Symbiosis Meet the Team: No.5 – Linda Merrilees, Business Development Manager

Symbiosis Meet the Team: No.5 – Linda Merrilees, Business Development Manager

In this edition of the Symbiosis Meet the Team, we sit down with our newly appointed Business Development Manager, Linda Merrilees. Though new to her role, she re-joins the firm having previously worked with Symbiosis as a Project Manager. We find out what she has been up to and why she sees bright prospects for both drug developers and contract manufacturing organisations on the horizon.

1. Introduction – please give us an overview of your role, experience and expertise.

I joined Symbiosis as a Business Development Manager in January 2023 and am responsible for the management of both existing accounts and the generation of new opportunities within the UK and EU.  I bring over 20 years experience in the pharmaceutical and clinical research industries having worked for Aptuit, NextPharma, Curia, IQVIA and RSSL in technical specialist roles and latterly in project and people management. 

2. What drives you to work in aseptic fill-finish market?

To support the needs of millions of patients around the world, some living with truly debilitating ill health and with the global aseptic fill-finish CMO market forecasted to grow considerably over the next five years, we can make a positive impact on those afflicted. Being one of the last critical steps before a product is ultimately administered to a patient means our responsibility here is vital to deliver integral, contamination-free, safe sterile drug products for human use. I’m delighted to be a part of a team who thrives on having a direct and positive impact on that.

3. What brought you to Symbiosis?

Although new to Symbiosis in a business development capacity, I worked here previously as a Project Manager from September 2020 to June 2022. Having already experienced the open and supportive culture at Symbiosis, I’m over the moon to be back in our camaraderie team who make it a pleasure to come to work in our fast-paced customer focussed environment. It’s also good to have some down-time with the wider team and this happens regularly thoroughout the year thanks to our social committee. It’s the perfect chance to relax, unwind and create some fun and mischief – I missed them whilst I was away!

4. What are your hopes and ambitions for the industry?

It never ceases to amaze me the speed of progress within pharma and speaking with some inspirational drug developers, I get to see some exceptional therapies coming through that stand to make a significant impact on global health. If we look at the effect of the pandemic and what it did to propel mRNA vaccines and their speed of development timelines, this has been expedited considerably. Drug developers are now exploring additional uses for mRNA and other oligonucleotide modalities in infectious disease and oncology, I view this as an important pathway for more effective healthcare.

5. What are the key market trends we can expect to impact the market next year?

I think the first thing to mention is the observed trend in the increase in demand for sterile filling and finish services, particularly for specialised dosage forms such as lyophilized products which are driven by the growing number of biologics in development. These products require parenteral administration and therefore aseptic processing and finishing. Beyond this, the number of biologics products coming through the development pipeline is very encouraging.

6.What are the biggest challenges that aseptic fill-finish manufacturers must overcome in 2023?

Unfortunately, it’s not all positive, there are inset challenges that we as a CMO need to negotiate, namely, supply chain constraints, high inflation rates, and energy insecurity that remain very real considerations; but it is very good manufacturers that can negotiate this through process efficiency to mitigate these factors as much as possible. For example, diversifying the supply network by working with suppliers from multiple markets and regions. This will optimise resilience towards future challenges and prevent disruption. We’ve also seen this at a national level with governments introducing incentives to encourage local production. The German government introduced the economic stimulus package, which included 1 Billion Euros dedicated to increasing the local production of pharmaceuticals, APIs, vaccines, and medical PPE.

7. Finally, if you could give any advice to potential clients, what would it be?

Having worked at both ends of the manufacturer’s solution (project management and business development) I have observed a few universal truths that lend themselves to a highly functioning relationship between a CMO and a sponsor. Firstly, effective communication is of paramount importance – typically this manifests itself as frequent communication, periodic regular meetings and an appreciation of cultural and time differences; getting this right alleviates so many issues. Similarly, constructive behaviour and mindset are conveyed by the CMO being reliable, proactive and flexible is always well received when working in partnership. If you are trying to select a partner, I would consider both of these aspects as critical factors in decision-making and ask for examples of how they can demonstrate their value in these terms.

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