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.”