Fierce Pharma Virtual Series – Expert Panel Discussion Featuring Chris Chen
As the #COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread around the globe, the majority of pharmaceutical companies and their management teams are up against unprecedented challenges of maintaining their supply chain, continuing their R&D efforts and providing critical medicines into the clinic and to patients. During the outbreak in China, WuXi Biologics executed on its Business Continuity Plan and led the way in adopting additional stringent measures to mitigate possible risks to operations and the supply chain due to the rapid spread of the virus. During a Fierce Virtual Series expert panel discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Chris Chen, CEO of WuXi Biologics, shared lessons learned and a series of best practices that WuXi Biologics established and provided insights that global pharmaceutical and biotech firms of any size could also implement to ensure continued operations.
Dr. Chen indicated that the establishment of a comprehensive and robust business continuity plan and execution of that plan was a key factor in the company’s ability to keep all client projects moving forward per original timelines and to return to normal operations by mid-February. The immediate response at the beginning of the outbreak and subsequent daily meetings led by Dr. Chen, which involved the entire leadership team across multiple departments including R&D, Manufacturing, EHS, Global Supply Chain, HR, Operation Management and Import/Export, were essential for the organization to quickly respond and adapt to the crisis. Setting employee safety and security as the top priority allowed WuXi Biologics to sidestep any major interruptions to business operations at all its sites in China.
The Business Continuity Plan was instituted three years ago and was instrumental in our efforts to meet the challenges presented by the #coronavirus pandemic. Foremost in that plan was securing continuity of supply and sufficient redundancy of vendors in the entire supply chain. Dr. Chen continues to be confident in WuXi Biologics’ supply chain system, even if the epidemic persists beyond the current predicted time presented by global health officials. Dr. Chen believes it is of the utmost importance to take every measure to be prepared, should there be recurring outbreaks.
Thanks to its Global Dual Sourcing strategy, WuXi Biologics and its clients and partners located in cities around the world that include Boston, San Francisco, London and Zurich and in regions throughout Asia have benefited from the maximum flexibility in both product development and GMP manufacturing that the Dual Sourcing strategy provides. In addition, facing a severe shipping challenge, WuXi Biologics took early action and worked with shipping and distribution organizations and customs officials all over the world to ensure shipments of cell banks, products, and samples to and from our clients would be transported and received without interruptions or delays.
Confronting a dire shortage of protective gear, WuXi Biologics rapidly sourced N95 masks, surgical gowns, sanitizers and gloves to ensure supply for a potential extended outbreak period. Once it was clear that the supply chain for these items was secured, WuXi Biologics communicated with hospitals and other frontline healthcare providers in Wuhan, China and donated CNY 1 million worth of critical supplies to those organizations to support their efforts without impacting its own operations.
To date, more than 240 scientists at WuXi Biologics have rapidly teamed up with global partners like Vir Biotechnology, contributing expertise and our one-stop, highly efficient product development platforms to accelerate the development of potential antibody-based COVID-19 treatments. This team, working with our partners and global regulatory agencies, has developed an unprecedented 6-month DNA to IND timeline to move these antibody-based therapeutics into the clinic.
For ongoing programs, our large teams of scientists and engineers working on late phase projects at WuXi Biologics are also progressing three process validating campaigns with no delays to our partners’ commercialization timelines. One project has already successfully finished, with zero deviations during GMP manufacturing conformance runs.
Dr. Chen sent a clear signal of how critical a collective effort across the entire biopharma industry is to accelerating the development, production, and delivery of coronavirus therapies and vaccines in addition to the individual contributions companies are already making to fighting COVID-19. It is life-science companies’ obligation to expedite life-saving actions to combat the global health emergency.