23 Aug 2012, Amrita Tejasvi, BioSpectrum
BAC is a leading provider of antibody-based affinity purification technology in the world. Over the past few months the company has been active in expanding its presence in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. The Netherlands-based BAC discovers, develops and manufactures affinity ligands and affinity purification products serving the growing market of biopharmaceutical research and production.
In 2012, BAC signed deals with leading international players like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Life Technologies and GE Healthcare for different technologies and application and is now exploring avenues in the Asian market. BioSpectrum caught up with Dr Sierkstra, during his visit to Singapore and learned about the company's activities and future plans.
How has the journey been for BAC until now? What are the specialized technologies that BAC is offering?
BAC started as a subsidiary of Unilever in 1999 and followed a successful spin-out in 2005. The company currently employs 37 people and has R&D and manufacturing operations in the Netherlands. BAC's products for non-good manufacturing practices (GMP) separation and detection are sold worldwide through its offices in the Netherlands with over 30 products sold to more than 300 different customers worldwide. BAC also offers its technology and products for large scale purification under certified-GMP, through various partners such as GE Healthcare.
BAC's extensive product line ranges from affinity resins for the purification of virtually any antibody format, including IgA, IgM and Fab fragments, to a collection of products for biosimilars purification and a number of products that can be used for analytical testing. BAC's CaptureSelect purification and affinity separation products are provided for the discovery, pre-clinical and clinical manufacturing of therapeutic proteins, including antibodies and antibody fragments.
Along with the products needed for the purification of all sorts of biologicals, BAC also offers a bespoke custom development service for generating product and process specific affinity solutions to its customers.
What is the demand for your custom developed products in Asia ? What has been the trend in the customer's demand?
With more and more companies working on bio-therapeutics, the number of products for which there are no general purification strategies is increasing. The trend we are seeing is that more companies are looking for product specific solutions. This eliminates the need for extensive process development and results in increased purity and yield. Discussions with companies in the APAC region are ongoing.
What are your plans for the Asian market? Are you planning to enter into Asia directly?
BAC already has some customers in the APAC market and sees strong focus on biosimilars as a great opportunity for further sales and development of products. BAC is continuously extending its pipeline of products for manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals such as, FSH, hGH, GCSF and many others could also be of interest to us in this region.
To further increase its presence in the APAC market, BAC is planning on attending multiple conferences in the area to create brand awareness, make use of region oriented marketing opportunities and in the future possibly open a sales office in Asia.
Currently, there are no concrete plans for setting up operations in Asia, but this may change in the future. An initial option would be to set up a sales office and more actively approach companies in the region.
How is the competition and what are your strategies to deal with the same?
BAC recently signed a deal and launched a number of products for high precision liquid chromatography (HPLC) applications with its partner, Life Technologies. BAC chose this partner for its worldwide reach and excellent quality standards. By combining BAC's CaptureSelect technology with Life Technologies' POROS media, the companies can now offer a unique solution for process analytical testing (PAT) to those companies working on antibodies and antibody fragments as well as those working on serum albumin fusion proteins.
Because the products are unique in terms of selectivity, less competition to already existing products is expected. The challenge is to make people aware of these novel products in the APAC region.
Asia is sensitive towards pricing? Considering this, what are your pricing strategies for products and services?
The fact that the Asian market is sensitive towards pricing plays to our advantage, as our products provide unique benefits for the purification of various substances such as biosimilars. By offering bioprocess developers a plug-and-play kind of approach, companies can reduce time, effort and money spend on obtaining a biosimilar of sufficient purity and thus will be able to enter the clinic much faster. Besides this, our biosimilar purification products enable the development of high yielding processes, with a limited number of purification steps, which will further reduce the cost of goods.
How do you provide after-sales support and services to Asian customers?
We have an excellent team of scientists that can respond within a short time frame, initially first email and followed by phone calls or WebEx to further help our customers. For our partnered products with GE Healthcare, initial support is being handled by their extensive sales and support team.
What is the contribution of the APAC region to your revenue?
Currently, the percentage of business coming from the APAC region is still low. It is around three-to-five percent. However, we are seeing an increased interest and product sales in this region.
How much are you focussing on R&D?
We are continuously working on extending our product offering. A few years ago we made a strategic decision to develop products by ourselves, making it easier for customers to test and further develop these candidates into affinity resins that would be suitable for use in R&D and large-scale manufacturing. We currently have a large number of products in our pipeline for production of biosimilars, domain antibodies and viruses like influenza.