adios to many diseases that posed a threat to us. However, with the boost in the population, one major challenge that the pharmaceutical industry confronts is to keep the balance between demand and supply. In the global market, it is no longer just about getting the right cure; it is about searching the fastest, economic, eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives. This face-to-face interview with Bayan Takizawa will throw light on ‘continuous flow model’ of manufacturing which permits the bio-pharma companies significant lead time in the drug production. Additionally, he discussed with Subhalaxmi Nambi how his company Continuus Pharmaceuticals is currently the best solution to bridge the gap between supply and demand.- Rituparna Chakrabarti
An efficient manufacturing process in any industry is the crux of the economic success and market sustainability. This article focused on one such success story. Traditionally, pharma industries focus has been on ‘batch manufacturing’, with multiple disconnected steps. Further, a large plant footprint, magnified the risk of human errors and contaminations, running the system into time crunches. Annually, it is estimated that on average the pharmaceutical industries suffer a loss of $50 billion during the manufacturing process alone. In contrast, other manufacturing sectors, such as the electronics industries implement ‘continuous flow model’ where raw materials are funneled through uninterrupted steps, delivering the final product/services. The Novartis-MIT Center were among the first ones to embrace this model successfully in 2007. Their prototype system circumvented the major roadblocks associated with the stages of manufacturing. Now, it is not any more a far-fetched dream, that a tablet can be produced from the raw materials, just within two days.
A few weeks ago, Subhalaxmi (Subbu) had the opportunity to interact with Bayan Takizawa, a co-founder and chief business officer at Continuus Pharmaceuticals, Woburn, MA; a spin-off company from the Novartis-MIT Center established in 2012, for Continuous Manufacturing.
During the course of the interview, Takizawa highlighted that Continuus is relentlessly moving forward with their cost/time efficient plans. They aim at better plant footprints and drug quality through implementation of plant-wide Quality by Design. Continuus’ modular manufacturing designs further allowed modification and adaptation of an existing process for a new drug.
Bayan Takizawa exclaimed that “The continuous flow technology is a game-changer! However, we have to acknowledge several challenges towards its broader implementation within the pharma industry.” No doubt that establishing this process is profitable but involves initial capital investments. Moreover, many companies are not enthusiastic about overhauling their established production processes, a phenomenon often termed as industry inertia. However, the situation is changing as there are some early adopters. Continuus has worked with several companies ranging from innovative pharmaceutical to generic companies, leveraging its novel continuous manufacturing technologies. Additionally, they are currently working with government agencies, including the NSF (through their SBIR programs) and the FDA.
In the future, the incorporation of Continuus’ flow technology will enable companies to reduce their cost structures. The modular and flexible nature of the process design makes this technology ideal for personalised medicine applications. Dr. Takizawa is also interested in exploring how this technology platform can be exploited for the development and production of biologic medicines (e.g. oligonucleotides). He emphasized the importance of the rich Massachusetts’ life science ecosystem and how it has contributed to Continuus’s success, as many of the advisors and employees are from this area. He added companies can benefit greatly from the fruitful collaborations with the thriving Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) located in Waltham and Cambridge, respectively.
Continuus strength is the people with technical and regulatory expertise, who are flexible to work in a small company culture. Bayan explained they are always excited to welcome those future candidates aboard who are adaptable and willing to accept changes. He quipped “We appreciate someone disagreeing but not disagreeable”. When asked for advice for budding entrepreneurs, he laid stress on using one’s network to connect with interested and helpful people. He personally finds attending conferences to be a great connection-building exercise. Additionally, he believes that creating a competent management team is a key factor in building a successful startup.
Finally, he offered some advice for the budding entrepreneurs:
- Listen to others – we all think we’re pretty smart, but we have not done it all, and we can learn from listening to others
- Listen to your client
- Be ready to pivot (especially based on 1 and 2) above
- Be objective when picking advisors/directors – you don’t want to pick friends or people who you feel comfortable with – you need people who will provide good guidance and advice
- Be ready for tough times ahead – creating a business is not easy. It is important to be energetic, persistent, and resilient while being realistic (don’t be delusional!)
About the editors:
Rituparna Chakrabarti pursued her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Georg-August University (Göttingen, Germany) and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Biostructural Imaging of Neurodegeneration (BIN), Göttingen. Over years, she has gained technical expertise in electron and high-resolution light microscopy, in order to study the nanostructures of specialized chemical synapses in the sensory systems. She likes to have a bird’s eye view of her undertakings and gets excited with analytics. Passionately believes in, correct simplification of science, therefore engages in different scientific communication and public outreach projects. To unwind herself she plays mandolin and eagerly looks for a corner at a coffee house to slide herself in with a good read or company.
Uma Turakhiya, Ph.D. About herself Uma says “I currently work as a regulatory medical writer, having previously completed my Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Freiburg, Germany. I enjoy writing about science and believe that simplification of science and communication are the key to creating a scientific temper in the society. Apart from having a voracious appetite for books, I am enthusiastic about learning new languages, meeting new people and occasionally playing the piano.”
Featured image: Pixabay
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