Supplier relationships critical in driving process intensification, says BMS

Process intensification is driving down costs in the biologics space, but manufacturing firms need to treat vendors like partners and not simply suppliers, says Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Process intensification emerged as one of the hot topics at Biotech Week Boston last month. There were multiple talks and discussions looking at strategies such as perfusion-based cell culture, multicolumn chromatography in the downstream, and the increased use of analytical technologies aimed at intensifying manufacturing processes.

Ciaran Brady, executive director of Manufacturing, Science and Technology, Drug Substance, at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), gave one such presentation, but Bioprocess Insider spoke with him ahead of the event to find out why process intensification is such a focus in such a well-established industry.

Process intensification a key focus at Biotech Week Boston. Image: iStock/zheltikov

“Decreasing cost for the patient is extremely important as well as obviously improving our cost of goods, so intensification is allowing us to do that. It’s also allowing us to not build these huge stainless-steel plants that are more traditional, so we’re able to manufacture these products in a much more efficient and agile way in smaller facilities with smaller footprints, smaller carbon footprints, much more energy savings,” he said.

“There’s a huge benefit, not just for the industry but I think we’re obviously passing that along to the patients, and also allowing us to develop these drugs as they go through the life cycle much quicker, getting them to the market quicker.”

“The other area that’s very important to address here is being able to work with our regulatory health authorities as we advance these technologies, because we also believe as an industry that these technologies allow us to better understand our processes and add more quality into our processes.”

Vendor supplier relationships

Like other Big Biopharma firms, BMS has incorporated next-generation technologies in both its clinical and commercial production strategies.

“I think we’re quite advanced in terms of generation or development of next-generation processes, post-approval improvements as well as maximizing the efficiency of our plants,” said Brady.

But such tech advances rely on BMS’s network of equipment vendors and establishing a relationship with these firms is essential to driving process intensification, he told us.

“Our relationship with our suppliers and our vendors is absolutely critical in order to not just advance the technology in this area, but in order to meet the demands of the industry in terms of supply as well as better understand some of these technologies,” he said.

“That relationship has become more and more critical, and as I said, it’s really a partnership now. At BMS, we don’t treat that as a vendor/client relationship any more. It’s really a partnership, that we work together to advance those technologies.”