By Kate Rodgers
With company expansions, large acquisitions, and landmark FDA approvals, 2017 has been a year of growth for Wisconsin’s biohealth industry. Particularly, Wisconsin’s biomanufacturing industry has experienced significant growth and is looking to make an even larger impact in 2018. Three Wisconsin biomanufacturing leaders led a discussion on what they see for the future of biomanufacturing in Wisconsin and how API manufacturing plays a key role in this growth.
What’s Next for Wisconsin’s Biomanufacturing Hub?
As a leader of a larger Wisconsin biomanufacturing center of excellence initiative, Dr. Bill Murphy, Harvey D. Spangler Professor of Biomedical Engineering, shared his thoughts at a recent event on what he envisions for Wisconsin’s future in biomanufacturing.
On topic with recent conversation of rebranding Wisconsin as a tech and biohealth state, Dr. Murphy shared his vision of making the Midwest known as the hotbed for biomanufacturing research, innovation, and industry.
“We want people to think of Wisconsin as the place where healthcare is changing for the better,” said Dr. Murphy. “Most of the ingredients we need to become a center of excellence already exists in Wisconsin, we just need to activate it.”
Part of this biomanufacturing center of excellence would include a university-based biomanufacturing center within University of Wisconsin-Madison, a biomanufacturing accelerator, and a larger biomanufacturing community supporting further growth of these projects. Dr. Murphy gave a brief glimpse into each project and informed attendees that there will be announcements and activation of each project in the new year, encouraging companies to stay-tuned and prepare for future partnership opportunities.
API Manufacturing in Wisconsin
When it comes to Wisconsin’s emerging biomanufacturing center of excellence and booming growth, the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing industry is a leader in the state. Active pharmaceutical ingredients are the components of a drug that have a therapeutic effect. Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient manufacturing is the process of producing those components from raw material through chemical and physical means.
When you think of the pharmaceuticals that you take, you often don’t think much about where they come from or the development that takes place ‘behind the scenes’ to deliver life-changing drugs. Most Wisconsin residents don’t realize that many of the leading API manufacturers including Catalent, Alcami, Scientific Protein Labs (Hepalink), SAFC-MilliporeSigma, and Anteco Pharma, are right in their backyard.
Customized Cancer Drugs in Your Backyard
As a leader in API manufacturing and a key player in Wisconsin’s biomanufacturing ecosystem, Greg Bleck, Global Head of R&D of Biologics at Catalent, shared new plans for further expansion of Catalent’s Madison location, focused on enhanced API manufacturing and biologics production. With this growth, Bleck mentioned over 100 open positions at the company needed to fulfill the exponential growth they’re experiencing at their Madison location.
So, what kind of drugs and biologics is Catalent working on?
Bleck shared a video highlighting a recent collaboration with Moderna to produce personalized cancer vaccines. Catalent transcribes the necessary mRNA and prepares the product for use. Catalent’s Madison location specializes in the biologics, pharmaceuticals manufactured in living systems, necessary for this type of vaccination to work. Additionally, Catalent offers all phases of the API manufacturing process to its clients from development to delivery and supply.
Innovation’s in the Startups, Not Big Pharma
Taking a different approach to the API manufacturing conversation, Adam Kujath, Senior Director of Operations at Alcami, highlighted Alcami’s niche for taking ideas and innovation to market.
“Innovation is not in big pharma anymore, it’s in the startups,” stated Kujath. With Wisconsin as a hotbed for biomanufacturing research and innovation, Alcami’s Germantown location has served as a full-service partner to help startups take their drug from an idea all the way to the clinical trial stages. This doesn’t exclude Alcami from being competitive in API manufacturing for larger companies, with several large pharma clients on their list, but this differentiator helps them bring their small and large clients’ drugs to market quicker and cheaper.
Kujath also had something to say about defining Wisconsin as a national hub for biomanufacturing, mentioning that their employees in Wisconsin is what sets Alcami apart from the competition.
“There’s something to be said about the Midwest,” commented Kujath. “There’s a work ethic here that’s unlike anywhere else. The people piece is another thing we bring to the table.”
Amongst all three biomanufacturing leaders, the themes of ongoing growth for Wisconsin’s biomanufacturing industry and establishing the Midwest as the national hub for biomanufacturing remained present. With a successful year behind the industry, 2018 will be a pivotal year for Wisconsin’s biomanufacturing center of excellence.
Looking for more Wisconsin biohealth news and updates? Sign up for BioForward’s e-newsletter.