As an integrated global leader in pharmaceutical synthesis and specialty ingredients, 

Seqens performs many challenging chemistry projects.  We develop the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for tomorrow’s improved or reformulated drugs and generics. We create drug delivery and medical materials and a variety of essential drug substances.  We employ hundreds of Ph.D. chemists, numerous project managers and support staff, and run complicated international operations.  We spend heavily on infrastructure and equipment to wring as much inefficiency as possible out of projects in order to meet our customers’ often ambitious timelines and budgets.  

It gives us great pleasure to be recognized as a Service leader in these endeavors, and congratulate our colleagues at Seqens CDMO North America for winning Life Science Leader’s 2019 top award for Service (for the 9th year in a row?).

At Seqens CDMO we know what types of projects we excel at, and we bend over backwards to make sure we are compatible with clients’ needs.  We cannot be all things to all people but the one thing we try to do very well that is applicable across the board is to provide exceptional Service.  Award-winning Service, in fact.

This article will focus on why Service is such a core value for our organization, share our service credo and its implications for our customers.

What CDMO customers want

A few years ago, we asked customers, “What’s the most frustrating part of working with CDMOs?”  Service failures always cropped up.  Customers wanted CDMOs to be more responsive, more attentive.  

We determined we would do just that, every day from the beginning to the end of every project.

The CMO Leadership Award for Service

For the CMO Leadership Award, Life Science Leader delineates these four components of Service:

  1. Preformulation/formulation support
  2. Process development and optimization
  3. Analytical services, including stability and storage testing
  4. Regulatory support

The way we go about providing service across these categories is what led to our being voted best of breed by the pharmaceutical industry.

Because we know we cannot be all things to all people, we as an organization decided long ago that while customers come to us for our expertise, we would also focus on service.  Although we have the plants, equipment and technology necessary to get the job done for our customers, it is our service culture, our way of doing business that our customers clearly appreciate.

Our goal has always been to serve as an extension of our customers’ organization, as invested in and as caring about their project as they are.  Their votes suggest we’ve succeeded.  We do everything we can to help our partners succeed by delivering a high level of personal service—day or night.  Whether it’s a holiday, a weekend or 3:00 am, we’re immediately responsive to the need at hand.

Christmas week? Mission accomplished

As one example, last Christmas week one of Seqens CDMO’s partners was under tremendous pressure to get their product formulated in time to meet a key milestone.  We had to condense weeks of work into one.  We had to complete the API Quality Control tasks, get methods approved and ship the product.  But the team came together despite the holiday, and we were able to get the product off to the formulator in time.  Admittedly it was a significant challenge to get it done over the Christmas holiday, but we have rarely let clients down no matter what day it is.

Another time a customer with a product already on the market was losing a supplier unexpectedly and needed a new CDMO to ramp up quickly.  On top of technology transfer, the chemistry needed to be developed so that production could proceed as quickly as possible in order not to curtail market supply.  That’s not easy – technology transfer itself is a complex process.  Of the 18 companies they reached out to, only two responded promptly!  Others took as long as two weeks to respond. Despite being as busy as we always are, we were able to accommodate their tight schedule and keep a vital drug available for patients.

When does service begin?

We’ve also been fortunate in that almost all the work we do comes from referrals from industry colleagues.  Whether it’s a referral or an inquiry on our website, we respond within 24 hours, and often sooner.  It doesn’t matter where or when. If anyone takes the time to come to our website and has a problem we can solve, we make sure we respond quickly. It gives customers a sense of how we work.  Two days—never mind two weeks—is much too long a time to wait for a response from a CDMO.

We do ask a lot of our staff, but they understand that the Seqens CDMO culture demands that we achieve the goals of the project efficiently, cost-effectively, and gladly. When the inevitable occasional breakdown occurs, we view it as a teachable moment.  We have little staff turnover, far less than the market average.

How to handle bad news

Transparency is another little discussed, but important aspect of service.  A big complaint in our industry is that when issues come up, no solutions are offered.  When we have bad news to relay, we don’t hold back.  And we follow up immediately. We tell our clients this is the problem, but we also add, “Here are two ways to solve it. “ Some CDMOs expect customers to solve problems that arise.  Not us.  We’re the experts, and it’s up to us to resolve issues. To me it’s an unwritten contract that if customers entrust us with a project and spend all this money, they should have access to all the expertise and resources we have.

Communicate!

We’ve rarely written an article that doesn’t include the importance of communication, of keeping clients informed.  We insist on weekly calls and budget meetings and have found that discipline to be helpful on both sides. But we also have to make sure the right people communicate.  It is not productive to have sales people involved in project manager roles.  Once the work begins, our highly experienced and long-time project managers take over, and the sales people do what they are best at. It is our skilled project managers who keep projects moving through our labs and manufacturing suites.

We are in a challenging and demanding business.  Service, compatibility, transparency and communication are the building blocks of an enjoyable and productive sponsor-CDMO relationship.