Avecia paves the way in biotechnology

Avecia is a leading private biotechnology company focused on the development and manufacture on innovative biotechnology-based medicines.

With a long history of technical innovation, Avecia works closely with its customers – who are typically biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies – helping them achieve fast progress into, and through, the drug development programme.

The company has two main operating business units – Biologics and OligoMedicines. Whislt these two business units operate independently, the enthusiasm, knowledge and skills of Avecia’s workforce is common across both, enabling its customers to realise the potential of their exiting new medical treatments for seriuos diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Avecia’s Biologics business is one of the world’s leading contract development and manufacturers of biologics for human healthcare products, From its base in the Tees Valley, in the UK, this unit has grown rapidly over the last five years, and invested over $150 million in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, Avecia OligoMedicines is the longest established oligonucleotide Contract Manufacturing Organisation (CMO) and has the manufacturing capability aligned to pre-clinical, clinical and launched product oligonucleotide markets.

Kevin Cox, president ov Avecia Biologics, explains the company’s key strengths: “We have a great depth of knowledge in the technology that we operate. We have become one of the world leaders in microbial biotechnology and by gaining this position our customers know they can trust us. We can also provide a full service, from the very early stages of development through to commercial manufacture. As the drug development journey is a long process, it is very important for us to develop strong relationships with our customers and understand what their real needs are.”

He continues: Manufacturing efficiency is imperative at Avecia and is one of the key drivers behind the success of the company.” To help improve its operations, the company has recently invested in a new ERP system. This will integrate all of the business data and processes into a unified system, which will ensure smooth running of all the company’s operations.

Avecia has worked on over 30 different protein-based therapeutics, delivering material on time and at the right specifications to enable its customers to meet and exceed their market ambitions. The company has supported all phases of clinical development, from preclinical to commercial manufacturing, with customers who have been continually delighted with Avecia’s commitment and standard of service. Testimony to its success is the high number of customers who return to the company for further process development and cGMP manufacture.

The efficient expression of a therapeutic protein in microbial or amammalian cells is often a bottleneck in the production of biopharmaceuticals. To address this challenge, Avecia has developed novel technology for the efficient expression of a wide range of proteins, as part of its overall pAVE Transforming Technology programme.

The new technology enables class-leading microbial production of a wide range of therapeutically useful proteins. The pAVEway platform is based on a set of unique protein expression plasmids, which have been developed by Avecia. Using a novel configuration of operators, promoters and repressors, the company has created a range of vectors, which provide tightly controlled production of the target proteins, whilst allowing very high expression levels. These vectors are complemented by a range of host strains. By choosing the appropriate combination of plasmid, host strain and fermentation conditions, very high titres have been demonstrated for soluble, insoluble or secreted proteins.

There are many benefits of using this new technology, as Kevin explains: “Due to the complexity of the molecules that are to be manufactured we have to understand the whole process in great detail. With this understanding in place, we can ensure that the process is robust, reproducible, cost effective and safe. Taking all these factors into account, developing a process can be very resource intensive. Furthermore, each process we develop is largely bespoke and takes a long time to optimise, often requiring investment in new equipment.”

He continues: “The new pAVEway technology boasts many different features, which helps us to overcome these challenges. We have developed a process, which is fast, therefore reducing development time for our customers and giving higher value to the end users. It also increases productivity and standardization and the potential to reduce the cost of goods. In addition, the system is extremely versatile and can produce a wide range of biotherapeutic proteins using a family of expression systems.”

Kevin adds: “In the past most biopharmaceuticals have been produced in large volumes but as we move forward we are experiencing a wider range of technologies for more complex molecules, which look at smaller areas of disease. As a result of this, there is an increasing need to be able to service a larger number of different and more complex molecular types. This is one of our main strengths – we have extremely flexible manufacturing operations. Our systems and processes are designed to be versatile and manage change.”

Looking to the future, Kevin comments: “The biopharmaceuticals industry is growing at a very fast rate of about 15 per cent per annum. This has been driven by a better understanding of the human gene and the genetic pathway to disease. As a result of this growth, pharmaceutical companies are realising that getting involved with biopharmaceuticals is an important factor for future growth. This is helping to drive some of the innovation and investment into this area.”

He continues: “To maintain our growth within the industry we need to have a strong flow of new products entering the market. We need to utilise our resources and develop robust, high quality processes, which meet the ever-changing needs of our customers. One of the main challenges we are currently facing is the increasing amount of competition on the market. With the introduction of the new versatile pAVEway technology, we have given ourselves an edge over our competitors.”

Kevin concludes: “We have experienced very high growth rates over the last few years and we intend to maintain this growth. We want to become the leading player within the biopharmaceutical industry. Looking to the future, we aim to invest heavily into new technology. There are a whole wave of new disease treatments entering the market so we believe as a manufacturer it is important that we understand these and develop capabilities to meet the needs of these products.”


Products: Biotechnology
Sites: UK and US
Employees: 650