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Manufacture Business Practice

Scottish Pride and Innovation

What was your first role in industry?

At university, my main focus was on organic chemistry. I loved chemistry! And I knew I wanted to use my skills to add value back to society. The pharma industry was very attractive and I was lucky enough to get job offers from Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham. I took the latter role, but little did I know that 8 years later the two companies would merge to form GlaxoSmithKline… Ultimately, I spent 27 years at the company.
How did you rise to leadership?

As a graduate, you tend to either stay in your comfort zone or move into general leadership. I didn’t have a specific career plan in mind, but when I started as a development chemist, I assumed the career that lay before me would be technical. Quite soon, however, I became a section head with a team of twelve reporting to me. Some people find leadership intimidating or stressful, but I enjoyed taking responsibility. Five years after joining the company, I moved away from synthetic chemistry to general leadership. I wanted to learn more about the company, the geographies it operated in and the different jobs throughout the business. I’ve never looked back!

What were your highlights at GSK?

As a young man, I visited factories and I remember thinking it would be a brilliant job to run a facility, taking responsibility for hundreds of staff, manufacturing thousands of tons of product and shipping that to patients. In 2009, I was offered a job as site director of a facility in the north east of Scotland. I loved it – it was like an extended family.

Following an amazing time as the Site Director at the Montrose facility in August, where the growth of the product portfolio and capital spend on new facilities grew significantly, I was asked to become the global supply chain leader for API manufacture. This was an amazing role and introduced me to the opportunities and challenges of running a global organization. We had facilities in Singapore, India, Australia and Europe. The job was based in London but I was able to stay in Scotland. This allowed me to get involved in wider opportunities within the life sciences sector in Scotland. I was also very involved with the Life Sciences Scotland Industry Leadership Group, and spent a lot of time with senior politicians and academics developing and executing the Life Sciences strategy for Scotland. When you get into senior management, I think it’s very important to give something back to society. I’m a proud Scot and it’s fantastic to give so much back to the country.

In my final role with GSK, I was Head of Manufacturing Strategy for the pharmaceutical and consumer supply chains. The diversity of the job blew me away and I loved it. I was involved if we were buying a company, selling a part of GSK, closing a factory, buying a factory… I had a great team of people and I would present senior management on a very regular basis. This also included being in charge of de-risking the supply chain from Brexit and figuring out the direction for the company.

Why did you leave?

I’d reached a high point when GSK decided to restructure. I took a redundancy package and decided it was time for chapter two, which is with the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre. Structurally, MMIC is run by the UK’s Centre for Process Innovation, but we also have other partners, including the UK government, Scottish government, University of Strathclyde, AstraZeneca and GSK. Back at GSK before the restructuring, I actually wrote the business case for the company investing £7 million into MMIC!

I had a number of places offering me new roles, but I was drawn to MMIC. With my experience in manufacturing and strategy I thought I had a good chance of making it a success. I threw my hat into the ring – and I got the job!

What is the focus of MMIC?

The goal of MMIC is to help companies develop processes and technologies for manufacturing medicines that will help get new therapies to patients more quickly and help the sector to be more productive.

The UK is one of the most advanced countries in the world at creating new ideas, new technologies and new ways of working, but translating that capability to long-term economic growth, and getting the industry to adopt new technology or practices has been an ongoing challenge. Often, other countries were quicker at taking the technology and rolling it out elsewhere. The government was interested in how we can better translate embryonic ideas to real economic return. Meanwhile, the Scottish government had invested in innovation centers, such as the CMAC center for innovative manufacturing technologies in continuous manufacturing and advanced crystallization. The center has had significant success and is internationally recognized, and was starting to look at options to accelerate the translation of technology innovation for the industry.

A group of industry leaders thought it would be a good idea to have a Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre – part government owned and part industry owned – to allow for precompetitive collaboration to translate new technologies into a reality. So even before getting the role at MMIC, I was involved with the center.

What will your priorities be?

We’ll be working on a number of different issues but the first two “grand challenges” will be optimization of continuous direct compression for tablet manufacture, and “just in time” automated clinical supply. These were chosen by our industry partners. The centre is in the process of being built and will be a GMP-grade pharmaceutical facility. In the meantime, we are running the development phase with 2 key partners: CMAC at Strathclyde University and the Formulation Centre within CPI. I can’t wait to see the impact we’ll have on the industry. 

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About the Author
Stephanie Vine

Making great scientific magazines isn’t just about delivering knowledge and high quality content; it’s also about packaging these in the right words to ensure that someone is truly inspired by a topic. My passion is ensuring that our authors’ expertise is presented as a seamless and enjoyable reading experience, whether in print, in digital or on social media. I’ve spent fourteen years writing and editing features for scientific and manufacturing publications, and in making this content engaging and accessible without sacrificing its scientific integrity. There is nothing better than a magazine with great content that feels great to read.

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