Life sciences: how vital are CMOs?

26 November 2020 by Matthew Lancaster
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Pfizer-BioNTechand Moderna are leading the race for a covid-19 vaccine – with 95% and 94.5% efficacy respectively – and some hope for an end to the pandemic. It’s worth noting, though, that it could be 12 to 24 months before mass-scale vaccinations are achieved in the UK.

So, how has Moderna got to this point? A ‘wave of massive manufacturing tie-ups’ may have helped secure capacity for this possible winner, says the Fierce Pharma site, with Moderna ‘tapping CDMO Catalent to help out on the finishing stages of its shot’ and signing a manufacturing deal with Lonza.

Catalent plans to handle fill-finish duties for up to 100 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine and has ‘put its team into 24-7 production mode’; this may not have come to fruition without Contract Manufacturing Organisations (CMOs).

What are CMOs?

Sometimes referred to as CDMOs (Contract Development and Manufacturing Organisations), CMOs provide crucial drug development and manufacturing services, on a contract basis, in pharmaceuticals.

The business model works well, helping to reduce overheads for life science companies of all sizes,
who may not have the budget for their own manufacturing facilities. It could also prove too costly
for firms to produce medicines such as vaccines at their current manufacturing facilities;
by using a CMO, medicines can get to patients quicker.

In the case an ongoing battle for a COVID-19 vaccine, CMOs are more important than ever.

The Right Roles for the Right Candidates

The Contract Pharma site, specifically, is an asset when it comes to finding the right roles for the
right candidates, suggests Matthew Lancaster.

There is an increased need for CMOs, to not only deliver a commercialised COVID-19
vaccine worldwide – if this does become a reality –
but to have the capacity to manufacture billions of vaccine dosages in the future.

This will have a significant impact on the need – in an already
candidate-sparce market – to hire industry professionals to work on production.
And with companies such as Lonza and Catalent Pharm Solutions agreeing deals
with Moderna to manufacture its COVID-19 vaccine – there is increased pressure to deliver.

“The focus has become more apparent in the development of different
drugs/molecules over the past few decades – with the emergence of the
biotechnology industry and the discovery of innovative medicines, such as CAR-T
therapies and RNA vaccines” says Matthew.

“These are highly complex molecules that have specific manufacturing
processes, which can prove costly to manufacture. These are not medicines that
can be so easily replicated in a production line, such as traditional/generic
medicines. Hence the challenges we are seeing today in manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.”

Matthew says CMOs can prepare their manufacturing facilities globally
to produce these complicated and innovative medicines on a global scale. “They are in the best
position to provide a critical manufacturing service in the delivery of medical healthcare and a potential COVID-19 vaccine to patients.”

‘All Kinds of Jobs in Lots of New Companies’

“Obviously, this [current] focus on CMOs [with the fight to develop a
vaccine] has [resulted in a huge increase in the need for these companies to
employee head-count, by a significant number] has resulted in all kinds of jobs in lots of new
companies.”

Matthew says the focus should not only lie with the COVID-9 vaccine, CMOs already have pre-existing customers and contracts to deliver – adding another potential issue for hiring industry
professionals.

CMOs offering their services to produce vaccines, however, on behalf of companies
such as Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech collaboration, has caused a potential ‘big shift in candidate mentality’.

“It’s also highlighted the fact that lots of people want to work for
these companies.”

Plus, candidates who take up a role in these fast-paced manufacturing
environments are opening themselves up for lots of exciting opportunities later.

“These candidates have been exposed to lots of different products”, says
Matthew, who adds that by developing their skills in this way, they may have a
plethora of work experience opportunities in a wide range of small and large
molecule medicines, which is attractive to potential future employers.

Get in Touch…

The challenge for CMOs is attracting that talent, says Matthew – as well
as maintaining pharmaceutical partnerships. Discover how we can help by getting in touch with our team.