One of the perennial challenges for the life sciences community is turning more of the intellectual property created in Scotland into manufacturing and production opportunities here – but a new facility to manufacture medicines at industrial scale could be a game changer, according to one expert.
Clive Badman, executive director at Strathclyde University, works at its Continuous Manufacturing and Advanced Crystallisation Centre (CMAC) – but sees a bigger future.
“There is a huge opportunity in new manufacturing technology and ways of working that can be very attractive to manufacturing companies around the world – specifically to set up a Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (MMIC) in Scotland,” says Badman.
He is working [for Strathclyde] with the Centre for Process Innovation based near Middlesbrough on a submission to Innovate UK and Scottish Enterprise.
A £13 million submission to Innovate UK will be considered in December and a £15m bid to Scottish Enterprise is being worked up.
“To be successful, we need to match that £28m with the same amount from industry,” says Badman.
“Providing we can get the funding from industry, and the go-ahead from Innovate UK and Scottish Enterprise next year, the MMIC could be built in Scotland by 2020. We have a shortlist of three sites.
“This could be a game-changer for Scotland – manufacturing medicines and fine chemicals is a global industry and Scotland is already on the map with CMAC.
“We’d like to build on that with the MMIC to translate its work on to an industrial scale.”
The current timeframe for manufacturing medicines is 12 to 24 months, but the new centre could reduce this to three to six months, says Badman.
“We also need to increase the right-first-time manufacturing quality of the processes,” he adds.
“The product that reaches patients is of the highest quality but lots of work goes into ensuring the process leading there is spot on.
“The MMIC can help us reduce problems, shorten the supply chain, get the right-first-time quality up and make the whole process quicker.
“It would also mean reducing drug shortages for patients as there can be an issue with the supply of certain drugs.”
As well as continuous manufacturing, the new centre would work with synthetic biology (including enzymes), with the process underpinned by digital manufacturing – another way to improve efficiency and speed.
“The MMIC we want to build in Scotland would be world-leading,” says Badman.
“There are facilities in the United States, Singapore and Austria, but they are smaller in scale than the one we want to create.
“All the top pharma companies are looking at continuous manufacturing and we want to make Scotland a significant player in this space.
“If companies are testing products in Scotland, they might set up around the MMIC and create a new cluster.
“It could be the start of a science park where we have the MMIC, perhaps an enzyme manufacturing facility, and over time, different companies base themselves there.”
The MMIC also raises the prospect of significant re-shoring, says Badman: “We have in the past outsourced manufacturing to lower- cost countries to save on labour costs, but the MMIC would offer technology to challenge that model and offer a realistic chance of re-shoring those manufacturing processes.”
In terms of supply chains, Strathclyde is part of a bigger project called REMEDIES (RE-configuring MEDIcines End-to-end Supply).
The project is headed by GlaxoSmithKline with research led by Cambridge University.
Badman is leading on the project for GSK, along with 23 other companies ranging from large pharma businesses to chemical and equipment suppliers and distribution companies.
“We are looking across the whole supply chain. There will be totally different supply chains in future which are enabled by the technology we are developing.”
Badman is confident about the future: “Scotland punches above its weight in terms of fundamental science but the difficulty we have is translating that into industrial use.
“CMAC and IBioIC [the In- dustrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre] are doing great work [CMAC has worked closely with MIT in the United States, holding world-leading symposia] and we want to build on that with the MMIC to provide a scaled-up, hi-tech facility to put ourselves in a great position to win global work.” n