1. With the recent strategic collaboration of Porton Pharma Solutions and Codexis Protein Engineering Experts, can you say something about the key synergies you spot?
Oliver Ju: Within the industry, technology companies and contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) play in different worlds. Although there is collaboration, there is a large gap between what the market is looking for and what pharma clients are looking for. The key synergy for Porton is Codexis’ technology. Scientific advances play an increasing role in solving our clients’ problems, especially as the chemistry and the molecules become more complex, and the demand for speed and cost efficiency increases. This partnership will differentiate us through access to the best biocatalysis technology platform. We have been serving big pharma in recent decades and are expanding our access to small pharma and biotechs. I believe the customer bases of Porton and Codexis offer a lot of synergy for expanding our reach to more customers globally.
John Nicols: From Codexis’ point of view, I’d like to amplify Oliver’s comments. Porton’s reach in pharmaceutical manufacturing is far greater than Codexis’. Eighteen hundred employees, with 70 process chemists added through its J-star acquisition alone, is a process chemistry capability unrivaled in the world of CDMOs and far beyond our own chemistry capabilities. We will leverage Porton’s deep knowledge, wide access to a variety of processes, and much larger customer list. In effect, through this partnership, Porton will be our channel into the small and specialty pharmaceutical process arena. And, whereas both of our companies focus on large pharmaceutical clients, it’s delightful to compare strengths. Some of our largest customers differ from Porton’s largest customers — this is one of the many synergies to be exploited between us.
2. What will be your approach to integrate Codexis’ proprietary biocatalyst technology with Porton’s custom intermediate and active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) development and manufacturing business?
Ju: We will apply Codexis’ technology at all of our R&D sites as we begin the design process in early development and as we investigate the potential of biocatalysts throughout the drug development lifecycle. Biocatalysis will be a part of our toolbox. We will also invest in biocatalyst manufacturing capabilities on a small scale at our lab in Shangyu and in enzyme capability scale-up and commercial manufacturing at our main site in Chongqing. Integrating the Codexis technology platform into our development and manufacturing services simultaneously will enable us to offer total solutions to our global pharma customers
Nicols: In addition, by transferring our state-of-the-art enzyme libraries to Porton for high-throughput screening, we will be able to compare the cost-competitiveness of the current biocatalysts with that of alternative routes of chemistry. This collaboration will provide us with the objective, real-time gap analysis needed to determine how well-positioned today’s enzymes are, compared with other catalytic routes. We are aware that many of our enzymes will not be competitive. This gap analysis will help us decide what other types of chemical transformations are likely to help us compete with other very efficient chemistry routes. This key, unique integration point will be managed by a joint steering committee guided by real-time data analysis and is going to create much value.
3. Porton pledges financial commitment to utilize Codexis’ CodeEvolver® protein engineering platform technology. Can you give some insights on the mentioned financial commitments?
Nicols: We have agreed not to. However, I would like to reflect that Porton considers this partnership strategic and has pledged long-term financial support for the research and development (R&D) required to improve enzymes in order to achieve successful installations.
4. What are the major milestones for the Porton and Codexis partnership?
Ju: The first effort will be a full tech transfer from Codexis to enable us to establish high-throughput screening capabilities and small-scale manufacturing capabilities at our R&D sites. Moving forward, the key measure will be how many small molecule new chemical entities (NCEs) we can process with this biocatalyst technology as part of our service offering.
Nicols: Once we pass those near-term milestones, our goal will be an increasing number of installations. If then, the need for particular enzymes grows — as often happens early in drugs clinical development —we would reach a core milestone in our partnership: Porton would invest in enzyme manufacturing in China. Such a decision would only come in response to demand from an accelerating number of installations advanced enough to warrant an investment in manufacturing. When that happens, another level of cost and use benefits will come into play for the partnership and for Porton’s downstream customers. Those companies may be able to integrate onsite enzyme manufacturing with onsite intermediate manufacturing — a pairing that can liberate significant efficiencies and render the biocatalyst installation more cost-effective.
5. In what ways will the collaboration of Porton and Codexis change the global pharma manufacturing scenario?
Nicols: This collaboration will expand the market share of Porton Pharma Solutions. Truly, ours is the first and only partnership of its kind, bridging the gap between technology and manufacturing.
Ju: This collaboration will improve our competitiveness in technology, especially in catalyst technology. Our joint venture will be a game-changer in the application of biocatalyst development to the manufacture of APIs because it will enable technological success along with the speed and cost savings clients demand.
Ju: I believe the global pharma industry will become more aware of the benefits of biocatalysis.
Nicols: In addition, biocatalysis will be applicable for many more pharmaceutical companies, from large to small.
6. What’s your perception on how Porton/Codexis products will enhance the company’s potential in meeting the Pharma Market prerequisites of Asia?
Ju: China is really the new hub of pharma innovation. It’s a very important market. Our manufacturing facilities are currently all in China, so we are well-positioned to serve Asian pharma markets. The Codexis partnership will help Porton serve these customers even better.
Nicols: This venture is Codexis’ first significant foray into China to work with a leading Chinese company. Importing our technology as part of our partnership with Porton will give us a beachhead there. Oliver’s comments about China’s growth are spot on, not only in the world of pharmaceutical manufacturing but also in drug discovery and development. The Asian market will continue to be a significant growth opportunity for the world and for this partnership.
7. What's the vision on this collaboration for the next 5 years and beyond?
Ju: This collaboration is an important part of Porton’s five-year total strategy. Together, we are creating a new model that offers unparalleled solutions to the most challenging chemistry and the most demanding pharma clients. Our approach is a sea change in the pharma environment with regard to speed, quality, and cost. This partnership is a win-win and will help Porton become a global leader in the CDMO space. Most importantly, it will help our pharma clients be able to use biocatalysis efficiently. Looking beyond, we hope that we will expand our cooperation and further improve the efficiency of both organizations, create streamlined processes, and offer unparalleled value to the industry — and create new models of how strategic collaborations can benefit everyone, especially our clients.
Nicols: I agree with Oliver. As CEOs of our companies, we have already made significant, multi-year commitments to ensure that this model works. Its uniqueness is hard to replicate in the world of biocatalysis, as applied to pharma manufacturing. Since both of our companies are already leaders in our respective industries, success will simply reinforce itself and propel us to continue the collaboration. We expect customers will enjoy working with Codexis and Porton, together. I believe we will continue the partnership, always looking for new synergies outside of our work with biocatalysis for small molecule pharmaceutical manufacturing. I am excited about the next five years, and beyond.