Over recent years, IMCD has strengthened its position as a global leader in the distribution of specialty chemicals and ingredients. IMCD is committed to creating solutions that meet the demands of healthcare and product development. Paul Mimnagh, APAC Regional Director at IMCD, talks about the company’s post-covid strategy, missions for 2022, and the future of IMCD in the APAC region.
The IMCD Group is a global leader in the formulation, sales and distribution of speciality chemicals and ingredients. As the Pharmaceuticals Business Group, our goal is to advance ideas for a healthy future. We seek to achieve this by co-creating with our customers and partners in the development and manufacture of today’s and tomorrow’s medicines. IMCD focuses on meeting the needs of all stages of healthcare development, from fine chemical synthesis or upstream development of APIs, to the formulation and manufacture of the final dosage form.
Globally, IMCD has around 300 technical sales experts who are experienced and professionally trained to understand the needs of our industry. Our network of Pharma Technical Centres (PTCs) underpins their ability to support our customers in delivering their medicines meaningfully. Our teams are focused on innovation, sustainability, and providing the best customer solutions.
Asia is the youngest of our global regions. But in a short period, it has grown to be our largest, with over 100 sales professionals and four Capitalise PTCs. We are channelling investment into ensuring the highest calibre of professionals in each country, supported by a matrix of sub-sector specialists and technical product managers.
We are adapted to the nuanced needs of each country, but critically, as a company, we have a team of regional experts covering the key subsectors of our industry to support each local team in the APAC region, with a sharpened focus and understanding of the regulated synthesis, API, topical/ dermal, nutraceutical, and biopharma markets.
IMCD has long been a world leader in excipient distribution and this remains a core element of our business today and in the future. The APAC region closely follows IMCD’s global trend, and in line with global developments, has been focusing on strengthening our presence in APIs, nutraceuticals, and biopharma in recent years. The acquisitions of DCS, Signet, Whawon and Megasetia, provide our APAC business with a world-class portfolio, regional strength in these key territories, and of vast importance — an infrastructure of exceptional compliance and regulatory support in the field of APIs.
APIs are core to a successful portfolio, and as we strengthen our position here, we further increase our portfolio’s relevance to our customers. Additionally, the continuing expansion of our pharma technical network allows us a more robust geographic coverage and capabilities across the network, particularly in tablet coating, nutraceutical concept development, and API testing and formulation.
Our next focus is further expansion in biopharma, novel drug delivery, and analytical capabilities to better support our customers in generic and novel drug formulation.
As a speciality distributor, our first responsibility is to deliver quality ingredients to our customers. Our investment and focus on technical capabilities never overlook that absolute priority. This has never been more tested than during the COVID pandemic of the last two years. Early in the pandemic, we saw a massive surge in demand across our portfolio, from basic ingredients for over-the-counter medicines, to crucial APIs such as muscle relaxants for the process of intubation. We were able to draw upon global inventories and our leveraged positions with suppliers and providers to help many of our clients with critical supply issues.
In terms of market focus, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge and focus for the biopharmaceutical industry in 2020. Innovative solutions have been developed in diagnosis, treatment, and vaccination. Among these solutions, monoclonal antibodies are considered promising to treat people in intensive care.
When it comes to vaccines, billions of dollars are being invested into development and improvement. Vaccines are being produced with well-known technology like mRNA, but we’re also seeing interest in protein-based vaccines or viral vectors.
IMCD’s partners invest in capacity and portfolio extension to ensure the security of supply of those critical raw materials to the market. IMCD in turn provides essential services in logistics to make the supply chain robust, efficient, and available at the point of need.
Globally, IMCD has a network of seven PTCs. Under the coordination of the Cologne headquarters, these Technical Centres deliver on the following areas: training and development of our team, studying and understanding our suppliers' ingredients in challenging formulations, assisting our customers in developing their formulations, and in the development of novel concepts and formulations.
By successfully harnessing IMCD’s and our partners' knowledge with these capabilities, we equip ourselves to meet our customers' requirements, whether that is a simple need to source an ingredient, or our being intrinsically involved in developing new product ideas with our customers.
Specifically in APAC, we have four PTCs in Mumbai, Shanghai and two in South East Asia. Each PTC carries a fundamental responsibility to meet the service needs of customers in all aspects of Oral Solid Dosage Forms (OSDF) and dermal technologies. Additionally, each of our PTCs is an integral cog in a co-ordinated network. Each centre focuses on a particular area of expertise, topical dermal, controlled release, tablet coating, reverse engineering for our clients in the generic field.
Since our first pharma greenfield sales operations in India and China in 2010, we have grown organically in doubledigit figures every year. The key to our success is organic growth, so organic growth remains our team’s first point of focus irrespective of what developments and successes we have.
We have expanded across the region with our key global partners. This expansion is based on our delivery of differentiated channels to the market, reflecting the wide diaspora of market dynamics and customer needs within Asia.
Strategic acquisition is also a major part of our development in APAC. In the last three years, we have closed several acquisitions, building our pharma positions in Vietnam, China, India, Korea and Indonesia. Of particular importance to our business were the acquisitions of Signet India, Megasetia Indonesia and Whawon in Korea. In each of these three cases, we have partnered with leading pharma distributors in their respective markets. In addition to strengthening our position in these markets, these acquisitions also bring new degrees of expertise in our target growth markets and high degrees of experience and learning in fine-tuning our customer intimacy in APAC.
