Interview with Enric Jo, Plant Manager at RJ Barcelona 

 
 
 
 
 

"Innovation is the key to success. If there is business, there will be innovation; and if there is innovation, there will be business"

 
With a PhD in Pharmacy from Barcelona University, Enric Jo is Plant Manager at Laboratorios Reig Jofré's plant in Sant Joan Despí, on the outskirts of Barcelona. With a wealth of experience in the field of pharmaceutical chemistry, Jo is one of Europe's leading experts in the field of lyophilisation. In fact, the Reig Jofré plant he manages in Sant Joan Despí manufactures more than 10 million freeze-dried vials.
 
As a member of PharmaProcess's Scientific Committee, what do you expect from the first edition of this event, the first of its kind to be organised in Europe? 
During the year, a large number of technical events are held in Europe, led by international organisations from the industry. Some fairs, such as Expoquimia itself, the CPhI and others that are highly focused on process machinery, also play their role in the market. PharmaProcess is neither one nor the other but a fusion of the two types. The innovation here is in the mix: the possibility of promoting any type of business and, at the same time, discussing the scientific, regulatory and technical issues that are behind its progress. The expectations are high, although for many, precisely because it is the first of its kind, it will be a venture into the unknown.
 
What issues will be addressed at the forum? And are they the issues that are currently of most concern to the pharmaceutical industry?
The Congress part has been structured in tracks to help delegates choose the subjects that interest them most. However, the sessions will have three overarching themes: development, biotechnology and operations. The issues that concern the pharmaceutical industry most are its survival (in the current economic and political climate) and its continued progress (gene therapies, personalised medication, ...). The transition from classical (chemical drugs) to modern pharmaceutical chemistry (bio-drugs) is not moving forward at the pace that was hoped. And this is because many more questions than those initially considered have emerged during this process. The resulting reflection renders it necessary to explore in greater depth the solutions for a ¿reliable, safe and effective' drug. This process starts with development and ends with production: what am I going to manufacture and how. It is true that necessity is the mother of invention but, in our case, invention must necessarily follow a path whose guard rails are to design quality into the design (efficacy) and set up a control strategy (in the process) based on scientific criteria (efficiency).
 
What can PharmaProcess bring to the industry?
Try to think of it as an interactive showcase. Show, bring closer, even touch. It is giving access. A sample of possibilities. A common place for detecting new avenues for business and new avenues for application; and the place for finding who to do it with.

The Reig Jofré plant that you manage is one of the most active in lyophilisation. Can you tell us why?
Yes, of course. It's thanks to a lot of hard work. We learned that a complicated, expensive technology like lyophilisation was a challenge that it was well within our capabilities to take on. Demand has grown considerably in recent years and it will grow even more, mostly driven by biotechnology, which, in most cases, needs this process to stabilise the drug. At present, our Lyophilisation Centre of Excellence is one the most advanced centres in the world. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is constantly receiving visitors from partners all over the world, both to develop and manufacture their products and to explore progress related with the process itself. The investment effort has been enormous. You also need to be in the right place at the right time. 
 
On the basis of your experience, where do you think that the chemical-pharmaceutical industry is heading, both in Spain and abroad?
As regards the domestic market, I would say that, if we are going anywhere, it would be towards doing things better. I have already said this. Effectiveness and efficiency, innovate, get the costs right and get there first. Not just to survive the political-economic situation but also because it is the path that other industries have chosen, such as automotive, aerospace or IT. People have already seen this outside Spain; it's just that some have seen it sooner. Fear of emerging markets is not a bad thing if it makes you think how to sell there and how to compete with them. Right now, generic drug prices are contracting much quicker in Europe or the United States than in Africa or South America. And although the technology in China or India is extremely high, it's not so certain that they can remain competitive in quality or cost. In any case, everyone's attention is focused on biotechnology.

As manager of one of Spain's most respected and most international laboratories, how would you rate the industry's state of health in Spain?
In a state of crisis. That's obvious, isn't it? But there's a silver lining. After a crisis comes renewal. Those who give up allow others who are not prepared to give up to move forward. However, we do need to start investing again. Otherwise, the entire process will slow down and we may fall behind. It's very hard to get to the destination and very easy to fall on the way. If we drop the pace, it will take a lot of effort to get back up there again. 
 
Reig Jofré was founded in 1929 in the back room of a pharmacy in the Barcelona district of Gràcia. The company has always shown a commitment to innovation ... Is this the path that the rest of the pharmaceutical industry should follow in Spain? 
Innovation is the key to success. From both a health and a business viewpoint. And both are very important! If there is business, there will be innovation; and if there is innovation, there will be business. The rest is pure speculation. This should be the priority concern in companies' overall strategies: what to innovate and how to do it. The problem is that results are only seen in the long term and in the meantime, you have to survive. Plans should be made looking at least 5-10 years ahead. The overall health situation needs other paths, as the present paths are becoming exhausted. We need to see this and that requires imagination and hard work. As they say, success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
 

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