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European Pharma Needs to Keep Manufacturing on the Continent


In order to ensure a strong future for European pharma, businesses need to prioritise digitalisation and maintain control of production lines, say two speakers at Connect in Pharma. According to the newly released agenda for the Geneva-based event, decision makers from European pharmaceutical and biotech companies will hear from experts that will chart the future of their industries.

Future-proofing the European supply chain

The recent Covid-19 pandemic highlighted both strengths and weaknesses in the European supply chain, says upcoming speaker Jean-François Hilaire, Executive Vice President and President of Advanced Delivery Systems at Recipharm. Post Covid, many European governmental and political leaders have reacted by requiring the relocation of pharmaceutical production in Europe to ensure a more strategic resilience for the continent, Hilaire points out. 

“In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the decision to move production of key active pharmaceutical ingredients to factories in China and India was perceived opportunistically to mitigate the impact of new price and environmental regulations implemented in Europe at that time,” he recalls. However, the result is a reliance on raw materials produced in Asia that left the European pharmaceutical industry exposed. Hilaire recounts the rise in demand for raw materials to make vaccines during the pandemic and the recent Covid-related lockdown in Shanghai Harbour as examples of pressure points affecting European supply chains. 

Repatriating the production of these raw materials isn’t an option without major hurdles, says Hilaire. The capital investment and regulatory work needed are prohibitively expensive and would take years. We can’t undo the past, but the lesson for the future is clear, he says: “We must retain the development and production of new, innovative products in Europe.” 

His talk will make the case that Europe must hold onto production of any new innovative products, such as the mRNA-based medicines and more generally the large-molecule biologics of the future. 

“Connect in Pharma is important because these topics are critical to maintain the security of drug supply to European populations. The event has the potential to reach the right stakeholders,” says Hilaire.  

Digitalisation is a key part of any future roadmap 

Pharmaceutical companies looking to accelerate innovation would do well to rip up the current playbook and embed digitalisation across their company, says Christian Wölbeling, Executive Industry Advisor and Senior Strategic Account Manager at Körber Pharma Software. Speaking at Connect in Pharma on behalf of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE), Wölbeling will present insights on how organisations need to transform from the ground up to leverage the full potential of digitalisation.

The ISPE conducts an annual survey within the industry to measure where companies are in their digital transformation journey. “Only 30-40% have started the journey, and no company has made the whole journey. We are far away from 4.0,” says Wölbeling, referring to the ISPE Pharma 4.0TM Operating Model, which Wölbeling and other members of a special interest group within the ISPE played a key role in designing. 

He points out that companies have a range of departments—for small and large molecules, formulation, fill and finish and packaging—that they struggle to integrate. “All these parts have data, and each system has its own silo. Without a common data platform, end-to-end tracking and tracing is inefficient and difficult,” says Wölbeling. 

Wölbeling’s presentation at Connect in Pharma, entitled “Pharma 4.0 – The Roadmap to Digitalization”, will discuss the strategic case for digital transformation and provide insights on how companies can create digital workflows and increase connectivity so systems can easily talk to each other.  

Other speakers from BD, Roche, Unither Pharmaceuticals, UPSA, Gerresheimer, the University of Bordeaux and elsewhere will speak on a range of topics, including: 

  • Developing innovative packaging solutions 
  • How to scale up biotech products
  • Innovation in injectables 
  • Using smart prefilled syringes to optimize the delivery of biologics 

All sessions are free to attend and will run in conjunction with a workshop programme designed to provide a sharp focus on latest developments in pharma packaging, drug delivery and manufacturing. Find out more about the speakers and the agenda at

Manufacturing & Engineering Magazine | The Home of Manufacturing Industry News

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