Driving innovation and excellence in pharmaceutical manufacturing 15th October 2023
In May, 2023, Veranova, a global leader in providing CDMO services to the pharmaceutical biotech sector, announced the appointment of Mike Riley as its Chief Executive Officer.
With Veranova poised to embark on an exciting new phase of growth, we had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Mr. Riley and gain insights into his strategic vision. Drawing from his extensive experience accumulated over nearly two decades in the CDMO sector, we explored the key trends driving industry growth and how CDMOs are becoming increasingly key in ensuring project success amidst an ever-evolving landscape.
Q. Hi Mike, with nearly 20 years of experience in the CDMO industry, what unique insights and perspectives do you bring to your role within the company?
A. Over the course of my career in the CDMO sector, I have witnessed the growth of CDMOs into organisations with dramatically increased capabilities, both in terms of quality and breadth.
Outsourced development and manufacturing have matured from what was a very selective strategy employed by some pharmaceutical companies to a strategy that is central to the growth of many companies. This trend has been accelerated by recent innovation and the development of new modalities, which has increased the complexity that companies need to manage in their pipelines. In this context, CDMOs need to function as strategic partners that play a critical role in enabling therapies to reach patients.
Previously, I was part of a team that built Catalent from a private equity carve-out into what is now a leading global CDMO. That experience gave me wide-ranging insight into the workings of the pharmaceutical industry, including experience with many different dosage forms and modalities. Following this, I spent the past nine years growing Catalent’s biologics business from what was a very niche development player to one that is now a leader across multiple modalities. This is an experience I think I can draw on as we look to build Veranova into a leading CDMO in the market.
Q. In your opinion, what are the key factors that set Veranova apart from competitors in terms of delivering specialised and complex APIs?
A. Veranova can draw on a long track record of handling highly specialised APIs, including controlled substances, highly potent APIs (HPAPIs) and other molecules that require complex synthesis and analytics. The infrastructure, technical know-how and experience that is required to handle these products can be very difficult to replicate. Veranova already has a tremendous base of experience in those areas, which can be built upon moving forward.
Q. How do you see the future of the CDMO industry evolving, and what role does your company aim to play in shaping that future?
A. I think that the CDMO industry is going to continue to benefit from the underlying growth in the pharmaceutical and biotech markets, as well as increased rates of outsourcing of development and manufacturing activities.
With the diversity of new modalities that are showing clinical benefit, companies are having to manage an increasing amount of complexity in their development and manufacturing activities. In the future, this is only going to accelerate the reliance on external partners. Consequently, I think that demand will continue to be strong in areas that Veranova has traditionally excelled in, but I also believe that we are well-positioned to capitalise on future growth opportunities. We already know that some of the fastest-growing areas in the pharmaceutical pipeline are going to rely on complex synthesis and specialised handling capabilities. I believe that Veranova can become the go-to partner for companies that are developing products in those areas.
Q. Given the increasing demand for personalised medicine and targeted therapies, how does Veranova support the development and manufacturing of these advanced pharmaceutical products?
A. Antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) are a great example of a highly targeted therapy where Veranova has significant experience. This modality contains an antibody conjugated to a small molecule cytotoxic payload and has been showing significant growth due to recent clinical and commercial successes.
As a result, investment in ADC development is increasing across the industry. However, the complexity of these molecules means that they are challenging to synthesise. Veranova has already worked on multiple development and clinical-stage ADCs and is producing one commercially. Our experience and infrastructure in this area is hugely valuable to companies that are developing products in this space.
Q. Can you provide insights into your company’s growth strategy and plans for expanding its impact footprint?
A. Veranova’s current facility network has multiple strategic locations both within the US and in the UK. These locations are close to key pharmaceutical and biotech hubs, but can also provide our partners with strong supply chain options in the US and European markets. As a result, we can add value to companies looking to strengthen their supply chains globally. We believe that we have a strong basis to build upon and are looking to continue to invest in our facility footprint worldwide.
Q. How does Veranova foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement within your organisation?
A. A culture of innovation and continuous improvement is critical in the CDMO industry. At Veranova, we have the opportunity to build on our legacy to create a culture we are proud of. Within our organisation, we are fortunate to have a team of talented individuals, who want to develop new and better ways of doing things. Our experts have the experience and technical skills needed to achieve this. Moving forward, we will continue to foster this talent, enabling our team to exceed customer expectations and bring innovative new therapies to patients.
Q. How does Veranova stay ahead of emerging trends and technologies in the pharmaceutical industry to continuously deliver cutting-edge solutions to clients?
A. I believe that the best way that we can stay on top of trends is by developing and building upon strong connections within the pharmaceutical industry. As a CDMO, we need to be very close to our customers and understand what their needs and challenges are, both current and future. At Veranova, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience within our team, but can also gain an invaluable external perspective from our partners. Combining our technical knowledge with that external perspective allows us to spot key trends early and provide the best possible service for our customers.
Q. What are the key considerations for scale-up and tech transfer in drug development?
A. In drug development, every project has its own unique challenges. It is therefore important for companies to consider the experience and track record of their partners. The more products and processes that a group has handled, the more likely they are going to be able to troubleshoot and solve issues during the tech transfer and scale-up process. Another crucial consideration during a tech transfer process is the information flow between a customer and their CDMO partner. It is critical to the success of a project that communication is clear and consistent throughout, because the more information is exchanged, the more that the groups can plan together from the outset. Should challenges arise, it is then far more likely that we will be able to effectively work together to solve them.
Q. How does Veranova approach the issue of quality and regulatory standards and ensure that client satisfaction is prioritised?
A. Quality and compliance are non-negotiable priorities for us as a CDMO. It is something that our customers expect and it is a top priority for us as a company. As a CDMO, although we are developing and manufacturing drugs, we are fundamentally a service business. As such, we need to be relentlessly focused on delivering for our customers. Responsiveness and flexibility are key to fulfilling our customers’ goals and ultimately providing them with a great product. As previously discussed, this is only possible by maintaining open communication. In my experience, the most effective partnerships are where we truly understand what our customer is trying to achieve. Our relationship with our customers is not simply a vendor relationship or a specific deliverable. We are interested in understanding the exact outcome that they are looking to attain, whether it is to get a drug to a certain clinical milestone or to achieve certain objectives in the market. By understanding those objectives, we are able to better anticipate and respond to challenges.
Q. Thank you. Finally, how does Veranova foster strong, collaborative partnerships with its clients, and what are the benefits offered by this kind of close collaboration?
A. In my experience, developing a very strong collaborative partnership is a central factor in determining how successful a program will be. As a CDMO, we know that challenges and issues are inevitable. What determines the success or failure of a program is how we collaborate to address those challenges. What I have found to be the most successful collaborations are those that are built on aligned objectives and transparent communication between all parties. This emphasis on collaboration and customer service is a philosophy that I bring into Veranova and hope to build upon within our company.