Head of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, Cytiva
No one company or country will be able to solve the COVID-19 crisis– it will take the collective will and collaboration of the whole life sciences sector.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the entire health and life sciences ecosystem has been working together to combat the pandemic.
From accelerating vaccine development, to securing the supply of essential medications; collaboration has been the theme of the year, says Daria Donati, Head of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships at Cytiva.
“Fifteen months ago, the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said no one would be able to develop and manufacture the vaccines and medicines we need alone – they would not be able to find capacity,” says Donati.
“From the very start, there has been an intense effort to build partnerships that include customers, providers, governments, international organisations and NGOs, all with the aim of gathering around the table to solve common problems.”
Faced with the overwhelming need for a vaccine, pharma and biopharma companies are exploring every avenue and candidate in their arsenal – and they are doing so at speed.
This has presented a number of challenges. Organisations need to find ways to reduce development timelines, and those that have pivoted to vaccines from another area of medicine are working in unfamiliar territory.
Finding an effective vaccine is only half the battle. While it is well documented that around 150 COVID-19 vaccines are currently in development, the need to secure enough manufacturing capacity is less well publicised.
It is a global issue attracting global attention, says Donati, who has been part of multiple government task forces set up to map world-wide manufacturing capacity since March.
“In reality, there is no one single company or organisation that will be able to take on this task, so we all need to work together,” explains Donati.
“We need people who can provide the equipment and key raw materials, and people who have the manufacturing capacity.”
One specific task force had to ensure efforts to increase vaccine manufacturing capacity did not decrease the production of other, equally essential, pharmaceutical products.
“We were able to collaborate directly with international organisations to find out where the capacity was, then help the government to build partnerships.”
“We acted as facilitators, making sure the right people could talk to each other and creating a safe network for manufacturing,” Donati explains, adding that it was a very complex landscape.
From accelerating vaccine development, to securing the supply of essential medications; collaboration has been the theme of the year.
Security of supply
And it’s not just vaccines. Surges in demand for a whole host of medications used to treat COVID-19 combined with virus-related shutdowns in China, which produces a large proportion of the world’s active pharmaceutical ingredients, have highlighted the fragility of the pharmaceutical supply chain.
“Security of supply has been an important initiative to us for a long time, and suddenly it is more essential than ever,” says Donati.
Sharing the knowledge
Sharing knowledge has become key, says Donati. “Pharma and biopharma companies have been able to provide specific knowledge to support molecule engineering, early phase development, process development and manufacturing.”
“Rather than being suppliers, these companies are working like in-house collaborators to help their customers speed up their processes, without compromising safety.”
“For example, Cytiva’s diagnostic team has been really engaged in helping the companies they provide with components and tests to tweak their workflows, so they suit common testing.”
Asked if the collaborative model was here to stay, Donati says she couldn’t be sure.
“One thing I would say though, is that the healthcare sector as a whole has always been sensitive to the need for partnership.”
“What this crisis has demonstrated is that organisations that have different interests, but similar goals can work together for the greater good,” she concludes.