Donna Jacques of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies takes us through how this high tech business is helping to treat medical conditions globally, ahead of their appearance at Venturefest Tees Valley’s Innovation Showcase.
Describe your business in no more than 100 words
Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies is a global contract development and manufacturing organisation, with sites in Billingham, North Carolina & Texas. We develop novel biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes for customers using cutting edge technology. We will be showcasing our cell lines, expression systems and platform processes used to increase productivity and deliver biopharmaceuticals to treat medical conditions on a global scale.
What prompted you to enter the innovation showcase?
We wanted to enter the innovation showcase to demonstrate how Fujifilm has diversified from photography to biopharmaceutical contract manufacturing, and has become a world leader in this area. This is also an excellent opportunity for us to showcase how cutting edge technology is used on a daily basis in the Tees Valley to provide biopharmaceuticals to a global market.
Describe the innovation that you’ve entered the showcase with.
We have a number of innovative technologies used at Fujifilm.
We use biological processes to manufacture drug products. We have adapted a series of cell lines which are designed to produce high quality drug product. We market our pAVEway system (E. coli), and Apollo system (mammalian), and we also have yeast capabilities. In order to maximize the amount of drug product created, we have developed manufacturing processes which complement our cells. The process includes a fermentation process designed to allow the cells to grow in optimum conditions, and produce the product. Once the fermentation process is complete, the drug product is purified and tested to ensure that it is fit for purpose. The final product is sent to our customers for testing or marketing depending on the stage in the drug development process it is at.
We are currently developing platform processes for Mamallian cells to allow us to manufacture these more cost effectively with the aim of getting these to the market sooner.
How would you describe that innovation to your grandparents?
Fujifilm make drug products for customers using manufacturing developed on site. These drug products are made using bacteria, yeast and mammalian cells which we have adapted to ensure that we get lots of high quality product. Early on in the process, the product isn’t suitable for human use, so it has to be purified. We have developed routine purification techniques to clean the product while ensuring that we don’t lose any product and also that it still works – this is checked through the process using analytical tests. At the end of the process, the product is rigorously tested to meet international requirements so that it can then be used in clinical trials or in hospitals / doctor’s surgeries worldwide to treat patients.
What are the best and worst parts of trying to be innovative in your business?
The best part of being innovative is the knowledge that you are helping to get often life changing / life saving treatment to patients who otherwise may not have access to them. This may be because of the cost due to the expense of the process (if we make the process more streamlined, the product becomes cheaper to market), or because there is currently no product on the market that can help.
Working in a heavily regulated environment, it can sometimes be difficult to get the new technology past regulatory authorities in order to use outside of an R&D facility.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
There is a lot of competition in the contract manufacturing business, so we are continuously having to use our R&D expertise to stay at the forefront of the market. Due to the demands of the business, we are currently going through a major expansion, which has brought with it lots of logistical issues e.g. recruitment of staff for a niche field, training staff to be able to continue the work whilst also tapping into their knowledge to allow us to diversify.
Due to the regulatory nature of the field, all innovations must comply with international standards to allow us to utilize these in global markets. This involves a lot of discussion with regulatory authorities to ensure that what we create is fit for purpose. The technology must be reliable and produce consistent results therefore it needs to go through rigorous testing prior to being used on customer products.
Where do you get support and advice to help you run your business?
We work very closely with our customers to ensure that the drug product we manufacture meets their needs and requirements. They have timelines to meet in order to use the product in clinical trials, or to sell batches, therefore we must ensure that any processes we develop allow this to happen. As each product can behave differently, we need to use their knowledge to ensure that we don’t repeat the same issues from early development work.
We receive a lot of help from universities in order to compliment our research. This allows us to tap into current research which we may not have the capability to use on site, and also allows us to attract talent to the business to continue innovation on site. As well as using their research facilities, we also help them to develop suitable courses which makes students employable upon graduation.
We also have a close working relationship with regulatory authorities to ensure that patients receive safe & effective products from our site.
What does being chosen for the innovation showcase mean to you?
It is an honour to be part of the innovation showcase to highlight the amazing work that is happening in the Tees Valley. We are looking forward to seeing other exhibitors and celebrating their achievements on the day
Where do you see your company in five years’ time?
The company is currently going through a major expansion. We have recently opened a facility in Wilton to launch our platform Mammalian process (Saturn). We have acquired land on Belasis Avenue, Billingham with a view to expand our R&D facility to allow us to continue supporting customers. As we expand our R&D facility, we will naturally expand our manufacturing capabilities, and we will continue to be a world leader in biopharmaceutical contract manufacturing.
What would you tell businesses who are hoping to be more innovative?
Innovation is key to growth, and keeping ahead of the market place. The Tees Valley has a wealth of expertise regarding innovation with local businesses keen to help from educational establishments to financial establishments.