Oct 18, 2017

Devendra Mishra

Co-Founder and Executive Director, Bio Supply Management Alliance


When the Bio Supply Management Alliance (BSMA) was born a decade ago right here in the Bay Area, the goals were lofty: create a worldwide community of operations and supply chain management leaders and professionals in the biotech, biopharma, and biomedical device industries. Since then, I’ve been overwhelmed by the growth and success of the global industry, and in particular, the role that California and Silicon Valley have played in its success.

Not surprising then that I didn’t have to look far to find keynote speakers for our 10th annual conference in Foster City. Supply Chain executives from Kite Pharma, Illumina and Roche shared case studies that reinforce California’s leading-edge in employing new technologies that are rapidly advancing how life-saving products are being produced and delivered.

Tim Moore of Kite Pharma has a particularly tough job as his company develops personalized cancer immunology for patients across the globe. Cell therapy is fundamentally different than biopharma products, so each patient represents another “batch”; therefore production takes place in a lab environment vs. a manufacturing site. This on-demand capacity, with little raw inventory storage, necessitates a stable stream of dependable suppliers that can respond to a made-to-order operation. Kite uses an integrated model for delivery, equivalent to Amazon, including a dashboard interface.

Kaoru Nishino of Roche talked more about developing new strategies to address shrinking lead time. Nishino referenced the “inconvenient truth” that supply chains have a long way to go in becoming more collaborative and efficient. Despite the scientific orientation of the industry, people are set in their ways and are threatened by new technology. Silicon Valley tech trends can close the gap. For example, the sharing economy can help with spare capacity such as unused resources or shared insights. However, Nishino warned that technology isn’t a complete panacea, and software alone doesn’t change an industry. Additionally, firms that are destined for organizational efficiency might need to make way for a more collaborative platform.

Kevin Pegels of Illumina described a “customer-centric supply chain transformation.” Illumina’s rapid growth has forced it to develop a fast-paced, collaborative culture, something that has more recently been realized in the supply chain context. Illumina created a goal for 2020 that called for 100 percent availability of life-changing products through innovative supply chain solutions. Like Kite, the company has an end-to-end focus and is also looking at efficiencies such as packaging transformation and bulk options. The result of this transformation: fewer backorders, better customer ratings, along with cost savings that have helped this unit become a value-add for the company.

The conference also included panels, including “The Resurgence of Manufacturing in Biomedical and Bio-pharma” moderated by City of Fremont’s Director of Economic Development, Kelly Kline, that focused on the importance of agility and responsiveness to product and process changes. Among the panelists were Mike Prindiville with Intuitive Surgical, Mike Zuerlein with Illumina, and Gregory Theyel with the Biomedical Manufacturing Network.

This panel explored key factors that give the Bay Area a competitive edge in being chosen as a prime location for manufacturing companies. For example, there are close to 800 manufacturing companies including biomedical and biopharma companies in Fremont alone! The Bay Area’s popularity as a manufacturing hotbed stems from favorable factors such as speed and agility for getting products to market, access to supply chain components making coordination easier, and high-quality delivery in a strictly regulated environment.

The engaging conversation also focused on talent, employment, and the acute workforce gap in the manufacturing sector — for example, with 1.2 million job openings, there are only 200,000 graduates able to fill those jobs. Keck Graduate Institute students in attendance enjoyed the interactive discussion and walked away with great tips from panelists. For example, more employers agree that soft skills and the ability to solve problems are highly coveted traits in job seekers over technical skills alone.

We ended the day with many discussions about the challenges and opportunities of biotechnology innovation in the Bay Area. The event also allowed for plenty of networking opportunities — and judging by the excitement level and impromptu break-out discussions during networking, not only was the event a success, but BSMA has also achieved the lofty goals that we set 10 years ago.