Event Summary: The Future of Pharmaceutical Supply Chains

Sam Roscoe University of SussexOur latest blog post comes from Sam Roscoe, Lecturer in Operations Management at the University of Sussex. He has recently secured funding from the EPSRC to explore how new manufacturing technologies, such as additive manufacturing (3D Printing), will change global pharma supply chains in favour of local manufacturing for local markets.


An opportunity for industry experts and academics to discuss the potential of Redistributed Manufacturing (RDM) in Pharma

This one-day knowledge exchange event brought together industry and academic experts to map the future challenges facing pharmaceutical supply chains.  We paid particular attention to how redistributed manufacturing (RDM) techniques, such as 3D printing, can enhance the resilience and responsiveness of pharmaceutical supply chains.

The event began with key note speeches from industry leaders and senior academics including:  Dr. Wendy Phillips,  the Network Director for the Redistributed Manufacturing in Healthcare Network (RiHN; Neil Baker, the Head of the Medicines Manufacturing Industry (MMIP) partnership and Pfizer Senior Director; Dr. Jagjit Srai from the Institute of Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge and: Prof. Ricky Wildman from the  EPSRC Centre of Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing.

Following the speeches,  participants were split into small groups to discuss the current and future challenges faced by pharma supply chains and to develop potential solutions to overcome these challenges. Participants benefitted from joining a network of healthcare and pharmaceutical professionals and received research outputs from the event.

RDM – best suited for small scale production

The key findings from the event centred on the application of RDM in pharmaceutical supply chains. Industry participants stressed that RDM should not be seen as a panacea for all that ails the pharma industry. They felt a distributed manufacturing model is best suited to small scale, niche and targeted drugs. To advance RDM it was agreed that we needed to determine a suitable application and then generate excitement from application to demonstration.

What are the applications with the most potential?

Potential applications for RDM included use in remote locations where the supply chain does not currently exist; such as humanitarian or military situations. RDM may also be applicable in compounding situations such as the creation of infusion bags ready for patient use, placing production near to the hospital and close to the patient. RDM may also be applicable in late stage drug dispensary where pharmaceutical companies send bulk tablets or capsules to pharmacies and final dosages are created using a distributed manufacturing model.

To understand the value proposition of RDM it was agreed we should start from the patient and work back up the supply chain (see figure 1.0).  For example,  for advanced therapeutics (ATMPs) a redistributed model may add value up to primary / secondary manufacturing and for biologics up to packaging, however, for small molecules, RDM may not add any value at all.

RDMInPharmaFigure 1.0.  – Determining the value proposition of re-distributed manufacturing


Some impressions from the event

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