FlyPharma Europe
Getting medicines to patients faster – the collaborative approach

Getting medicines to patients faster – the collaborative approach


The FlyPharma team caught up with Chair Mark Blanchard, from the BioPhorum Operations Group, ahead of his presentation at the FlyPharma Conference 2016 and talked about the benefits of collaboration within pharma.

I’d just like to begin by asking you to briefly tell me, in your own words, what BioPhorum Operations Group (BPOG) does and why it does it?

The BioPhorum Operations Group has created an environment where its members can interact and collaborate, not only to discuss the emerging trends and challenges that they are facing, but to actively work together to create solutions and disseminate best practice.

Creating this place of industry collaboration enables the process of invention to be quicker, cheaper and considerably improved with the long-term ambition of getting medicines to patients faster.

Collaboration is a key feature of what BPOG does. I assumed that collaboration would be something that comes naturally within the pharma industry, so why does the value of mutual sharing of information and best practice need to be driven home to those in this sector?

With strong competition and anti-trust rules governing the industry, it’s no surprise that collaboration is not something that comes naturally, but BPOG creates a ‘safe’ space where topics of mutual interest can be discussed whilst still observing anti-competitive rules. Our members soon realise the benefits that their companies gain when working with their peers to overcome industry challenges. This company-focused, cascading coordination, ensures adequate resources are effectively deployed, to address the issues in hand.

What are some of the most exciting developments that BPOG is working on at the moment? And what are the industry trends that most excite you?

Currently the BioPhorum phorums have some very interesting and exciting projects underway, including developing a technology roadmap for the biopharma industry and launching a new platform – the Supply Partner Phorum (SPP) – that will help biopharma manufacturers and suppliers collaborate more effectively as an industry to improve the quality and speed of making drugs available to the market.

In terms of trends, we have seen the continued growth of the biopharmaceutical market and the explosive growth of biologic products leading to a diversification in manufacturing, with the development of very large-scale continuous operations and, at the other end, very small-scale operations for the newer therapies.

With regard to pharma supply chain and logistics, what progress has BPOG made to mature the industry’s knowledge of best practice around these issues?

BioPhorum’s Drug Substance work stream has been very interested in transport and warehousing, and recently visited supply chain and logistics experts in Brussels in order to facilitate knowledge-sharing. The issues identified within this area are the same across the whole supply chain and the team will soon get to work on identifying and recommending best practice in this sector.

This is an area where there has been a proliferation of variety and complexity across the pharma cold chain; this makes it almost impossible for logistics partners to develop standard and effective solutions for an industry that only comprises around 3% of total cold chain revenues, irrespective of the multi-million-dollar price tag of its cargo.

If forecasts of a 60% increase in pharma cold chain costs by 2020 holds true, then manufacturers and logistics service providers will have no choice but to get their heads together to reduce unnecessary complexity and develop common standards; this in turn will raise the game in terms of quality assurance.

There are common issues across the entire supply chain and BPOG is well placed to bring the industry to the supply base, be they service provider or material suppliers, to share knowledge and work together to address the challenges and exploit the opportunities.

I know BPOG has done considerable research into the lessons that the pharma industry can learn from other industries. What do you think are some of the more pertinent lessons that pharmaceutical companies can apply from other sectors?

From the semiconductor industry, BPOG has applied the process of developing a technology roadmap that will enable the industry to work with suppliers to start developing the technology needed for future biopharmaceutical manufacturing.

From automotive and aerospace, we have taken the development of standards and effective supplier partner cooperation and management, plus deployment of lean approaches and just-in-time concepts to enable fully synchronised supply chains.

Obviously there are lessons to be learnt from industry leaders in logistics – they’ve developed world-beating technologies and processes for other industry sectors, and pharma needs to benchmark these and tailor them to its own situation.

Mark Blanchard is chairing the FlyPharma Conference 2016. You can learn more about Mark here and about the conference itself here.


Deputy Editor at Pharmafocus.