Impressions from Interphex 2009

Interphex logoOn Tuesday FiercePharma attended Interphex 2009 in New York City, where the sprawling Jacob Javitz center show floor (slideshow) was filled with the most cutting-edge biomanufacturing equipment the industry has to offer. Steve Burrill's keynote set the tone for the conference. Biotech and pharmaceuticals companies--and in fact the entire healthcare system--are in the midst of the biggest shift the industry has ever faced. Personalized medicine will, in the coming years, revolutionize how we treat disease. And that has some major implications for manufacturing facilities which have to anticipate the industry's direction years before trends come to pass.

Companies weren't just looking to the future, however. Ongoing financial woes are certainly playing a part in what vendors and buyers are doing right now, as is the growing focus on environmentally-friendly operations. Here are details on some of the trends we noticed at this year's Interphex:

  • Personalized medicine as a game-changer: Companies are already anticipating the manufacturing needs of a personalized medicine-based healthcare system. The reign of the blockbuster drug is coming to a close. Future medicines will be tailored to fit fewer patients, which means each facility will be expected to produce smaller amounts of more types of drugs. This will lead to more change-overs per facility per year. Technology that allows for faster and easier change-overs will be a key to surviving and thriving in the coming years.

  • Finding a balance: When does personalized medicine get too personal and too costly to make? That one of the questions posed by keynote panelist Michael Kowolenko, a Senior Vice President of Operations and Product Supply at Wyeth. The benefits of producing targeted medicines will be limited by manufacturing costs. As Burrill pointed out, only a third of drugs ever recoup their R&D and manufacturing costs. As the market for drugs shrinks, the industry will have to find a balance between creating personalized medicines and becoming too niche.

  • Upgrading, not overhauling: The complex equipment used to manufacture drugs is expensive--very expensive. But like so many other technology-driven industries, constant advancements leave some companies with costly investments in outdated equipment. Several exhibitors at Interphex offered tech that can work with or upgrade existing, expensive investments. BioPharma companies don't have the money to overhaul their equipment every time something better comes along, but these more affordable options keep older equipment up-to-date, without the hefty price tag.

  • Going green: Based on what we saw at the show, the growing trend of going green has spread to the manufacturing industry. A number of exhibitors had on display technology designed to reduce the environmental impact of drug manufacturing. Exhibitors demonstrated advancements that minimized product waste, efficiently cleaned equipment and in general help companies operate as effectively as possible.

  • Quality interactions: Times are tough, budgets are tight, and those who choose to travel for trade shows this year won't be doing so on a whim. FiercePharma noticed that these year's attendees came to the show with a specific strategies in mind. Some were there to buy, some to sell, others to do research, but everyone had a goal. The result was more quality interactions and meetings at the show--a trend we expect to see repeated as the conference season continues.

If you weren't able to to attend Interphex, or are just curious to see which devices caught FiercePharma's eye, check out this slideshow detailing technologies on the show floor. - Maureen