As we look to the immediate future, IMCD will focus heavily on the continued expansion of our position through all three of these channels, with particular focus on the vast scope and potential for us to grow in China, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam while also looking to strengthen our specialist positions in APIs, nutraceuticals and biopharmaceuticals.
The biopharmaceuticals market is the fastest growing sector in the pharma industry today, with a CAGR of 7.32 per cent over the forecast period, 2021-2026. The market is driven mainly by the growing geriatric population, rising chronic diseases, and increasing acceptance of and huge market demand for biopharmaceuticals. The ability of biopharmaceutical products to address previously untreatable conditions has introduced innovative drugs in the market. An accelerating focus on research and related investments facilitates the massive demand for biopharmaceuticals.
In the biopharma field, IMCD's strategy is based on the fact that while our partners invest in capacity and portfolio extension, IMCD has to provide essential services in logistics to make the supply chain robust and efficient. In addition to growing into this vibrant sector with our principal partners, we seek to expand our portfolio to new and innovative partners, and technologies, focusing on offering products for upstream, downstream, and final formulations. These include low endotoxin carbohydrates, amino acids and polyols. Additionally, IMCD has dedicated our resources to mapping this market and targeting key players, CMOs, CDMOs, CROs, and universities.
To truly offer value and expertise in this sector, IMCD has to add new areas of expertise to our team. In 2021, we added several biopharma experts to our team, driving our coordinated global effort in this area. We will further expand our team with investment in biopharma experts in the APAC market.
With respect to nutraceuticals, APAC is a region where cultural diversity results in a wide range of consumer demands for nutraceutical end products. This is a complex challenge, but we see that the markets in Asia Pacific are very connected.
Our most recent APAC-wide campaign covered multiple segments within the broad and growing cognitive health category. Nutrition Business Journal states that consumers concerned about brain health far outweighs category sales. A significant health concern in the market surrounds the much-publicised mental health crisis resulting from the lockdowns and restrictions. IMCD has delivered innovative product concepts that cover nootropics (focus), cognitive decline, and stress and mood.
An example of one of our recent innovations is Ginkgosome™. This is a fully-formed liposomal complex developed by IMCD’s internal herbal extract business, Network Nutrition. Two clinical trials demonstrate increased absorption with sustained release, maximising the health benefits of Ginkgo biloba in an easy and convenient one-a-day dose.
Over the years in EMEA, we have refined the formula of how we offer true value to our customers, based on combining in-depth knowledge of the pharma industry needs with an intimate understanding of the local needs of our customers.
Our partnership with Megasetia, just like Whawon and Signet, accelerates our objectives to deliver the same knowledge and local understanding in APAC. Each of these companies surpasses all the others in their markets in technical support, market intelligence, and, most importantly, customer intimacy.
We have built a broad portfolio of pharmaceutical ingredients with the industry’s leading suppliers in terms of quality and innovation, as well as a strong infrastructure of technical and formulation capabilities. We have built a global team of best-in-class pharma experts who have access to industry-leading training academies.
When we successfully integrate and deploy these resources, we are equipped to support any challenges that they encounter.
Later this year, IMCD is launching our next phase of the digital platform providing secured access to our pharma solutions. This is an exciting step into our digital journey, which we look forward to sharing with you in the months ahead.
In the coming years, we should see a greater emphasis on segmented patient drug delivery tethered to the regulatory constraints around ingredient use. After the FDA announced its pilot program to review novel excipients, we will see novel excipients back on the agenda. As an engine for supply to the USA market, the APAC region needs to stay clear on its objectives. As such, IMCD needs to ensure the availability of regulatory, technical, and innovative input to our customers.
‘Traditional’ dosage forms still dominate in manufacturing, but orodispersible line extension, topical, and nasal/ oral spray delivery dosage forms will show much more growth potential than in previous years.
The old topics of improving bioavailability are only going to increase in importance, improving the potency of drug product performance can result in lower doses being required. There will be more emphasis on delivering drugs based on personalised medicine.
Last but not least, sustainability. This is a growing area of concern in corporate responsibility, but also in many consumer's minds. This is especially true when you consider the ultimate goal of personalised medicine is disease prevention, rather than traditional diagnosis and treat/cure.
We will see more ‘collaboration’ between medicine segment types such as prescription medicine for acute or medium-term chronic conditions, followed by symptom or side effect management and reduction and ending up with longer-term prevention of occurrence or recurrence. There are many exciting pathways to look at, and the APAC markets are a compelling ground for product development.
Our pharma business is just over 10 years old in APAC, but our growth has surpassed even our expectations. We have an increasing toolbox of digital and technical tools, a rapidly-expanding portfolio, and a business network spanning the globe. But the key element to IMCD’s success is our people. We are rightfully proud of our team's diversity, which draws from a range of backgrounds and nationalities, and enables us to benefit from fresh perspectives and ways of problem-solving. They engender a free and entrepreneurial spirit that breeds success for IMCD, our customers and partners.