"As a specialist in generics, we must constantly improve the chemistry of the drugs that touch different therapeutic areas."
Could you give us a brief history of Cambrex?
Cambrex was founded in 1981, and by 1990, it was listed on the NYSE. A couple of significant acquisitions followed since, including the Salsbury Chemicals plant now called Cambrex Charles City, and internationally, the acquisition of the Swedish plant in Karlskoga and the Profarmaco plant in Italy. A more recent acquisition is the buy-out of High Point in 2016, as well as FDFs facility Halo Pharma in 2018 and analytical-services firm Avista Pharma Solutions in 2019.
Can you introduce Cambrex Italy and your capabilities at the Paullo facility?
Cambrex Profarmaco Milano dates back to a company born in 1946, which became part of Cambrex in 1992. The Paullo site is close to Milan, and we are a team of 312 people operating a five-day/week, three-shifts/day manufacturing plant. 95% of our business is represented by generic APIs. Every year, we invest about 8 million euros, and in the last few years, we have allocated this investment to the construction of a new laboratory. We have 34 people dedicated to R&D, and they come up with 3-4 new active ingredients annually – which they develop all the way to submitting the master file to AIFA. Currently, we have over 70 drug master files in different therapeutic areas, including controlled substances like benzodiazepine, a tranquilizing compound. In the context of the pandemic, this type of compound was particularly important for hospitals that treated Covid-patients.
What is your investment focus?
As a specialist in generics, we must constantly improve the chemistry of the drugs that touch different therapeutic areas. Anti-cancer therapies with high potent drugs, or metabolic drugs for the treatment of diabetes, for instance, are very central in today’s market. Our technology evolves to follow these markets. Specifically, we invested in highly potent compounds to adhere to a market trend of using lower dosage – higher potency drugs. We also invested in a flow reactor to improve productivity and reduce the risk of a hazard reaction at high temperatures. This type of technology is required by some new chemical entities under development by Big Pharma, so we adapted and implemented this technology not just at a lab scale, but at an industrial scale.
What are the most interesting markets for generics?
The generics business reflects the most interesting markets for pharmaceuticals generally, and these have consistently been represented by the US, Europe and Japan. At the same time, Far East countries like Korea, Indonesia, China and India are becoming increasingly more important. Cambrex enjoys a strong position in the US and Europe, and we already registered some master files in China, whereas in Japan we have 26 registered master files. Finally, the former Russian Republic is also gaining attention.
What are Cambrex’s key strengths in the competitive API and CDMO business?
The costs gap between Western and Asian producers remains accentuated, so as a US-based CDMO, our strategy is to differentiate through premium quality, using the most advanced technology and developing complex chemical products. We are leveraging the premium concept above cost competitiveness. I believe customers are becoming more concerned with having a reliable partner that passes all compliance points required by health authorities, and who can guarantee risk-free supply. Cambrex follows closely each regulatory development, and our most important asset remains our people. They are the ones who ensure the highest standards of quality, so we seek to create value through our human resources. In Italy, we have had a very low turnover of just 3% in the last 20 years.
How do you observe the trend of localization as a result of the pandemic?
There is indeed a tendency to regionalize or localize production as a reaction to the supply chain angst created in 2020. In the US, there have been initiatives – preceding the pandemic – to create complete supply chain lines in the country, but this trend will vary in each country. China too has been strategizing around creating more autonomy in terms of its supply. However, I think that if the policy does not change in the coming years to support this de-globalization trend, we will be seeing a return of the typical industrial organization that relies on foreign imports.