Pharma companies of all sizes need reliable partners they can trust to support their drug development programmes. Jozsef Repasi, managing director of Ubichem Group, explains how his newly expanded organisation can provide expertise right the way from the research and development stage to the clinic.

Devoted to the large-scale manufacture of pharmaceutical intermediates and other fine chemicals, Ubichem Pharma Manufacturing, a new branch of the Ubichem Group that was formed in June this year, cements the company’s status as one of the industry’s major players in Eastern Europe. With research, analytical and radio-labelling laboratories, a pilot plant and now a commercial-scale production facility, the group operates from three sites within Budapest. It endeavours to add value to its clients’ drug development programmes, supplying the appropriate materials as and when they are needed.

Hungary is where the company has its roots. Beginning life in 1996 with just three chemists, Ubichem joined forces with a UK trading company while leveraging Hungarian expertise.

"In the socialist era, Hungary was the chemistry service provider to the Russian bloc," explains managing director Jozsef Repasi. "Later the situation changed, and the industry was privatised, but the pharmaceutical knowledge was still available. That was why we decided to start the organisation."

Today, Ubichem Group employs some 170 people – 100 at Ubichem Research and 70 at Ubichem Pharma Manufacturing. Whereas Ubichem Research functions mostly as a CRO, providing chemistry development services to the pharma industry, Ubichem Pharma Manufacturing is a CMO first and foremost.

Between the two, Ubichem supplies a comprehensive range of offerings, supporting its clients’ programmes from the R&D stage right the way through to the clinic. "We offer process development, medchem development, activity profiling and stability testing of materials," says Repasi, "as well as manufacturing intermediates and APIs."

As one might expect from such a wide-ranging organisation, Ubichem caters to many types of client. For the most part, its research wing serves small and medium-sized pharma companies, whereas the new manufacturing branch is better suited to larger organisations. Geographically, too, there is quite a spread, with around 55% of customers located within the US, 40% within Europe and a growing contingent coming from South America.

Its own location enables it to tap into a growing trend. "Medium and large-scale pharmaceutical manufacturing is coming back to Europe," says Repasi. "People are looking for reliable European suppliers of our sort of service – preparing APIs for experimental purposes and also supplying the starting materials and intermediates from the region."

Move projects forward

With highly trained staff and a flexible approach to service, Ubichem always endeavours to stay abreast of customer requirements. Moreover, since its employee turnover is so low, the staff who start with a project can be expected to remain on-board throughout that project’s duration.

"We started to work with some of our customers more than ten years ago," says Repasi. "We don’t need to learn their needs again and again because our project managers stay with the customer and take care of their needs for several years. We are always trying to think ahead and be proactive."

Particularly in the case of smaller companies, this level of support can make all the difference. "Very often I can see that the expertise that is necessary for the API development is missing," continues Repasi. "They have good ideas and good targets, but they don’t have the specialist experience in the chemistry of developing an API. Ubichem can provide this development quickly and in a cost-effective way."

Boasting absolute confidentiality, a serious approach to quality management, a strict eye to schedules and budgets, and relatively low costs, Ubichem is helping evermore clients to move their projects forward. And now, with the opening of Ubichem Pharma Manufacturing, the stage is set for an exciting new phase in the company’s development.