Vendor Strategy

Vendor Strategy

Thermo Fisher launches clinical services in India

With Thermo Fisher Scientific’s recent entry into clinical trial management in India, the company seems to be gearing up for a new phase of growth in the country. Dr Marijn Dekkers, President and CEO, Thermo Fisher and two key members of his Team India, Koos van der Steuijt, Vice President and General Manager, India and Amit Chopra, Managing Director, Laboratory Products give more details to Viveka Roychowdhury

In line with the trend of global life sciences suppliers looking beyond established markets and turning to emerging markets for future growth, Thermo Fisher Scientific (Thermo Fisher) recently inaugurated a new clinical packaging and distribution facility in Ahmedabad. With this, the $11 billion Fortune 300 global major, declares its play for a leadership position in the Indian clinical trial management market. This market is expected to grow in tandem with the clinical trials and research industry as global pharmaceutical MNCs seek to cut costs and outsource more research and trials to destinations like India.

The newest facility, Thermo Fisher’s 20th in the country, is located near Ahmedabad, within the Zydus Cadila-promoted Pharmez, and is thus in a prime position to service the needs of global pharma companies. In India on his second visit, Dr Marijn Dekkers, President and CEO, Thermo Fisher, emphasised, “The company is here because we believe in spotting the wave early, and would want to lead the market, rather than follow.”

Globally, the company is a leader in the clinical packaging and logistics segment. Clinical packaging and logistics is a crucial component of the clinical research and trials supply chain, as the handling of pharma samples of patients participating in global clinical trials requires high levels of quality, efficiency and flexibility. The India operations will augment and be a key part of the reach offered by the company’s Fisher Clinical Services brand, which has strategically located facilities in the US, UK and Switzerland, operating in strict compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). Equipment, processes and systems at the Ahmedabad facility will be globally compatible with these facilities. As Dekkers pointed out, ”Our customers are looking to outsource their clinical trials management to partners who know how to work within changing regional and global clinical trial regulations.”

In addition to clinical trials management, the company’s portfolio includes—

  • Analytical instrumentation—The focus is on the pharma and CRO segments, industrial and environmental applications

  • Laboratory products, consumables and workstations

  • Specialty diagnostics

  • Biosciences, which include laboratory chemicals and reagents

The company, which has been in the country for the past 10 years has invested $17 million in the 1.50 lakh sq ft Ahmedabad facility, slated to be operational by January 2009. This is part of the company’s focus on Asia which currently contributes 13 percent to its global revenue. North America clocks the king’s share of the revenues pie, at 61 percent and Europe follows with 26 percent.

“India is very much on our company’s growth agenda and we will now be seeking to aggressively grow India’s one percent global revenue share,” stated Dekkers.

Shifting gears

Thermo Fisher Scientific’s new clinical packaging and distribution facility in Ahmedabad

The company was established in 1956 as Thermo Electron, a relatively small company dealing with instruments to test air quality. Over the years, it partnered and/or acquired companies with specific technologies and products, until it became, as its tagline proclaims, the world leader in serving science. At one point of time, there were up to 75 different brands and businesses owned by Thermo Electron, Until the year 2000, the Thermo Electron brand stayed in the background, continuing to partner with some of the best and biggest R&D laboratories. Recounting the shifting of gears at the top management level, Dekkers, who became president and CEO of Thermo Electron in 2002, said, “We were no longer satisfied with being the silent partner, so we completed a major reorganisation of the company to focus on our core business—analytical instrumentation. We then rebranded the company under a single Thermo brand.”

By 2006, the company was ready to take the next major step in an industry that still had no clear leader. It merged with Fisher Scientific to create Thermo Fisher Scientific, combining the leading laboratory innovator with the well-known laboratory supplies catalog. “We decided that to proactively reach out to our customers, we had to have our own catalogue. The merger with Fisher Scientific in 2006, married the scientific expertise of Thermo with the reach of the strong Fisher brand catalogue.and other customer channels,” Dekkers added.

As CEO and president of the merged entity, Dekkers led the integration of the two companies, realigning businesses and functions, such as R&D, to allow the company to deliver the best products to its customers, most efficiently. An R&D scientist by education and training, Dekkers spent the early part of his career with General Electric’s Plastics business. As a research manager of a team working on a new plastic, Dekkers soon realised that he was fascinated by the challenges of the commercialisation process. The management of research, and transferring research findings into commercially viable products became his forte as he understood both the science and the business. As Thermo Fisher Scientific, the company now has two premier brands Thermo Scientific and Fisher Scientific. The Thermo Scientific brand represents technology and innovation, offering analytical instrumentation, laboratory equipment, software, services, consumables and reagents aimed at creating integrated laboratory workflow solutions. Dekkers envisages a future when researchers wanting to set up a laboratory in RNA interference analysis, for instance, might approach one or two global suppliers, and ask them to help set up the laboratory rather than sourcing and purchasing individual components from many different vendors and then struggling to put it all together.

“It might sound like the one-stop-shop solution, but to me, that means a grocery store approach. We offer much more intelligent solutions—I call it the ‘integrated laboratory workflow solutions’ approach,” explained Dekkers.

The Fisher Scientific brand offers customers choice and convenience through catalogues and other customer channels, offering a complete portfolio of lab equipment, chemicals, supplies and services used across a variety of vertical markets, from healthcare, scientific research, and safety to educational institutes like colleges and government-funded research institutions.

Biopharma services include clinical trials management, biospecimen storage and analytical testing. The India headcount stands at 600, of the company’s global workforce of 34,000 employees. Globally, the company has 7,500 sales and services professionals.

The game plan for India

Since 2000, the company has invested significantly in India, including opening a state-of-the-art demo lab in Mumbai in 2005. Thermo Fisher has also recently made two acquisitions in India. Speaking about these market moves, Dekkers said, “When we acquired Qualigens from GSK last year, we acquired the leading commercial and marketing channel for laboratory chemicals. Then we bought the analytical technologies and environment instrumentation businesses of Chemito. In addition to its manufacturing capabilities, Chemito also has a substantial commercial team all over India to present and promote their gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and spectrophotometers to the Indian scientific community. So that gives us good presence on both the catalogue as well the instruments side.”

Looking ahead, Dekkers sees opportunities to build a presence in India in biosciences reagents, specialty diagnostics, microbiology and anatomical pathology, which are all areas where the company has a global presence but little or no business in India. Dekkers would prefer not to put a timeline to capitalising on these opportunities. As pharma companies struggle with the mounting costs of drug development and as the customer base becomes more global, Dekkers foresees that their customers are going to look for increased productivity and efficiency. “We as an industry have to be more global and I think that suppliers who are in front of that are going to win. There’s going to be a lot of smart coordinated buying. The need for more productivity and efficiency on the procurement side will lead to a rationalisation on the supplier side, which will be good for Thermo Fisher,” said Dekkers.

Koos van der Steuijt, who heads Thermo Fisher Scientific’s operations in India, added that after the two acquisitions, they have a lot of talent on board. “There is a lot of competition in the market. Many global companies are coming to India as well as many local companies are becoming global. So we will have to take some bold steps forward in the next 12 months towards making theose teams most effective in terms of reaching out to our customers,” he pointed out.

Commenting on India’s role in the global strategy of the company Amit Chopra, Managing Director, Laboratory Products, Thermo Fisher Scientific, said, “India gets a lot of attention and focus from the global team. There’s definitely a lot of scope for growth and momentum to capitalise on the opportunities here. We have a lot of support to invest and grow in India.”