The four steps FU­JI­FILM Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies is tak­ing to im­pact the fu­ture of bio­phar­ma man­u­fac­tur­ing

Mar­tin Mee­son’s first task as in­com­ing CEO at FU­JI­FILM Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies was to send every­one home, and it’s been a sprint ever since.

That was near­ly two years ago as the pan­dem­ic hit. Overnight, the CD­MO leader had to in­vent new ways of or­ches­trat­ing their es­sen­tial for­mu­la­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing sup­ply chains. Fac­ing a surge of de­mand from biotechs en­ter­ing the clin­ic, the com­pa­ny al­so in­vest­ed big in new fa­cil­i­ties and tech­nolo­gies.

“Ad­vanc­ing to­mor­row’s med­i­cines” is on the wall at FU­JI­FILM Diosynth, Mee­son told Ar­salan Arif, Pub­lish­er of End­points News, at a #JPM22 fire­side chat. They dis­cussed the phi­los­o­phy be­hind that, their out­look for 2022, and how Mee­son and his team is look­ing to shift the par­a­digm of man­u­fac­tur­ing in bio­phar­ma.

In­vest­ing in sim­ple, flex­i­ble, and re­peat­able process­es

FU­JI­FILM Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies is con­cen­trat­ing on or­gan­ic in­vest­ment and mak­ing sure the fa­cil­i­ties built now have re­peat­able process­es and keep­ing the sup­ply chain re­silient.

Fu­ji­film Cor­po­ra­tion has been steadi­ly in­vest­ing in its sub­sidiary to the tune of $5.5 bil­lion since 2019. The in­vest­ments bring ad­di­tion­al de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­i­ty for re­com­bi­nant vac­cines for COVID-19 and ad­vanced gene ther­a­pies in the Unit­ed King­dom and the Unit­ed States.

So, what’s Mee­son’s strat­e­gy for how to use all that in­vest­ment? He’s cen­tered on the en­tire clin­i­cal pipeline rather than cer­tain prod­ucts or phas­es.

“We’re mak­ing sure our port­fo­lio is bal­anced across dif­fer­ent modal­i­ties so we can sup­port our part­ners with what we see through our di­rect re­la­tion­ships and in the mar­ket­place,” he shared with Arif. “I think it’s not on­ly about us look­ing at M&A, but al­so about how our part­ners are in­ter­act­ing with us as a CD­MO and en­sur­ing they’re get­ting the right use of re­sources.”

Mee­son’s ap­proach is to cap­i­tal­ize on re­peat­able mod­els built on sim­plic­i­ty and flex­i­bil­i­ty. FU­JI­FILM Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies’ fa­cil­i­ties, ma­chin­ery and op­er­at­ing sys­tems are all built on these process­es. They are hav­ing a cas­cade ef­fect of re­duc­ing com­plex­i­ty and in­creas­ing ef­fi­cien­cy across the com­pa­ny.

“We’re shift­ing the par­a­digm of how we go about repli­cat­ing and re­peat­ing the ways of work­ing that we have to­day to make more med­i­cines for our part­ners,” Mee­son stat­ed.

Build­ing part­ner­ships based on gem­ba and gen­ki

Gem­ba. Gen­ki. These Japan­ese con­cepts come from par­ent com­pa­ny Fu­ji­film Cor­po­ra­tion’s his­toric man­u­fac­tur­ing her­itage. And they’re cen­tral to Mee­son and his or­ga­ni­za­tion’s part­ners.

Gem­ba loose­ly trans­lates to “go where the work is at.” For Mee­son, it sym­bol­izes be­ing present by vis­it­ing with part­ners and sit­ting down with them. He thinks this helps build stronger con­nec­tions in our vir­tu­al world.

Gen­ki refers to hav­ing pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm for what you are do­ing. Mee­son sees this mo­ti­va­tion ex­em­pli­fied among his team. “No good part­ner­ship is suc­cess­ful with­out a lev­el of en­thu­si­asm un­der­neath it, and that’s what you have here at [FU­JI­FILM Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies].”

