From The Editor | December 19, 2020

Remembering The Year We'd Rather Forget


By Louis Garguilo, Chief Editor, Outsourced Pharma

Remembering The Year We’d Rather Forgot

The annus horribilis that has been 2020 verified:

Even through a dismaying pandemic, outsourcing drug development and manufacturing to CDMOs and other external supply-chain partners is, to the largest degree, sustainable.

On a visceral level, that may appear sadly inconsequential.

But keeping drug supplies and new drug development mostly intact was vitally important to patients all over the world.

It required sustained efforts, including enhanced doses of collaborative ingenuity between you and your external partners.

The contagion that kept us apart physically, also pushed us into new ideas for bringing the two sides of outsourcing closer together.

At the same time, the virus laid bare supply-chain vulnerabilities, first and foremost a reliance on offshore sourcing and services.

So without relegating to silver-lining analysis of a very unwanted year, let’s close 2020 with a balanced review of such phenomena, and how we covered it all in these pages of Outsourced Pharma.  

1. Fast Forward

The entire biopharma industry must take pride in the alacrity with which it is mitigating the forces of the pandemic – on patients as well as your organizations, and supply chains. Of course foremost is the incredibly swift COVID-19 vaccine development.

At the beginning of February, Outsourced Pharma began providing readers with editorials, such as Coronavirus: Pharma To The Rescue Too Simple, and important supply-chain analysis, such as COVID-19 No-Fly Zone: A Year And Counting For Biopharma Supply Chains.

From that second editorial:

“Right now, the coronavirus situation is more about transportation than manufacture,” says one biopharma executive with a global supply chain. “If this continues for more than a year, then I think it'll be getting products manufactured that will really be in play.”

We paid close attention to every aspect of outsourcing important to you, as we dealt with COVID-19 developments specifically.

Therefore, while covering aspects of the vaccine chase (see: Do The Math: No Shortage Of Vials For COVID-19 Vaccines), you reacted positively to the editorial, Sign The “50 By 25” Declaration Of Drug Independence.

Bottom line here: In a year when a contagion tried to slow you down, you instead committed to heroically speed up to meet all our challenges – those in the here-and-now, and on the horizon.

Congratulations on your pandemic perseverance. It will serve us well for years to come.  

2. Domestic Deliverance, Political Differences

The events of 2020 served to bolster our position that the U.S. (and other Western countries) are in many cases too reliant on non-domestic supply chains – for raw and starting materials, APIs, antibiotics, generics, and other essential medicines.

We ended up faring quite well, as mentioned above. But consider the headline to this editorial:

I’d encourage readers to look over editorials such as these that might address questions specific to your outsourcing choices:

We certainly were not without good news on this supply-chain front. These and other articles brought you encouraging developments:

Then there was the category of “astonishment”:

Officers of the President of the United States speaking of and directing policy at the role of CDMOs in our drug supply chain.

COVID-19 – and the administration – brought the subject of drug supply chains and outsourcing to the attention of the entire populace. You were front-page news.

Unfortunately, that also brought with it political theatre; we just happened to be in a year with a presidential election underway.

Which, of course, we also addressed head on:

Allow me – understanding the gravity of accusation – to add this:

“Follow the science” became a sadly polarizing statement, even wielded by members of our own industry.

Too often, what was “followed” were preestablished positions that led to brandishing this phrase for political intention.  

That, to me, was unfortunate for our industry, and detracted from the good we’ve done.

3. Model People And Organizations

We energetically covered the ingenuity of the people who make up our industry.

We learned of personalities, careers, and activities:

 In, “We Forgot Our People”: The Time Outsourcing Might Have Stopped, we then questioned how we handle the risk assessment for all our frontline professionals.

Finally, a favorite topic of mine: new business models for better outsourcing outcomes. I hope you’ll spend some time with these as we enter a new era of outsourcing:

There Is An Ending

Perhaps every one of us wondered at times whether this year would ever end.

Before writing this, I went back and reread my final editorial for last year. It was titled: Outsourcing Industry: Naughty Or Nice in 2019?

It included an appearance by Santa Claus. The buoyancy within conveys all we need to know about how much has changed in twelve months.

Nonetheless, I’ll conclude here exactly as I did one year ago:

“And thank goodness for every Outsourced Pharma reader, contributor, conference attendee and speaker, our sponsors, and my colleagues, for making this a truly remarkable year.

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.”