Two Specialists Charting an Innovation Course
It was made official on January 11, 2021 – KORSCH AG is entering into an exclusive sales partnership with the French manufacturer of R&D tableting equipment, MEDELPHARM S.A.S. In the following interview CEOs Stephan Mies (KORSCH) as well as Ingrid Coyle and Bruno Villa (both MEDELPHARM) talk about the background to this collaborative venture, what is required of the joint R&D line and visions for the future.
KORSCH:Editors: Could you please start by telling us how the partnership came about in the first place.
Stephan Mies: Bruno Villa and I have been acquainted now for around fifteen years. Irrespective of any business affiliations during this period, we have kept in regular contact, met up at trade fairs, and shared a connection through our longstanding partner L.B. Bohle. MEDELPHARM engineers exciting, highly innovative products. And when we look back at KORSCH’s 100-year history, those initial successes with our EK 0 product and our enduring links with the pharmaceutical faculties of many universities, often as an exclusive supplier, then this partnership means that KORSCH is going “back to its roots” to some extent.
KORSCH:Editors: Both companies are family-run. Did that play a role in your decision to enter into this partnership?
Stephan Mies: Of course. We also have similar mid-sized business structures in common – commitment to and identification with the business are simply bigger than what you find in a large corporation. We are equals – that is important. During the course of many constructive conversations over the last few years, we have increasingly compared notes on our objectives and strategies and have realized how well our products complement one another in the global tableting market.
Bruno Villa: MEDELPHARM and KORSCH have the same, unifying standards of product quality and performance. What matters to both our companies is not just the longevity of the equipment manufactured in France (MEDELPHARM simulators) or Germany (KORSCH machines), but also good performance figures, rapid product changeover capability, including appropriate GMP-compliant cleaning as well as ease of operation. After all, not only highly qualified research assistants, but also other well-trained staff should be able to operate the equipment safely and effectively. What is the use of having the fastest car if I can’t drive it?
KORSCH:Editors: What does your partnership look like in practice?
Stephan Mies: We are starting out with a sales partnership, in other words. KORSCH will from now on handle global sales of MEDELPHARM’s products on an exclusive basis. Given our global sales and service network, that therefore makes us the go-to contractor for all potential customers. Conversely, we now have access to MEDELPHARM’s established sales channels in France and Belgium. By combining our XP 1 and XL 100 models with MEDELPHARM’s two R&D products – STYL’One Evo and Nano, this will enable us to offer the world’s most advanced tableting line for research and development applications. KORSCH’s product offering provides a seamless transition from the simulation, initial compression tests and scaling-up involving smaller batches offered by MEDELPHARM. From now on, both MEDELPHARM products are available for demonstrations, tests and for training purposes in the KORSCH Innovation Centers in Berlin, Boston/USA and at some point in the future also in Mumbai/India.
Bruno Villa: We regard it as a major breakthrough that our sales team in France is now able to offer a full range of tableting equipment from R&D to manufacturing. The STYL’One range and the XL 100 are a perfect combination. MEDELPHARM serves a niche in the tableting segment, which in turn provides a range of benefits to a broad user base.
KORSCH:Editors: What would those be?
Ingrid Coyle: Tableting simulation was regarded with skepticism in the pharmaceutical segment for a very long time. Hydraulically operated simulators were disparagingly termed expensive, oil-losing tools that were anything but user-friendly and the sole preserve of a scientific elite. We at MEDELPHARM – with both mechanical and software development roots – saw this problem as an opportunity to create a user-friendly device that benefits from both the flexibility that computers provide and from the stability offered by mechanical tablet presses. There is a massive amount of optimization potential lying dormant in the R&D segment, which we can leverage using precision smart simulation software. Our STYL’One Nano is an attractive entry-level product that adds sustainable value to any institution’s or company’s R&D department.
Stephan Mies: In essence, tableting has not really changed since its emergence as an industry. But these digital technologies now enable us to go into much greater detail. For example, formulations need to be developed on a small scale first of all. Simulating a tablet’s properties when a combination of active ingredients and excipients is being newly formulated saves time and money. Furthermore, the interaction between our products enables the issue of active ingredient dispersion, for example, to be examined even more effectively. Last but not least, prior simulation makes the key process of validating formulations much faster and more reliable.
KORSCH:Editors: How complex is machine operation?
Ingrid Coyle: A key component of our corporate identity as a service provider is training people to operate our equipment in our “Science Lab”.
Without wanting to go into every detail about the Science Lab’s technical facilities, we would instead like to emphasize that our scientists and lab technicians are perfectly placed to conduct particle characterization analyses and to test formulations. After all, I not only have to be able to operate the equipment, but also need to know how to interpret the data collected and put it to productive use. In early stages of formulation development that can provide important information about what modifications still need to be made to the product, in order to manufacture it safely and efficiently.
Stephan Mies: But it also allows me to draw some conclusions about my future choice of tableting equipment: which fill system, which compression forces, which turret speed etc. The baseline data for the simulation originates from empirical data obtained from common makes of tableting machine, including KORSCH products.
KORSCH:Editors: What projects have you got planned for the future?
Bruno Villa: MEDELPHARM plans to keep on enhancing current tableting R&D technologies. One example: we will meet growing demand for “containment” solutions for our STYL’One Evo and Nano models, which will be available in 2021 in line with our strategy of “making highly innovative technologies accessible to a broad audience”.
Stephan Mies: The market will definitely comprehend the rationale behind our partnership and the associated benefits for customers. We will emphasize this through joint appearances at seminars, pharma forums, and trade fairs. We will gradually extend our partnership to include other areas as well. With MEDELPHARM at our side, we will be gaining further insights into innovating and enhancing products and formulations – and our customers will benefit directly from these efforts. MEDELPHARM’s data acquisition and analysis work complements our products superbly and the tablet behavior data collected is the key to scaling up at a later stage. Customized forms of medication all the way through tablet pressing will be a topic of interest in the near future. For example, Amazon recently announced that it wanted to enter the online pharmacy market. Given the consumer knowledge that such a corporation possesses, that could really energize the industry. So, it’s worth our while to keep on questioning established manufacturing methods in that respect.