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Bioquell Asia Pacific,

Green Shoots of Growth ,  Managing Director

Bioquell Asia Pacific, based in Singapore, in April 2009 to be the regional office for our activities in Asia and Australasia. I am responsible for the development of our business throughout the region and for the success and profitability of our activities. We provide equipment and services for environmental bio-decontamination across the pharmaceutical therapeutic development

Q. Tell us about your responsibility in Bioquell Asia Pacific?
A. I set up Bioquell Asia Pacific, based in Singapore, in April 2009 to be the regional office for our activities in Asia and Australasia. I am responsible for the development of our business throughout the region and for the success and profitability of our activities. We provide equipment and services for environmental bio-decontamination across the pharmaceutical therapeutic development and delivery spectrum including biomedical research, pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical production, hospital critical care and hospital pharmacy facilities where environmental de-contamination or infection control is important. Our technology is also used in veterinary laboratories, high containment labs, food processing facilities and for some defence applications for inactivation of dangerous pathogens. I have teams providing equipment sales and service, technical support, decontamination services, marketing and logistical infrastructure that is necessary for trading in countries throughout the Asia Pacific region. logistical infrastructure that is necessary for trading in countries throughout the Asia Pacific region.

I have been with the Bioquell Group for over 15 years and during that time I have been involved at a senior level in the research, development and engineering of our technology and subsequently in global sales before moving to Asia on a full-time basis.

Q. What is the company's structure like?

A. Bioquell Asia Pacific is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bioquell PLC Group, based in UK. Bioquell PLC is a publicallyowned company quoted on the London Stock Exchange (BQE). The Group has major subsidiaries in USA which deals with the Americas and in Singapore for the Asian market. Research, development and manufacture of our equipment and systems are largely carried out at our headquarters in Andover, Hampshire, UK.

Bioquell AsiaPac recently set up direct subsidiaries in China and Hong Kong to service that growing market. Elsewhere we use local distributors and agents in all major countries to assist with our sales and service activities and to support our growing client base which includes many blue-chip pharmaceutical companies as well as a growing list of regional manufacturers.

Our regional office in Singapore provides technical assistance, applications advice and service support to subsidiaries and dealers throughout the region as well as supply of equipment and services. We, in turn, are supported by our experts and factory in UK.

Q. How would you describe Bioquell's philosophy?

A. Bioquell has always been an innovative dynamic organisation with relatively short decision-making lines. We work in sectors that are highly regulated, hence quality, reliability and service are of paramount importance. In today's global markets it is also important to provide cost-effective solutions to our clients' problems and we pride ourselves in providing high quality systems and service at an affordable price. We strive to provide the most appropriate solution for our customers and we have built up an enviable reputation throughout the world over the past decade. Our philosophy in the Asia Pacific region is similar but moulded to address the specific needs of Asian markets where rapid action is often required. Our infrastructure network now surrounds the globe hence it has become easier to provide faster response times coupled with international expertise.

Our products and services have a beneficial effect to the environment. We are a business to business supplier, but populations around the world are the ultimate beneficiaries of systems that minimise the risk of environmental contamination and infection acquisition and this is rewarding.

Q. Please give an update of Bioquell's plans and activities in Asia?

A. With hindsight our Group probably came relatively late into Asia. For a decade we had been dealing with Asian and Australasian countries direct from the UK. The potential for growth was there but it was difficult to make the most of the opportunities without having a direct presence in the region. That is why I established our regional office in Singapore as it has very good infrastructure and communication links and is business friendly.

In the past three years, our business has grown rapidly in all territories and we have established ourselves as the premier supplier of hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) technology in the life sciences sector in Asia. As economies develop in Asia, we will position our company to support and develop our client base by investment in people, expansion of facilities and broadening the range and depth of our service offerings in new territories.

In recent years the Asian market has become the most important region for our Group in terms of equipment sales. All indications are that, this will continue for many years to come. Our challenge is now to provide the same level of service in every country as our clients in UK have come to expect. The Bioquell brand awareness is increasing throughout our region, but we are not yet a name that everyone in our sector recognises as we operate in a niche business. However we are determined that will change. Despite global communications, the most effective way of achieving recognition is by providing good customer service.

 

Q. What is your opinion of the current state of the pharmaceutical industry in Asia Pacific?

 

A. Our region contains three of the top four most populated countries in the world - China, India and Indonesia, so the demand for pharmaceutical products is high and this trend can only continue as people's aspirations for better quality of life increases. Many of the countries in Asia have large numbers of highly-educated people, relatively low-cost base (compared to the West) and governments that are very keen to develop the potential of their resources. This affects the whole pharmaceutical spectrum from research and development of new pharmaceutical products where investment is being focused on Asia, drug and vaccine production for local and international markets through to the improved provision of state-funded and private healthcare. There are still many diseases which particularly affect Asians, such as TB, diabetes, stomach and bowel cancers, malaria and dengue virus and influenzas. So there is still much for the pharmaceutical sector to offer in various therapeutic areas.

As more drugs come off patent, the trend for manufacture of generic versions in Asia is increasing. In the years to come we shall experience a similar trend with biosimilars. Providing Asian manufacturers continue to raise their game in terms of compliance with international GMPs, both manufacturing and consumer markets will increase which is good news for the pharmaceutical industry and its suppliers. It is interesting to note that although the world's largest pharmaceutical manufacturing nation is USA, 80 percent of the pharmaceutical ingredients and products are imported from overseas. This is helping to raise standards of production, which in turn offers end users greater protection from risk.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry?

