Interview with Gian Nicola Berti – CEO of SUANFARMA Italia

Over these 20 years, the pharmaceutical landscape has been characterized by many changes. How does SUANFARMA Italia stand out? What role does innovation play in your company?

In the past 20 years the pharmaceutical landscape of the API producers has been highly characterized by the raising competition of Asian manufacturers, India and China mainly. As per today approx. 70-80% of all generic API’s manufactured are coming from Asian countries, who have taken advantage in the late 90ies of the favorable patent laws in their countries and from the low manufacturing cost that could be offered. In more recent years there have been more and more frequent disruptions of such supply chains showing that such high dependency on far east countries could jeopardize the medicine supply of our countries and the most recent pandemic putting at high risk such cross-continental supplies has highlighted this additionally. In many European pharma companies, there is now a trend to re-think the supply chains in valuing the compliance aspects more accurately and putting higher attention to business continuity. Some pharma companies and also the European union is reassessing its strategies for essential medicines and this will lead very likely to a trend of bringing back some of the manufacturing activities of basic molecules which cover some basic need of our health system.

SUANFARMA Italia has in the past years lost some of the molecules which have been manufactured on site exactly for the reasons mentioned above, when Asian manufacturers seemed to beat out the competition. Nevertheless, continued focus on compliance, sustainability and continuous improvement have kept us competitive for some of the key molecules that we still manufacture today. Looking at the macro-trends which are actually in course having kept a manufacturing footprint for basic molecules at our site we look now confident into the future to capture this additional opportunity which can materialize in the next years.

Talking about the current situation, how is SUANFARMA Italia dealing with the Covid – 19 emergency? What measures have you taken to protect your workers by keeping production active?

The Covid-19 has been a common theme in these last 8 months and maybe will still be a matter of concern for the next months and maybe for the full year 2021. Italy at the beginning of this year has been the European country which has been hit most severely and unexpectedly and same was the impact here at our site. The first wave has overwhelmed us completely, but step after step we have been able to set the right measure. The guiding principle always has been “people first”, and all our actions have been guided by this, setting also the business priorities behind this. I am proud today to say that our workplace is a safe workplace. By today we are experiencing a low number of infections, all of them originating in the private environment of the employees and external coworkers. An efficient internal contact tracing and testing system is by now in place which is showing us that at work the people do not get infected by their colleagues. Our measures for preventing Covid-19, which include 5 golden rules, as distance, mask wearing, hygiene, frequent hand washing and avoiding people to come ill at work, have been inspected by the local health authorities and have been recognized during the evaluations of the “Welfare Champion” and “Family Audit ” certifications and are underlining our continuous attention and efforts to this topic.

What are SUANFARMA Italia’s short-term goals?

We have a long-lasting successful history in industrial manufacturing of API’s and a 25-year experience in working within a global environment. Additionally, we are a site which has a long-lasting success trend in successful Health and Environmental Authority Audits, which is a key enable in the world of pharmaceutical manufacturing today. I think that Rovereto can play a central role within the SUANFARMA Group and within the European landscape of API manufacturers to become a manufacturing hub for API’s in order to serve highly exigent customers all around the world. Global trends are showing that manufacturing activities are coming back to Europe, as complex supply chains with manufacturers mainly in China and India are not fully guaranteeing the supply continuity which many customers desire today. A long sustainable setup for a sustainable future, this is our objective for the Rovereto Site. We are defining our 5 years strategy in line with the objectives of the Group and the guiding principles are introducing every year one new product into our product portfolio. For the future years we are working within the group’s Product Introduction Committee to keep on with this rhythm. Another strategic objective is to enlarge the customer base. For the moment we are operating with a restricted product portfolio with limited customers, and our goal is to enlarge the customer portfolio for existing products as well as introducing new products for new customers. Finally, our internal strategy is to focus very much on automation and new technologies. We are convinced that the new technologies in the field of IT and AI will revolutionize the way we work today and will be the basis to have a sustainable manufacturing setup which can be the continuous competitive advantage for our site in future.

CSR is a founding value of SUANFARMA Italia: how is it implemented? What are the initiatives you are carrying out from this point of view?

The Corporate Social Responsibility indeed can be seen as a founding principle of our manufacturing site as it has been the main guiding principle which has kept our manufacturing activities survive in the last 20 years. Since always high focus is put on Health Safety and Environment in our company policies, making our site be incident free now since nearly 15 years. High investments have been done in the environmental area, contributing to the decrease of waste, which is generated by our manufacturing activities, reduction of CO2 emissions and high attention as well to the very local environment of our immediate neighborhood. Indeed, in order to reduce our odor emissions in the last 4 years huge investments have been done and huge investments will be done as well in order to reduce our water consumption and impact on the water resources of our local neighborhood. In terms of quality, we always have applied the highest standards, never compromising on the quality aspects and putting the patient aspect at the center of how we manufacture our medicines. Our continued efforts to use less and less resources to manufacture our API’s are underlined by the improvements we have made in the field of manufacturing efficiency. Just think about the fact that 10 years ago, for manufacturing the same quantities of API’s as today we were consuming 30% more raw materials, 50 % more water, and emitting significantly more C02 and generating more waste. Last but not least we are implementing our first Social Report, in order to give visibility to all the activities of CSR in SUANFARMA Italia.

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