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CDMO CEO Strategy to Grow Stronger Through Flexibility, Creativity & Resilience

Sept 13, 2022
PHARMAnetwork Interviews Dr. Michael Quirmbach in 2022 CDMO CEO Visions & Strategies Issue.

PHARMAnetwork – September 2022

PHARMAnetwork Interviews Dr. Michael Quirmbach in 2022 CDMO CEO Visions & Strategies Issue


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CordenPharma President & CEO Dr. Michael Quirmbach

How did you approach this crisis?

At the start of the pandemic, the immediate need for extensive communication helped us hone our ability for transparent exchange of ideas and views across the Senior Management of our facility network on a weekly basis, which led to setting up a task force of working groups to keeping employees regularly informed via townhalls and newsletters. Throughout the crisis the primary focus was, and continues to be, global alignment among our teams to harness the power of the organization to solve unprecedented challenges.

What are the impacts of this crisis on the bio/pharmaceutical manufacturing value chain and more particularly on the CDMO sector in 2022?

The ongoing pandemic crisis (along with other geopolitical tensions in various regions) exposed the weaknesses in the pharmaceutical industry’s global supply chain across various sectors ranging from the sourcing of raw materials and components for biopharmaceutical and injectable manufacturing to API supply. It is thus evident that the outdated supply chain management established over the past decades in the Pharma industry proved to be unreliable in the face of crisis, generating unforeseen issues with production. As a consequence, longer manufacturing lead times and unpredictable demands are still likely to cause problems through the end of 2023 at least. Just as an example, the difficulty in sourcing components required for injectable aseptic fill & finish manufacturing – many of which have lead times that are today at least three times longer than in 2019 – is a disruptive consequence of the extremely rapid and quite successful scale-up necessary to manufacture and supply billions of vaccines doses worldwide. Simple secondary packaging material became in some countries a scarce resource, and other items never before on our radar as critical came into focus for our Sourcing & Procurement teams. As a strong company with an adaptable organizational structure aligned under our core values of Accountability, Collaboration, Integrity, Trust, and Reliability, we were able to manage the obstacles together as a team.

What measures and organizations are you deploying in order to increase the resilience of the company and ensure its growth in your markets?

In my opinion, the best solutions and course of action in a crisis situation are not always obvious, and rarely come from a top-down approach. What’s more successful in my view are the ideas that come from the organization itself, which relies on the experience and ingenuity of many people to solve problems on the spot together. The key here is of course that the team feels empowered and supported to act immediately, before the problem becomes worse. Overall, my approach goes beyond traditional notions about empowerment, where employees are typically given only limited freedom to make decisions in their area.

At CordenPharma, we have created an organization that is aligned and integrated in terms of our key pillars (Operational Excellence, Collaborative Partnership, Customer Centricity & Service, People & Culture), yet decentralized in the sense of corporate oversight. This makes us well-prepared to delegate authority and decision-making to the employees with the most expertise on the front lines of our business. It is also crucial that we continuously analyze our routines and seek innovative ways to solve problems in anticipation of the new challenges (e.g. in our CDMO area – scientifically) that inevitably come during a crisis like the global pandemic. Overall, I feel that this approach, along with the ability to improvise, makes our organization more adept at questioning and self-evaluation, which ultimately makes us more resilient, resourceful, and better able to cope with and overcome uncertainty.

It is also crucial that we continuously analyze our routines and seek innovative ways to solve problems in anticipation of the new challenges (e.g. in our CDMO area – scientifically) that inevitably come during a crisis like the global pandemic. Overall, I feel that this approach, along with the ability to improvise, makes our organization more adept at questioning and self-evaluation, which ultimately makes us more resilient, resourceful, and better able to cope with and overcome uncertainty.

How do you see the evolution of your market in 2022 and for the years to come?

The last few years, and in particular during the pandemic, have exemplarily demonstrated how Biotech / Pharma / CDMO companies can come together to achieve great results – namely the rapid development and ultimate joint production of vaccines and other therapeutics. Following this example down the road, Pharma companies will need to shift their outlook on CDMOs from being seen not only as tactical capacities into recognizing them as strategic partners integral to the formation of their sound supply chain. This will also likely yield an industry transformation which relies more heavily on technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), data-driven platforms and blockchain. It is predicted that future pharma innovation will be built on many of these digital investments for use in supply chains, clinical trials, and drug development. Technology will provide greater visibility and make supply chains more customer-centric. Similar to customers placing an order with an online portal, which allows for order tracking status, the future CDMO landscape will likely allow customers to view the status of their projects and upcoming deliveries in real time via data captured online.

What strategies do you implement in your markets and how do you integrate issues concerning environmental sustainability in particular?

CordenPharma has deployed a Global Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) roadmap, and its implementation is being thoroughly monitored and guided by key stakeholders of the Executive Team. Our aim is to create a corporate culture in which Safety, Health & Environmental (SHE) protection and the conscious use of energy are integrated into all of our business activities. The consultation and active participation of all employees is key to its success, brought about by training and empowering them to contribute to the defined objectives. Our manufacturing sites are also committed to ensuring that we comply with legal and other requirements related to SHE and energy consumption, and as such have placed great emphasis on the efficient use of energy, water, and raw materials. Furthermore, we aim to minimize our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) principles with clear targets defined throughout our facility network. Finally, minimizing waste and optimizing sorting, recycling, and recovery are other priorities on our agenda towards holding ourselves accountable to the highest environmental standards as a leading CDMO.

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