The demands on drug delivery and self-diagnostics devices are growing, but manufacturers of high-precision components are offering device companies better quality and value. This is the message major pharma wants to hear.
An ever larger number of devices for drug delivery or selfdiagnosis lie in the hands of patients, who not only want them to perform well, but also expect them to be durable and easy to use. At the same time, however, the pharmaceutical companies behind these devices are operating in increasingly competitive markets, with a keen eye on costs.
Sensing an opportunity to bring their experience from other markets to bear on the medical device sector, Swiss company forteq is matching technical excellence with a comprehensive range of services to bring new devices to market, with costefficiency a key objective.
forteq designs, develops and manufactures highprecision plastic parts and gears for the global healthcare, automotive, consumer electronics and office equipment markets. Healthcare is an increasingly important part of the business stream, and the company has invested heavily in R&D since its spin-off from Mikron two years ago.
'Delivery systems need highprecision components, but they must also be simple to use,' says Rune Bakke, CEO of forteq Group. 'We not only have the technical capability to achieve that, but we have also made the effort to understand the needs of customers in the healthcare sector.'
From its initial focus on inhalers, forteq is now broadening its scope to other devices such as pen injectors. The first goal was to understand the needs of asthmatics who want their medication to have a rapid effect, so require delivery devices that can be used quickly and simply. The company is opening its market focus to the area of non-conventional injection systems for specific treatments with biotech drugs that cannot be delivered orally.
'We cover the whole value chain from design to manufacture,' says Joachim Franke, managing director of forteq's healthcare business. 'We give our customers everything from the concept stage to industrialisation. The assembly and finishing steps are not always found with our competitors.'
The end-to-end nature of forteq's service offering has quickly proved to be a compelling proposition for the pharmaceutical industry, where many companies sense that now is a good time to rethink the design of new and existing products to achieve greater efficiency and performance.
'The pharmaceutical industry faces growing competition from generics, so there is a need for them to find more competitive solutions to achieve cost savings and products that are simpler to make and use,' explains Franke. 'A lot of drugs are off-patent now, and some companies are redesigning their existing products. It is an industry that is sensitive to price, but quality is just as important.'
Two of the world's leading pharma use forteq for the design of new devices, which should be the start of a growing pipeline of large-scale projects.
'Most of our client relationships have developed since we spun off from Mikron, so we are getting new business,' says Bakke. 'We have around 50 engineers around the world, across all our business sectors, and their skills allow us to bring more resources to bigger projects.' forteq's approach is to allow its experience of other industry sectors to inform its design process. For example, in designing products that are userfriendly, there is a lot to be learnt from the automotive market, where safety, cost and durability are key design parameters.
With a global network of suppliers to ensure that it covers all components, not just the plastic elements of a new device, and a longterm approach to client relationships, Bakke and Franke feel that forteq offers its clients unique added value in its ability to inform the design stage then take an idea to market. A growing number of clients are starting to agree.