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Mar 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 5)

CMOs Hold Their Ground in Troubled Times

Long Lead Times for Projects Have Protected Contractors from Slowdown So Far

  • Click Image To Enlarge +
    A manufacturing scientist using Laureate Pharma’s ultrafiltration-diafiltration skid in pilot-plant production

    Despite the economic downturn, contract biomanufacturing remains strong and vibrant. Contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) continue to provide specialized research, development, and manufacturing services for large, small, and virtual biotechnology companies alike.

    One of the oldest bio-CMOs, Goodwin Biotechnology was acquired in 2004 by India-based Wallace Pharmaceuticals. Wallace provided growth capital, which Goodwin put to good use. The company enjoyed record business in 2005 and 2006, and shut down in 2007 and part of 2008 to undergo an expansion.

    Once it was up and running again, Goodwin had added to its floor space by 50%, more than doubled its capacity through the addition of 200 L and 500 L bioreactors, and tripled its process-development capabilities. As of mid-2008 the company was experiencing record revenues, and 2009 is expected to bring even greater success.

    Goodwin is considering the acquisition of a 2,000 L bioreactor, which will enable full-scale production of a fair number of late-stage products, particularly niche and orphan biopharmaceuticals. Its decision will be based on anticipated utilization.

    “If we were a product company, the decision would be simpler, since we could more easily forecast capacity requirements,” notes CEO Stephanie Finnegan. “But when you’re a contractor, you need to find clients that will keep your bioreactors running, which is the key to success. The last thing we need is to install a behemoth tank train that’s utilized only ten percent of the year. We cannot be profitable with that kind of utilization, yet we’re fairly certain we can keep a 2,000 L reactor busy.”

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Scientifically Studying Ecstasy

MDMA (commonly known as the empathogen “ecstasy”) is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which is reserved for compounds with no accepted medical use and a high abuse potential. Two researchers from Stanford, however, call for a rigorous scientific exploration of MDMA's effects to identify precisely how the drug works, the data from which could be used to develop therapeutic compounds.

Do you agree that ecstasy should be studied for its potential therapeutic benefits?

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