Basic Pharma set up operations over ten years ago at the Van Iterson building, a former DSM property on the outskirts of the Brightlands Chemelot Campus. Considered too large at the time for the 20 employees working there, these days, serious plans are being made for new construction. The new facility will have room for what is now over 100 employees, and is better suited to meet current needs. “We’ve outgrown our space again.”
Basic Pharma: from generic to innovative medicines
Engineers are working on a new, complex installation on the third floor. Harry Relouw, managing director of Basic Pharma, expects the facility to be completed sometime this spring. “We will be using this installation for the fully automated filling of syringes; the capacity is 5,000 per hour,” he proudly adds. “This will allow us to further expand our package of services, for both new and existing customers. It’s our biggest investment to date, and involves a seven-digit figure. This isn’t that interesting in and of itself, but the fact that we now have the financial power for these types of projects is. We are serving more and more pharmaceutical companies in the Netherlands and abroad, have grown in terms of mass, and expect to grow even further over the coming years.
Having started out as a contract manufacturer in 2003, Basic Pharma made relatively simple products for its customers. The proceeds from these sales were used to finance the development costs for its own registered medicines. “These products were launched successfully on the market and the production of these medicines is currently our most important source of income. Our development activities and tests are all done in our own laboratory, we submit registration dossiers with the aid of Interdos’ own specialists and we handle scaling up and pilot production in our own plant,” Harry Relouw explains. “In other words, the entire process from development to production and commercialization. We are even at the point where we can also help start-ups set up, such as with spin-offs from Maastricht University that outsource the production of their study medications to us. The development of medicines, both new and generic, is subject to very strict regulations. This was the reason Basic Pharma built GMP-certified cleanrooms and laboratories at the time with the help of external financiers, and set up a comprehensive quality control system. It was all done by the book to facilitate researchers and start-ups and to develop ideas.”
Producing what is known as a study medication is one of Basic Pharma’s core growth areas. “We now work for various pharmaceutical companies in the Netherlands and abroad. By producing their study medications in our GMP facility, we are making an important contribution to clinical programs for developing new medicines. Our current sales are generated primarily in the production of generic niche products that we have developed. This includes nose sprays, nose drops, cough syrups, medicinal creams, gels and ointments and other medications that consumers find in pharmacies (by prescription), drugstores and even in supermarkets. We supply our products to pharmacists who then resell these under their own brand labels. This is why you won’t see the Basic Pharma name on the packaging. We continue to invest in product development, including for generic products, in order to further expand our range. Thanks to the diverse facilities and skills we have in-house, we can also serve as a platform for companies interested in expanding to the European market and that need a partner. We test, analyze and organize the supply chain for their products, thus making an important contribution to the successful introduction of medicines in Europe.”
One important step in Basic Pharma’s development was the construction of a biotech facility in 2016. “With the support of the European Interreg program,” clarifies Ralph Bosmans, Bioprocessing Engineer. We develop and produce protein-based medicines called biologicals in these cleanrooms and labs. We are now testing a product that fights skin cancer and contains an active ingredient discovered by researchers at Maastricht University. This project, SKiN-HUID, is one we are working on together with the universities of Maastricht, Louvain and Antwerp, the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) and MosaMedix. The project is really promising, and it’s great to be able to contribute to such an important therapy. This expansion has also increased our appeal for researchers and pharmacists since our entrance in the biotech market means we can also offer biotech study medications. We can be the link connecting universities and the pharmaceutical industry.”
Basic Pharma now has more than 100 people on the payroll and this number is expected to rise even higher in the coming years. It owes this to the growth of existing activities, but also to the investment in the new filling line for syringes and a special freeze dryer for the production of specific medicines. “We want to move to a new building within three years,” reveals the managing director/general manager who runs Basic Pharma together with founder Bob Kool and Jacques Havermans. “The most important reason is the lack of space, as a result of which most of the logistics and storage activities are currently being outsourced and production can’t be expanded any further. Not enough space means we have to use a logistics services company with storage capacity. Not only is this sub-optimal in terms of cost, it’s also impractical. There is plenty of storage space available at the new location. We want to build a new facility since the current building is outdated and will no longer be sustainable in the medium term. It’s an enormous undertaking. The labs, the production and packaging lines, the biotech facility and of course the new installation for the syringes must be completely disassembled and then reassembled at the new location. So be it – we want to keep moving forward.”
Brightlands Chemelot Campus
All of these plans do not mean a departure from Geleen. “No, definitely not. Most of our employees live in the area. Recruiting new talent isn’t easy these days, and this region is no exception. The Brightlands Chemelot Campus is becoming more and more attractive for highly educated people from the Netherlands and abroad, and we want to be a part of this. We also have very close ties with the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus in Maastricht. We work with various knowledge institutes here and are part of networks. Plenty of reasons for Basic Pharma to stay.”
On Thursday, May 16, the Brightlands Chemelot Campus will host the Progress in Personalised Medicine symposium organized by LifetecZONe.
This event will have a clear focus on the SKiN-HUID project. The symposium will start at 12h Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen with a lunch. Several speakers will provide insight into the development of biopharmaceuticals. Among these speakers are Professor Chris Reutelingsperger of Maastricht University and Dr. Michael Dewaele of Louvain Catholic University.