Local supply, global partnership: an interview with Erik Vaessen

Written by FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific

Erik Vaessen is the Executive Director of Life Sciences at FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific (CA, USA), where he manages commercial operations and oversees business strategy for the bioproduction, cell and gene therapy, cytogenetics and discovery research markets. 

Vaessen joined Irvine Scientific in 2009, where he has applied 20 years of experience in the life sciences industry within a variety of commercial roles with increasing responsibility. In 2018, Vaessen began overseeing the cell and gene therapy product line, where he built-out a customer-centric approach designed to accelerate cell therapy time-to-market. Prior to joining Irvine Scientific, Vaessen held advanced roles with Thermo Fisher Scientific (MA, USA) and Sigma Aldrich (MO, USA). He graduated from Wageningen University (The Netherlands), where he studied Molecular Biology, and received his PhD degree in Biochemistry from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland).

What compelled FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific to open a European manufacturing site?

FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific is committed to helping our customers facilitate the discovery and production of therapies through the development of new, leading-edge technologies. Our customers are located across the globe and require timely access to FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific cell culture media products to develop new therapies. We saw a need to make media – a critical raw material for bioprocessing – easier to access and more cost-effective. With the new manufacturing facility in Tilburg (The Netherlands), our European customers will have the media they need locally, thereby saving time and shipping costs. The facility will also increase our manufacturing capacity to meet the growing needs of cell therapy manufacturers across the globe.

How does a European manufacturing presence make a difference for customers?

Currently, when a European cell therapy manufacturer needs FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific products, they receive them from our headquarters in California (USA) or our second facility in Japan. With our third manufacturing facility in The Netherlands, we will fortify the supply chain and ensure uninterrupted supply by bringing products and services, including the capacity to produce large-volume liquids, to a local level. As a key European hub, the facility will also reduce overseas shipping, which can positively affect customers’ business savings, while also enabling us to locally support customers who require greater control with direct access to our local manufacturing and quality team.

What are the top four reasons for cell and gene therapy companies to consider for having their cell culture media made at the European facility?

  • We will deliver a shorter supply chain because of our location in central Europe, utilizing the same equipment, raw materials and quality system as our other manufacturing sites. In turn, this will ensure consistent quality, reduce our European customers’ logistics costs, and help lower their overall costs in the manufacture of drugs and therapies.
  • As a local source of supply in the heart of Europe, air shipments and CO2 emissions will be reduced. This upholds our commitment to sustainability, while also making it easier for customers to obtain our products.
  • Many of our cell therapy customers in Europe require uninterrupted access to the FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific products they need for the production of life-saving therapies. Becoming a local source of supply offers redundancy in the supply chain, which helps to ensure continuity and provides customers with faster response times and increased flexibility for a wide variety of production timelines and product needs.
  • FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific delivers unparalleled customer service and support that stands out in our industry. We work side-by-side with our customers in the advancement of accessible, cost-effective manufacturing solutions and will provide a trusted advisor locally within our European location to further give customers the time and attention they need.

What ‘green’ initiatives will be undertaken with the new facility?

The new FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific facility will augment the sustainability initiatives of our parent company, Fujifilm. As a climate A-List company recognized by the Carbon Disclosure Project, Fujifilm prioritizes specific strategies of the Fujifilm Sustainability Value Plan 2030 for sustainable growth. This plan addresses key issues such as climate change, energy and the promotion of recycling resources. The facility in Tilburg is working towards becoming CO2 neutral and incorporating sustainability values from the plan, including reducing the amount of water used during manufacturing, and developing and utilizing sustainable technologies and products. An example of this is the development and use of a sustainable membrane bioreactor for wastewater purification and the use of wind energy for production. Local manufacturing, shipping and storage also reduce emissions and energy usage within the entire supply chain.

Will products manufactured in Europe be of the same standards as those made in California and Japan?

Yes. Our global manufacturing and operations use the same raw materials, equipment and certified quality system whether a product is manufactured in the USA, Japan or Europe. The FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific raw materials program assures lot-to-lot consistency of finished goods, and is built on the idea that the management of raw materials and processes such as equipment validation and adherence to SOPs, as well as environmental monitoring of facilities, is the foundation for the high-quality products we produce. Our regulatory team also works closely with governing bodies in Europe and around the world to both understand and help develop guidelines for medicines, therapies and vaccines.

The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of RegMedNet or Future Science Group.

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