Mee­son con­tin­ued, “We have near­ly four thou­sand peo­ple who are ex­treme­ly pas­sion­ate about mak­ing the med­i­cines that our part­ners en­trust to us, that we’re mov­ing them for­ward and get­ting them through the clin­i­cal stages, and ul­ti­mate­ly reg­u­lar­ly ad­min­is­tered to pa­tients.”

The con­cept of part­ner­ship weaves through­out all that FU­JI­FILM Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies achieves. Mee­son de­fines a great part­ner­ship by FU­JI­FILM Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies’ val­ues as an or­ga­ni­za­tion – trust, un­der­stand­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pas­sion. They all link back to the con­cepts of gem­ba and gen­ki.

For Mee­son, the com­pa­ny tagline “part­ners for life” isn’t just a few words writ­ten on the wall. To him, part­ner­ship means, “Some­thing that we live, whether it’s a part­ner­ship at the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ty lev­el with our sup­pli­ers or with the re­gion­al gov­ern­ments where we op­er­ate. We re­al­ly feel that suc­cess comes from hav­ing a part­ner­ship ap­proach.”

“We’re shift­ing the par­a­digm of how we go about repli­cat­ing the ways of work­ing to make more med­i­cines for our part­ners.”

Sup­port­ing ad­vanced med­i­cines

Vi­ral vec­tors con­tin­ues to be a prime field for FU­JI­FILM Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies. But Mee­son isn’t over­look­ing the oth­er ini­tia­tives in his com­pa­ny’s wheel­house. He pre­dicts these three de­vel­op­ing ar­eas are where in­dus­try de­mand will keep on out­strip­ping sup­ply:

  • An­ti­body pro­duc­tion: Mee­son ex­pects a de­mand in large-scale an­ti­body pro­duc­tion and not­ed, “I think what we’ll see emerg­ing is some of the more bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies with great lev­els of in­creased po­ten­cy and ef­fi­ca­cy.”
  • mR­NA as a ther­a­peu­tic: He sees the modal­i­ty ex­pand­ing rapid­ly to ad­dress oth­er ar­eas out­side of Covid-19.
  • Cell ther­a­pies: Mee­son be­lieves au­tol­o­gous cell ther­a­py as an in­dus­try must find a way to ex­ist, or the fo­cus may fall back on al­lo­gene­ic cell ther­a­pies.

“I think all of these emerg­ing ar­eas are ex­cit­ing to watch,” re­marked Mee­son,” and in our po­si­tion as de­vel­op­er and man­u­fac­tur­er, we’re mak­ing sure our ca­pa­bil­i­ties are ready to sup­port the mar­ket as it shifts and moves.”

“We saw vi­ral vec­tors com­ing, and that was great for us, but it is mak­ing sure we fo­cus on some of these new­er items and don’t ig­nore the old­er or more es­tab­lished tech­nolo­gies be­cause de­mand is still in­creas­ing in those ar­eas as well.”

“The big fo­cus I’ve got is to make sure we’re lead­ing peo­ple in the sit­u­a­tion that we’re in, rather than try­ing to lead them through it.”

Lead­ing in – not through – chal­leng­ing times

Arif con­clud­ed with a “CEO to CEO” ques­tion and asked Mee­son what kind of mark he wants to leave with his lead­er­ship at FU­JI­FILM Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies. Mee­son thought back to when he be­gan as CEO that co­in­cid­ed with the dawn of the pan­dem­ic. He care­ful­ly chose his words and ex­plained a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence in his word­ing.

Lead­er­ship is not man­ag­ing peo­ple through the pan­dem­ic but lead­ing peo­ple in the pan­dem­ic.

Mee­son as­sert­ed, “You need to ad­just your ways of work­ing. We’ve done that ex­treme­ly well, but it looks like we’re go­ing to have to con­tin­ue for a lit­tle bit longer. So, the big fo­cus I’ve got over the next 12 to 24 months is to make sure we’re lead­ing peo­ple in the sit­u­a­tion that we’re in, rather than try­ing to lead them through it.”