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Manufacture Quality & Compliance, Packaging

Vendors Reloaded

An increasing number of products are being shipped in smaller volumes as pharmaceutical companies see the benefits of highly potent and highly targeted drugs. Effective fill-finish technologies are essential for producing these drugs, alongside containers and closures, but could the technologies be further improved if vendors work together? 

Vanrx Pharmasystems, which supplies a variety of aseptic robotic filling systems, has brought a number of vendors together to form the Matrix Alliance. Although naturally competitors, the vendors will collaborate to develop aseptic solutions, consisting of containers, stoppers, caps and nests that work together effectively with new filling machinery. 

To expand our knowledge of the Matrix, we asked Greg Speakman from Vanrx Pharmasystems – one of the founders of the Matrix Alliance – to feed us the red pill.

Who and what are the Matrix Alliance?

Everyone involved in the Matrix Alliance is a supplier to pharma companies. Through the Alliance, we can leverage our combined offerings and expertise in aseptic filling (including testing and certification) to help better support the makers of parenteral medicines. Both new drugs and their manufacturing processes are becoming more sophisticated, so we need a new generation of packaging and aseptic supplies. 

Collectively, our members make containers (vials, syringes and cartridges), stoppers, closures and filling machines. The companies on board are ARaymond Life, Daikyo Seiko, Datwyler, Ompi, Schott, Schott Kaisha, Ompi, SiO2 Medical Products, and Vanrx. Each company will provide input on the definition of product sets, their specific components, and their development and testing resources. 

What is the biggest challenge of bringing a new solution to market?

For the vendors, the main challenge is ensuring that components work with the  packaging system as a whole; you need a container, stopper and cap. If the container provider simply provides vials to a pharma company, then the pharma company needs to integrate and test the vial with a corresponding stopper and cap. In the Matrix model, the container, stopper and cap providers ensure the products work together and generate test results for the overall solution. The process is much easier for pharma companies – hopefully helping them to get their pharmaceuticals to market faster.

What specific areas will you be working on?

The Matrix Alliance members will be:

  • Testing new pre-sterilized container and nested closure systems for injectable medicines.
  • Ensuring the compatibility of components from different members.
  • Driving industry awareness of those solutions.

Simply put, the Alliance members will identify ‘product sets’ – each being a combination of a specific vial, syringe or cartridge, and a corresponding stopper and cap. The components may be produced by one member or by a combination of two or three members.

The task is to ensure that each set of products works well together. And we also need to get this message out to our common customers. I believe the biggest benefit will be the faster exchange of information, which allows us to collectively react more quickly to the needs of pharma companies. For example, I believe that pharma companies will be able to source product sets much more quickly if the suppliers are working together. We can also provide a continuous supply chain of these components at commercial quantities. 

What were the main challenges in setting up the Alliance?

Vendors naturally compete with each other. Our members all bring their own unique knowledge and experience to the collaboration, but some do compete. As well as working together, we all need to build and maintain our own differentiation, innovation, and partnerships. When setting up the alliance, we looked to other industries, such as wireless communication, where standardization on testing and component compatibility enabled new technologies to be adopted more quickly. Once the member companies realized that the alliance wouldn’t take away their uniqueness in the market, they saw the benefits and were happy to sign up.

What are the next steps for the alliance?

Our alliance members are already working together to test the product sets. The testing includes the compatibility of the different products within a product set and the Container Closure Integrity Testing (CCIT) of the product set. We'll reveal more details about these product sets when they are available. But it's not just about forming new product offerings – we also want the Alliance to act as a forum that provides strategic direction, education, and awareness of new aseptic packaging solutions within the market.

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