The Pharmaceutical Sciences department develops pharmaceutical products needed in the clinical trials of drug candidates. The products may be solutions, suspensions, tablets, capsules, inhalation powders and infusions as well as injections. The department also produces preparations needed in various pre-clinical trials.
It also documents and carries out quality assurance to verify the quality, consistency and stability of these preparations. The department is now also responsible for the product development of new generic products and the bioequivalence studies required. These studies are carried out to ensure that Orion’s generic version is similar to the original proprietary drug product.
“We ensure that the drug molecules selected for trials can be safely administered to humans. It is important that drug molecules are absorbed sufficiently by the human body in order to be therapeutically effective,” says Bert van Veen, Head of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
“Patients and doctors must be able to trust that the drug is acting as intended in every patient. Orion’s product range is wide and each route of administration and dosage form requires a specific combination of biopharmaceutical, chemical analytical and physico-analytical methods and equipment, which are operated by our experienced laboratory employees and scientists.”
Drug product development is a data-driven marathon
The most important task of the department is to serve patients and produce safe and effective products for them. Van Veen's vision is that in the future it will increasingly patent and publish its achievements.
“We want to develop into a nationally and internationally acknowledged Pharmaceutical Sciences organisation with highly motivated employees helping patients and peers with their special expertise,” van Veen says.
Van Veen describes pharmaceutical product development as a marathon rather than a series of sprints.
“It requires relentless competence development and generation of scientific knowledge. I want to strengthen our culture in which data, expertise and science guide our daily operations and decision-making.”
Hand in hand with the scientific community
Orion’s Pharmaceutical Sciences department has close contacts with the scientific community and research consultants to help maintain and update its expertise.
“The scientific community has long been talking about tailored treatments for patients. In research, our perspective goes beyond small molecule therapeutics, as biological therapies are increasingly being developed,” says van Veen.
The development of cell and gene therapies has been rapid, and with the coronavirus pandemic, the mRNA technology has also quickly entered wider markets. It is predicted that, in the next few years, biosimilars – or generic biological products – will gain ground.
“We need to expand our competence in production processes and product development and adopt new technologies in areas such as oncology. It is an area seeing rapid growth and we are determined to be an important player in it. Being involved in the ongoing rapid pharmaceutical drug and product development is a real opportunity for us,” says van Veen.
The role of large data sets is growing
Optimal size is one of Orion’s strengths as a Research & Development organisation. The R&D organisation is dynamic even though its entire R&D chain operates in-house, starting from pre-clinical in vitro trials to the final phase clinical trials.
“Thanks to our suitable size, I can speak to everyone in our R&D organisation directly. I want to protect and enhance the transparency of our working environment, as this will support dialogue and proactiveness. It is key that everyone can freely present and discuss ideas,” says van Veen.
“Collecting and analysing large data sets by AI and machine learning, for example, are also becoming an integral part of our work. The right tools already exist. For this purpose, the Pharmaceutical Sciences department has launched the Computational Pharmaceuticals unit, which is responsible for integrating multidimensional models, predictive software and machine learning into pharmaceutical product and process development.”
Bert van Veen
Born and raised in the Netherlands, van Veen studied pharmaceutical technology at the University of Groningen obtaining his Masters in 1999 and Doctorate in 2003. He received support from the Erasmus programme to perform parts of his research in Kuopio. He continued as a post doc researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, from where he joined Orion in 2004.
He has headed the Pharmaceutical Sciences department at Orion since May 2021.
Text: Jussi-Pekka Aukia
30 March 2022