Express Pharma

Labs of the future are truly the future of our industry

Christophe Couturier, EVP - Avantor AMEA, talks about his role at the company, technologies being used in pharma industry, labs of the future, current market trends and more in an interaction with 'Express Pharma'

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Tell us in brief about your role at Avantor, and for how long have you been a part of the industry now?

I’ve been a part of the pharma and life sciences industry for more than 30 years. I serve as the Executive Vice President leading our commercial organisation in AMEA. Prior to this, I’ve held multiple roles at Avantor, namely leading our Services business as well as merger integration oversight, in addition to other roles outside Avantor in general management, finance and consulting.

Technology, at present, is quickly trying to transform the various segments of pharma and life sciences industries, be it R&D, clinical trials, drug development, or even labs. How do you see this evolution?

Today, we are witnessing the increasing application of technology within the pharma industry brought on by automation, data integration, and digitalisation– from product development to manufacturing.

At Avantor, we are able to maximise clinical trial efficiencies around the globe, providing scalable, end-to-end service capabilities, ranging from discovery to delivery. Avantor’s vast portfolio includes services such as custom kitting, equipment and ancillary solutions, and biorepository and archiving to facilitate various trials anywhere across the globe.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased use of Decentralised Clinical Trial (DCT) components, Avantor is committed to provide its expertise to the researchers with top-notch clinical services. Adopting the remote model, we are working together to develop ever-more efficient protocols to support research needs, even away from the lab.

Moreover, we have made data analytics and integration the core of our offering. We actively work to develop advanced, innovative data integration methods and analytical solutions to handle
the vast amount of data. With powerful data insights, we are able to serve our customers better and deliver quality services.

In addition, there is also a popular term these days, ‘labs of the future’. How, in your opinion, will these labs be like? What major gains will these bring to pharma and lifesciences stakeholders?

Yes, labs of the future are truly the future of our industry. The lab of the future is not a building, but an idea. The lab of the future is not discrete tasks, but standardised procedures. And the lab of the future is often virtual, with sophisticated digital tools and solutions that promote globalisation in an environment that is more open and collaborative.

The lab of the future will benefit stakeholders across pharma and the life sciences industry as it would bring together many scientists, working through systems and technology, around the clock
and around the world. It is training people and building systems, for a more streamlined and efficient path to innovation.

Through lab of the future, we see more and more integration of equipment/instruments and consumable usage that will drive further insights.

To elaborate on this, we believe integration of instruments is beneficial in many aspects. It lets you schedule routine maintenance, calibration, and services, and then track particulars for the full lifecycle of lab equipment. This ensures the equipment is up-to-date and well-maintained.

Another benefit is the cloud-based Chemical Manager which tracks chemicals at the container level, making it easier to monitor and replenish your chemical inventory before it runs out, preventing any delays in research.

You have been looking after the three regions — Asia, Middle East and Africa. During the pandemic, which of these was the most affected, and what challenges did you face to revive back the company’s business there?

The pandemic severely impacted every aspect of daily life. Everyone, including our company, had to quickly adapt to a rapidly changing landscape. Over the past two years, we have gained valuable experience in managing through disruptions. It presented opportunities for us to find novel ways to fulfill customer demands as we innovated our processes. Our focus on mitigating supply constraints, maintaining flexibility and being transparent with our customers continues to serve us well.

And how is the situation now in all the three regions? What are your post-COVID plans for a new normal?

The pandemic has been an example to reflect how all the stakeholders within the industry – private enterprises, government, investors, academic and research institutions and individuals – can transform challenges into opportunities by creating a collaborative ecosystem. COVID-19 has emphasised why business continuity planning is so crucial. Business continuity means considering, among other things, collaborations with global life sciences companies that provide chemicals and single-use products, along with the breadth of their supply chains.

Our strong collaborations with customers as well as our deep expertise in the lifesciences industry have supported optimising our processes and workflows. Our online ordering systems are helping to ensure we provide the appropriate level of supply chain support to facilitate a successful outcome.

Post-COVID, we are continuously focussing on expanding our applications and solutions in biopharma, pharmaceutical, educational, industrial and high-tech industries. Our expertise in supporting scientific discovery enables the capacity of our on-site teams to adopt specific research objectives and adhere to strict efficiency and quality protocols.

Are there any trends that you have been observing in the markets that Avantor must opt for, to further boost its business at the moment?

Some of the key trends that have emerged in the pandemic era include the growth of new modalities and the need for rapid industrialisation, especially in the AMEA region.

Ensuring strengthened resilience in end-to-end supply chains is another factor that is gaining attention globally. This is an area Avantor has increasingly been focussing on by investing in in-region manufacturing. For example, to better serve its customers in the AMEA region, Avantor in May announced a new Manufacturing and Distribution Hub in Singapore, by integrating its existing distribution facility with new manufacturing operations. The new hub, which provides a range of services including quality control and inventory management expertise, aims to bring Avantor solutions closer to regional customers and strengthen global supply chain capabilities.

Lastly, digitalisation and rapid adoption of industry technologies will also revolutionise all aspects of the life sciences and biopharma industries. For example, cloud-based digital solutions can be tailored to the needs of the lab and can be used to track and document every stage of the scientific journey, making lab and inventory management efficient and easy to replicate. This can allow scientists the freedom to focus on their work while enhancing coordination between them.

Recently, Avantor has established STEM Intervention through Digital Equaliser Programme in India. Tell us about its purpose and benefits.

Through the Avantor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Avantor, we are dedicated to strengthen communities where we operate around the world, including in India. We do this by advancing science education and providing healthcare to those in need. Our support of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education will empower students with a greater understanding of the scientific approach and the ability to face challenges in the real world. Through the Foundation’s support and our associate volunteerism, we are driving science for goodness in the community.

The Digital Equaliser Programme is the first STEM Education grant in our region serving students in the Thane District of Maharashtra. The benefits for the student participants are boundless as the programme is aimed at developing scientific temperament and critical thinking. Students will have hands-on learning experiences through various labs focused on Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Math and Technology.

What other expansion plans do you have to further advance the company’s business here, in comparison to other Asian countries?

Reinforcing our commitment to India and working with the government towards its vision of “Make in India,” we will continue to focus on the country by optimising our local manufacturing capacities, in Panoli (Gujarat) and Dehradun (Uttarakhand), while offering unique solutions that meet the needs of our customers in the region.

We plan to expand our healthcare offerings in India with multiple diagnostic offerings and focus more on research labs.

Pharma companies in India are servicing almost 200 countries, and Avantor plays an important part in collaborating with many of these companies. We remain committed to the needs of the Indian life sciences industry, leading biologics and vaccine manufacturers, all of whom play a critical role in developing life changing therapies for patients.

Globally, and in India, the biopharma industry is one of our largest business segments, and we are working closely with the biotech and pharma companies as well as the public sector to develop and manufacture a wide variety of therapies that will help improve global health.

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