Digital dreams and realities clash pharma and biotech in 2023

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The tale of digital pharma and biotech in 2023 is one of two realities. In one corner, you have AI and digital-focused startups and sometimes executives at Big Pharma companies with grand AI ambitions proclaiming the power of the technology. But on the other side of the pharma-AI coin is a more cautious crowd. Here, industry veterans and pragmatic managers wrestle with the realities of integrating AI into the tightly regulated and often legacy infrastructure that has guided drug development for decades.

Ambitious plans versus on-the-ground realities

It is true that the vast majority of pharma and biotech companies are working on crafting a strategy for AI tools. Only 1% of the participants in CRB’s Horizons Life Sciences 2023 report said they did not have such a strategy. Three-quarters, 76%, said such a strategy would be implemented within the next two years while 21% said they planned on doing so…

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CRB installs new senior director of sustainability

The life sciences and food and beverage consulting firm CRB has named Mike Dieterich as its senior director of sustainability. Dieterich has more than 17 years of experience working in energy and sustainability. He’s led sustainability initiatives at companies such as AstraZeneca where he served as director, U.S. sustainability from January 2018 to April 2023.

With his appointment as the sustainability lead at CRB, Dieterich’s primary responsibility is to build the company’s energy and sustainability consulting services group, focusing on front-end energy and sustainability needs for biopharma and food and beverage manufacturing clients.

Pharma getting serious about sustainability

Pharma’s environmental impact is under the microscope, and companies ranging from AbbVie to Amgen have set ambitious goals to slash carbon emissions, waste and water consumption in the coming years.

A recent Cornell University study suggests the industry…

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Women in Pharma: CRB’s Director of Digital Technology on why the pharma industry is captivating 

Yvonne Duckworth

Yvonne Duckworth, CRB’s director of digital technology, says she was fortunate to enter the pharmaceutical industry straight out of college. “My first job, 31 years ago, was a wonderful opportunity as an automation engineer with an engineering company servicing the pharmaceutical industry,” she said.

Duckworth has maintained her pharma focus at CRB, where she has worked for the past 14 years. “Captivated by the industry’s unique challenges, I never left,” she said. “So, I might be a bit biased when I say the pharmaceutical industry is the best industry to be a part of.”

She says she finds that the ability to “make a difference in people’s lives” is one of the most rewarding aspects of her work.

In the following interview, CRB’s director of digital technology shares which types of projects she finds most rewarding. Duckworth also provides insights on Industry 4.0 and…

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Meet CRB’s new director of procurement 

Kansas City, Missouri–based engineering, construction and consulting company CRB has named Valerie Silva as director of procurement.

With experience in cost optimization, project management and supply chain issues in the automotive and pharmaceutical industries, Silva will work within CRB’s innovative Global Technical Operations team. Silva will help the company’s clients address challenges related to speed to market and risk management.

Core focus areas for CRB include the pharmaceutical and automotive industries.

In the following interview, Silva touches on her background, explaining how she supported the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments while also sharing which projects she looks forward to helping with at CRB.

What first drew you to procurement?

Valerie Silva

Silva: When I graduated with my MBA, I initially intended to focus on supply chain and inventory management, bu…

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How Target Value Delivery can help keep pharma construction projects on track 

[Image courtesy of Pexels]

Within the pharmaceutical industry, new plant construction frequently exceeds the allocated budget and runs over the expected time. The problem contributes to the industry’s challenge to bolster drug output over the past decade, according to the consulting firm Turner & Townsend. The firm estimated that some 70% of pharma construction projects miss their original budget by about 15%.

Of course, the pandemic’s negative impact on the supply chain has only exacerbated the problem. But the problem has been common across construction sectors for years. In 2016, McKinsey estimated that large construction projects across industries generally take 20% longer to complete than anticipated and are up to 80% over budget.

Keeping construction projects on track

Clay Seese

One philosophy to help keep projects on tr…

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A brief guide to Pharma 4.0 adoption

View of a production line at the Reig Jofre company’s headquarters. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Pharma 4.0 projects may have gotten off to a slow start, but they have ramped up recently.

And many of such projects to date have been in the Big Pharma space, according to the CRB’s 2021 Life Sciences Horizons report. “It makes sense because a lot of these digital technologies have a big dollar sign with them and Big Pharma tends to have the funds for that,” said Yvonne Duckworth, senior automation engineer at CRB.

As adoption matures, more startups will likely embrace Pharma 4.0 technologies, Duckworth said. Even cash-strapped startups building new facilities could lay the groundwork for smart factory upgrades in the future. “It’s about being forward-thinking in designing new facilities,” Duckworth said.

[Related: Pharma 4.0: Industry 4.0 Applied t…

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CRB names new general counsel

Kansas City, Missouri–based CRB has appointed Courtney Holt as general counsel.

The company provides engineering, construction, consulting and architecture services to the life sciences and food and beverage industries.

Holt will replace Jim Scott, who will retire later this year.

Holt first began working for CRB in 2018 as assistant general counsel.

Courtney Holt

In her role as general counsel, she will lead all aspects of CRB’s legal affairs to ensure compliance with internal policies. She also will play a key role in developing risk management strategies.

Holt received her law degree in 2011 from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Scott has worked at CRB since 2013. In his tenure, he has focused on building the company’s governance model. He was promoted to senior associate in 2019.

“Jim’s mentorship has been instrumental in not only m…

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Pharma and biotech companies set their sites on sustainability

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sustainability continues to be a hot topic, and the pharmaceutical industry faces pressure to reduce its carbon footprint. As a result, a growing number of pharma companies are stepping up sustainability efforts.

In a growing number of locations, pharma companies are seeing drivers in the regulatory environment to force them to prioritize sustainability. “We’re seeing [pressure] from both regulatory authorities having jurisdiction at the federal, state and local level of different jurisdictions,” said Jeff Wegner, a mechanical engineer at CRB.

A growing number of jurisdictions on the East Coast and West Coast are restricting or banning the use of, for instance, natural gas.

While such restrictions are not yet pervasive, the trend is building, said Wegner, who was among the authors of the Horizons: Life Sciences Report.

Another dimensi…

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