Globally the decline in new products in the pipeline is impacting on multi-national drug companies. But in our region the main issues are about driving up the standards to permit local companies to compete internationally, training of personnel to meet the increasing international standards and ensuring that the industry actually gets what it pays for. Unfortunately there is more scope in developing economies for specifications to be less exacting or materials supplied not to reach the specified standards and that can result in delays to new facilities or disruption to production. Sometimes the focus on low cost can be at the expense of quality.

There are many instances of open patent infringement which can be very expensive to pursue and may not always result in a satisfactory outcome. These are not limited to India and China. Adherence to international protocols on safeguarding intellectual property (IP) will encourage more international investment.

Q. How can we overcome them?

A. Asian manufacturers have the opportunity of making use of the latest manufacturing techniques and systems to provide the required quality but at the same time cost effective an environmentally friendly. New green technologies in processing can be more efficient in the use of resources and minimise energy use and harmful environmental discharges. Introduction of new GMPs such as recently adopted in China will drive up standards. International organisations such as PIC/S provide significant assistance to countries with best practice and training.

International regulation of the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors is increasingly based on risk management and evidence-based technologies. Traditional methods may not necessarily provide the best means for new facilities to future-proof investments. This is where new technologies can help. Companies that specialise in providing complete solutions for clients can significantly help in improving standards and providing costeffective systems, whilst taking the difficulties out of product and process integration.

International pressure on governments to adopt IP safeguards is changing opinions but it is a slow process. Technology companies just need to be several steps ahead of the copyists. Just because it looks the same does not mean that it is the same as many will attest to when purchasing goods in markets in Southeast Asia. All of Bioquell's technology is patent-protected but there is an element of risk in Asia.

Q. What are the technologies that Bioquell specialises in?

A. For the past decade Bioquell has specialised in the high level disinfection using free radical technology produced by hydrogen peroxide and ozone. Both chemicals are strong oxidising agents but when used in special applications are also very powerful disinfectants and can inactivate all microorganisms.

For pharmaceutical and life sciences applications, we convert 35 percent aqueous solution of hydrogen peroxide into a gas which is then used to inactivate all microorganisms in the environment in pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical production facilities and to inactive dangerous pathogens in life science laboratories and critical care areas of hospitals.

Our ozone technology is used to provide a high concentration of ozonated water which is used in the treatment of chronic wounds. We also have an international business in nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) filtration systems for military applications.

The major advantages of HPV for pharmaceutical applications is that, it kills all microorganisms, breaks down into harmless components of oxygen and water vapour leaving no residues, is fast acting and safe for electronic and electrical equipment. HPV has become the baseline fumigation process in the pharmaceutical sector largely displacing the traditional method of formaldehyde fogging which has serious safety, environmental and efficacy issues.

Q. Please give an overview of Bioquell's products and solutions for the pharmaceutical industry?

A. In the pharmaceutical sector, Bioquell's solutions are focused on environments where aseptic processing and/or biological processing is required to eliminate bioburden. These fall into three main applications:

  • Aseptic transfer of materials through the barrier into the clean zone in our walk-in chambers, cart - to - cart chambers and rapid gassing chambers all of which utilise our HPV high level disinfection technology.
  • High level disinfection of clean rooms, zones and bioprocessing facilities using our HPV room gassing range of equipment or our Room Bio-Decontamination Service (RBDS). This can range from a single room to an entire building.
  • urface sterilisation of processing equipment such as production isolators, Restricted Access Barrier System (RABS) systems and freeze driers. The new concept of Gassing- In- Place for indirect product contact parts is gaining popularity with the regulators and users as it improves sterility assurance and reduces time and cost in aseptic processing.

An example of integration of HPV technologies with modern manufacturing techniques is our new QUBE system which is a modular, HPV-integrated, aseptic processing workstation system specifically for sterility testing, clinical trials supplies production and aseptic compounding. This uses cutting edge HPV technology with the latest plastic moulding techniques to provide rapid, secure and flexible processing at a very affordable price.

Q. How do you stay ahead in product development?

A. Bioquell invests a significant percentage of its earnings into new product development on a continuous basis. We spent over US$10 million to develop our HPV technology and we are constantly seeing new opportunities for applications that will make our clients' processes more efficient, safer or more costeffective. This requires a good understanding of the sectors in which we work and the issues that are important to our users. We carry out extensive voice of the customer studies when we are conceiving and developing new products, taking on board wherever possible the features that users would like to have incorporated. But we do avoid customisation of our products. We develop standard equipment which is supported by standard options that cover the majority of requirements. It is important to remain focused on the big picture.

We always have a substantial number of new products in our pipeline but we ensure that each product is brought to the market only after it is fully tested and approved.

Historically, stainless steel has been the backbone of pharmaceutical industry equipment but new technologies are changing this. Single use technologies for processing using plastics have made significant inroads to the views on what is really required in biologics processing and will continue to provide flexible solutions. We have also taken this approach with our systems and services. Our Group CEO is determined that all of our products must pass the "Steve Jobs" test in reference to the late founder of Apple and his obsession with form as well as function. That is why our equipment looks unique and is unique. But function is also very important and Bioquell is also the leading researcher in all things to do with gaseous hydrogen peroxide and our clients recognise this.

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