What are the big challenges in biopharma manufacturing?

25 Apr 2018

Robert Dunne, GlycoSeLect. Image: Daire Hall

This week on Leaders’ Insights, we’re taking a peek inside the world of biopharma manufacturing, and Robert Dunne of GlycoSeLect is helping us pull back the curtain.

Robert Dunne is the CEO at GlycoSeLect Ltd.

A chemistry graduate of Trinity College Dublin, he started his career in the quality assurance function of Elan, continuing this responsibility with Tosara, the maker of Sudocrem.

He obtained an MBA from University College Dublin and started his general management career with Bioglan Pharma, moving to Alimentary Health in Cork before working with Primecore Program Management.

He was elected president of Bohemian FC prior to taking up his present position at GlycoSeLect.

Describe your role and what you do.

Multitasking while leading a small team to commercialise an innovative technology. Day-to-day work on finance, operations and business development.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I use time management techniques that I learned from a course I took in the Irish Management Institute, and principles for working remotely that we used at a previous employer. These induce a discipline, which allows me time to set priorities.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

The biopharmaceutical analytical market segment uses complex methods to characterise its products. These are expensive and time-consuming. However, by applying our technology to standard analytical platforms, the analysis time and overall costs are reduced.

The manufacturing of biopharmaceutical products is expensive, with many product purification steps. Again, this is costly, and reducing the number of steps or improving their efficiency reduces these costs. Our technology improves product separation when applied to standard equipment. This improves manufacturing efficiency and could reduce the number of steps required, with consequent cost savings.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

The pharmaceutical industry is under pressure to reduce costs from both patients and shareholders. Our technology improves product analysis and manufacture, thereby reducing costs across the value chain, from product development to manufacturing.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I participated in the Enterprise Ireland business partner programme with the aim of using my experience to help commercialise a technology for use in the life sciences market.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

Allowing product introduction time to slip by not standing up to a dogged manager who hadn’t done enough basic research. Make sure you assemble data and information that everyone agrees on before you commit to timelines!

How do you get the best out of your team?

We are working with innovative technology and major pharmaceutical companies. I ensure this highly motivating environment is available to everyone through participation and communication.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?

Never noticed a diversity problem in companies I have worked for, nor in the sector. Perhaps the sector is a case study in diversity?

Who is your role model and why?

My parents gave me a great upbringing and were inspirational. My father was a commercial traveller who showed me how important your customers are. My mother had a terrific work ethic from her Scottish background and, from living through World War II, knew how to stretch resources.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Crowning the Customer by Feargal Quinn.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

A time management tool that was part of an Irish Management Institute training course. Support from my fellow board members, especially our non-executive directors.

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