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Lucy Chard
30 Nov 2023

CPHI Barcelona 2023: The CDMO Outlook – a new definition of partnerships

To conclude the ‘Partnering for Success’ track at CPHI Barcelona 2023 (October 24–26th) we held a panel, with a range of experts, on the CDMO outlook. 

After setting the scene for the CDMO landscape and offering guidance on how to choose the right CDMO for your biotech business, the track rounded off by giving an overview of the latest trends and developments, and by offering guidance on how to nurture successful partnerships in the CDMO space. 

Chaired by Gil Roth, President of the PBOA, the panel consisted of Anil Kane, Head of Technical Scientific Affairs at Thermo Fisher Scientific; Federica Fraschetti, Associate Director of MSD; Shilpi Ghosh, CDMO Site Management Chapter Lead for Roche Pharma; and Raman Sehgal, Founder of Ramarketing and Host of the Molecule to Market Podcast. 

To give some background to the topic Roth first asked Kane to describe how the CDMO landscape has changed over the last few years, structurally and otherwise. 

Kane explained that the relationship between sponsor and CDMO has evolved, becoming more of a partnership rather than purely transactional. Because of this the expectations put upon the CDMO are higher, they need to be more flexible so they can meet the needs of their client. 

Fraschetti added that the partnerships will have to continue to evolve too, this the changing trends and demands of the market. 

Roth prompted the panel to voice their opinions on how the field was also changing in regard to CMOs, whether the CDMO shift was having an impact with these kinds of relationships too. 

Ghosh stated that we have been able to see a shift in how big pharma has been operating in the last 5–10 years, they are opening up their doors, sharing risks, and not just to do with things directly to do with money, she pulled sustainability as a prime example of this. Sustainability has to shape a significant proportion of the conversations CMOs and CDMOs are having over the next few years. 

The discussion clearly shows that there has been a translation to more long-term relationships, the panel agreed that CMOs now aren’t talking to 100 different companies to meet their needs but rather a handful that they can develop a multi-year strategic partnership with. 

Roth asked: “What do you look for when consolidating on the strategic side, are the biggest CDMOs looking for certain geographies or technologies?” 

Fraschetti replied: “One of the criteria that we can't forget about is the technical capability. And when you're looking for specific expertise, for example, high potent compounds, then there's maybe a few players that will stand out immediately. Then when it comes through to really consolidating the CMOS that we work with, it comes down to reliability over time, especially when you are planning to launch our most promising clinical assets out of the CMOS, it's very important to make sure that there's going to be a reliable supply. So geopolitical considerations have been playing a role and have been introduced in our due diligence criteria for when vetting new CDMOs. Then again, it is always a bit of a balance between consolidating key strategic partners and diversifying as well. So you don't want everything in the same place from a risk management perspective.” 

Sehgal added that without the substantial funds of big pharma, CDMOs have to have different, ingenious risk management strategies, and may have to develop to be more commercial to support these strategies.  

Roth encourages Kane to weigh in from a cell and gene therapy perspective. 

Kane: “This technology is relatively new, it takes a long time to see the benefits from a clinical space all the way to a commercial space. I think in general, the partnership models that are being discussed fall into a similar categories, with flexible manufacturing approaches.” 

He continued: “One thing we have seen, because of our global network, is the offer to discuss possibilities of having regional preferences from a regulatory perspective, whether these are cell and gene therapies, or mRNAs, or plasmids or whichever advanced therapies are in play today compared to 5–10 years ago.” 

They underlined the importance of being able to bring medicines to patients more quickly, such as in oncology and personalised medicine – having the flexibility to bring niche and small scale solutions to these therapy areas, which can make a difference to individual patients.

Roth moved the conversation on to ESG: “How much does ESG play into some of the CDMO decisions?”

Ghosh and Fraschetti stated that is it absolutely a high priority for both Roche and MSD. They impressed that they look for strong ESG values being upheld throughout the company they are considering partnering with; they want the CEO to be involved in those conversations. They both conceded that there is still so far to go with sustainability measures in the industry, particularly in manufacturing, and realistically the only way to make a difference is to work together to meet sustainable goals.  

Finally, the panel discuss trends in the industry. 

They highlight the increasing importance of biotech companies and especially start-ups, navigating how to work with CDMOs early on in a companies’ development has a myriad of advantages. 

Sehgal enthused that the market is moving in a positive direction, R&D and drug approvals are all on the increase, but there are still clear challenges for CDMOs. He states that his one piece of advice is:

“The number one trick in marketing is just be really, really good at what you do. Make sure you’re deliverables will not be out of stock, maintain good quality customer experience, and shake up the market. So, first of all survive, then make sure you're one of the fittest.” 

The panel was well received in Barcelona, with a packed, attentive audience. Hearing the different perspectives from each of the contributors in their areas of expertise gave a really valuable insight into how companies can conduct themselves and keep ahead of the curve in this ever changing market. 

To watch the full panel discussion from CPHI Barcelona, follow this link

Mentioned Companies
Thermo Fisher Scientific
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Lucy Chard
Digital Editor - Pharma

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