How MIT's Hockfield can drive a pharma manufacturing makeover

Hoping to "spark a renaissance in American manufacturing," President Barack Obama is putting up $500 million for the U.S. to "remain a nation that invents it here and manufactures it here." And luckily for pharma, he's appointed MIT President Susan Hockfield and Dow Chemicals CEO Andrew Liveris co-chairs of the newly formed Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

The partnership aims to get industry, universities and the federal government together to give U.S. manufacturing a boost. In an announcement, biotechnology is among the industries highlighted as potential beneficiaries of the program, which will support the creation of "good jobs."

Obama's choice of co-chairs could be a boon for biopharma. MIT is nearing the halfway point of its 10-year, $65 million collaboration with Novartis to develop continuous manufacturing processes that will help draw out pharma from the batch processing ages. At the time of its 2007 debut, the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing was among MIT's largest industrial research collaborations.

It is hoped Hockfield will come to her leadership role prepped by the center with enthusiasm and good reasons to persuade the initial contingent of manufacturers participating in the president's partnership--Allegheny Technologies, Caterpillar, Corning, Dow Chemical, Ford, Honeywell, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Northrop Grumman, Procter & Gamble and Stryker--to use biopharma as a first case study. Surely she can count on the cooperation of Novartis and the Novartis-MIT center, which would fulfill another objective of the Obama partnership: leveraging existing programs.

She could prime the pump by first winning over her co-chair at Dow Chemicals, who represents the pharma industry's manufacturing cousin. And by promising to include QA/QC topics in a pharma initiative, she's likely to win over J&J. Procter & Gamble appears destined to become a J&J competitor, so it also will jump on the bandwagon.

Including MIT, that's more than one-third of the companies to be convinced. The rest is up to Hockfield and Liveris. - George Miller