One Fine Way.
Fine Contract Research is a new company based in the North East of England and part of the Fine Industries Limited group. Fine Industries is a privately-owned UK-based holding company set up as part of the 2008 management buyout of the Evonik Degussa facility in Seal Sands. Commencing operations in November 2011 when Nigel was hired as Fine Contract Research’s first employee and it immediately secured its first order (from a multinational company based in the North East), there is no doubt that the new venture has hit the ground running – and is moving at speed.
Fine Industries was conceived to allow the creation of a number of subsidiary companies, which are intended to be symbiotic, leveraging the key skills and passions of the management team. The first company within the group was Fine Organics Limited – the familiar name in the industry under which the Seal Sands site had traded before the M&A boom in the early 2000s. Today, it is the core business of Fine Industries with an expected turnover of £32M in 2012.
As a small start-up, Fine Contract Research actively deals with pharmaceutical and biotech companies, using its expertise in route scouting, synthesis and ultimately manufacture to offer a suite of packages ranging from small scale impurity synthesis and novel route selection, to Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) production. These services can be delivered cost-effectively and within tight timelines.
The company’s expertise comes from its skills in steroid chemistry, fluorination, chiral synthesis, sulphur chemistry, and the industrial scale use of hazardous reagents such as thiophosgene, carbon disulphide and ozone, as well as the more usual chemistries. It offers all this in a highly responsive partnership approach, with access to a wide variety of assets not only to the pharma and biotech sectors, but also to the speciality and agrochemical fields.
Ironically, Nigel feels that the opportunity to create Fine Contract Research stemmed from the current economic downturn. ‘Several factors have converged to create the ideal climate for Fine Contract Research to flourish. These include reduced capacity and capability for in-house process R&D and manufacturing in the pharma industry; the financial advantages of using manufacturing assets of a third party instead of costly capital investment; and Asia becoming less favoured for rapid small volume manufacture and cost-effective research under IP protection – the euphoria of five years ago is over.
Britain and the global chemical and biotechnology sectors have seen a tremendous amount of change in recent years, with the larger pharmaceutical companies moving to new externalised models for R&D and manufacture. Innovation today is driven by small biotechs, virtual pharma companies and university spin-outs. All these have opened up a market sector supporting industry and academia that can tap into the knowledge of specialists in areas such as process research, hazard evaluation and polymorph screening, without spending large capital sums. We can offer these skills in collaboration with our partners, adding the essential ingredient of knowing what will make a good industrial process at production scale. This “future proofing” (or designing the synthesis right first time) adds significant value to a compound, especially if our clients aim to licence-out the compound after proof of concept.”
A further three companies are at various stages of development in the Fine Industries group:
- Fine Facilities Management – offering a new approach to asset maintenance and management by increasing manufacturing throughput, dramatically improving profitability and progressively multi-skilling the workforce.
- Fine Software Solutions – a software development company specialising in the design and delivery of business management and improvement systems (web based or desktop), which has written the award-winning Business Management System used at Fine Industries. Fine Software Solutions is now diversifying into supporting other process industries, and even has a first-in-class project in the field of equestrian training.
- Fine Environmental Services – from 2013 will offer hazardous liquid waste treatment services by thermal oxidation. The plant will undergo a full refurbishment and upgrade during 2012 to ensure it meets all current regulatory standards for the industry.The decision to base the company in the NE was due to its sister company’s site at Seal Sands. This immediately gave Fine Contract Research a pool of expertise and assets it could offer clients from the beginning, without incurring large overheads from start-up costs. Nigel himself has studied and worked in the North East for over 22 years. ‘I have found it a friendly, vibrant area for chemistry with many skilled people, a strong research and manufacturing heritage, and a number of active support organisations such as NEPIC and First for Pharma.’Nigel’s aim is to expand this network through his links to the biotech and virtual pharma sector, not only in the UK but across Europe and North America. He also plans to forge partnerships with academics, and again, the strong network in the North East will greatly assist this process because, ultimately, Fine Contract Research needs wide exposure and custom to prosper and grow. ‘I’m genuinely excited by this opportunity to grow a business from scratch in the North East. I love chemistry and believe that passion will be felt in our offering and will drive our business forward; I hope this comes across in our brand.’