Connected international biopharma industry

Partnering for speed: when global expertise meets local knowledge

Embracing the notion of a hybrid partner will support Europe-based life science innovators in delivering drug therapies faster and more cost-effectively.

When she delivered her inaugural State of the Union address in September 2020, Ursula von der Leyen faced a world in crisis. She had been elected President of the European Union just as the first cases of COVID-19 emerged in China. “This is the moment for Europe,” she said on the day of her SOTU address, “to lead the way from this fragility towards a new vitality.”

Von der Leyen emphasized a direct link between the EU’s life sciences industry and the path to this “new vitality.” She spoke of establishing a European agency for advanced biomedical research, of harnessing data to drive discovery, and of promoting collaboration between universities, companies and researchers. Her words amplify a drumbeat already heard across the continent: life science innovators based in Europe are currently developing over 8,000 medicines, positioning the health industry as one of the EU’s most R&D intensive sectors.

To transform that research into high-quality and affordable therapies for patients, the European life sciences industry needs to expand and modernize its manufacturing infrastructure. That’s going to require engineering and construction expertise—the kind of expertise that’s anchored in experience but that’s pulling for new, more innovative solutions to the challenges we face.

Project owners will find some of that expertise right here in the EU. Too many, though, will end their search at the border, believing that an in-country Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) partner will cost less and will move faster than a partner abroad. But approaching this choice as a binary ignores the most valuable AEC partner of all: one that combines the borderless specializations needed to accelerate your project forward and the in-country expertise you need to ensure a smooth project launch.

By embracing this notion of a hybrid partner, Europe-based life science innovators will get their drug therapies to those who need them, faster and more cost-effectively. This is how we will seize “a new vitality” for the EU, and for patients around the world.

Expertise > Location

As a Swiss-based veteran of the AEC industry in the EU, I’m not advocating that we only look for help elsewhere to solve the challenges that lie ahead. Some activities that are crucial to project delivery benefit from in-country expertise, like developing a robust regulatory strategy. But a capital project’s success story is far bigger than its individual components, particularly when it comes to all-new, uncharted segments of the life sciences industry, such as personalized medicine and cell and gene therapies.

Innovators in these areas have a few big advantages. One of the biggest is capital investment: last year, the global cell and gene therapy industry raised $19.9 billion, exceeding the 2019 fundraising benchmark by more than $10 billion. But they face significant challenges, too. We saw this in a recent CRB survey, which asked cell and gene therapy innovators from around the world about their greatest “awake at night” worry. The vast majority pointed to the question of process optimization.

In a field so new that much of its technology has never been tested outside of the lab, how can these manufacturers scale from “bench to bedside” efficiently? That’s the $19.9 billion question.

To answer this question and many others like it, project owners from across the life sciences industry need partners who offer the right kind of expertise. What that means to you and your project may be different from what it means to another life science leader. Perhaps you’re exploring the potential of multi-modal design, or you’re aiming for cutting-edge facility digitalization, or you’re focused on enabling new research by designing the safest and most efficient labs possible. Does your AEC partner offer experience and leadership in these areas? The answer to this question matters far more than where that partner lives and works.

Fortunately, there’s never been an easier time to adopt this global approach to partnership. Advances in virtual and augmented reality platforms mean that teammates can interact within the same environment at the same time, working together to visualize design intent before construction begins, to witness virtual factory acceptance tests, or to test and optimize process steps, all without standing in the same room. Even the well-established “workhorse” technologies of AEC project delivery, like 3D building information modeling (BIM) platforms, are helping to collapse the distance between global partners by providing a centralized superhighway for moving design packages through the review process.

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These advances don’t just open a window to a new way of working for life science innovators—they kick down a wall, removing many of the logistical barriers that typically slow progress.

Some of those barriers are as simple as they are game-changing. Take time zones, for example. What was once a nuisance in the pre-digital era is now a competitive advantage. If your team extends from California to Switzerland, then your typical eight-hour workday extends in kind, doubling or tripling your efficiency without a single night shift. Not only can you assemble exactly the right composition of experts by thinking both inside and outside of your region, but you can rely on those experts to keep your project moving forward—even while you sleep.

Size is not required for success

Many of the most exciting innovators in the life sciences industry are smaller-scale startups, focused on moving fast from concept to commercialization. If you fall into this camp, perhaps you believe that you aren’t large or established enough to partner with an AEC entity that brings both a local and a global presence to the table. Or perhaps you’ve given this a try already, putting your trust in a larger company who offered a reduced investment up front only to outsource their drawings to a third party, resulting in costly errors downstream. These experiences leave many wary of looking farther afield for a suitable AEC partner.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Just as EU innovators don’t have to limit themselves to EU expertise, smaller-scale drug developers don’t have to limit themselves to smaller-scale partners. The truth is, the right AEC partner will tailor their project delivery methods to suit your objectives. They do that by leveraging the diverse specializations and experiences found within their broad talent pool, ultimately assembling a lean and integrated team that’s perfectly suited to your project and your CAPEX budget. That’s the beauty of a large-scale partner: they have the diversity you need, and they can deliver the quality-driven and cost-effective solutions you’re looking for.

The bottom line: move fast by moving beyond borders

When you work with a partner that offers both local and international expertise, you gain the complementary skills and experience you need to accelerate your project from concept to commercialization with the best solutions and technologies available.

This is how the EU’s pharmaceutical industry will lead the way towards von der Leyen’s vision of a “new vitality,” and it’s how we will address the unmet needs of patients both at home—and all around the world.

Let’s talk about how to leverage a hybrid partner with global expertise and local knowledge to accelerate your project.

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