St. Louis: to better serve product innovation
Why a new R&D infrastructure in the United States?
St. Louis has benefited from a building dedicated to R&D since April, 20. The new premises fully replace the former unit in order to meet two needs. Firstly, they give R&D teams more space in which to work. Until the new building, R&D relied upon Industrial Operations space and equipment to complete pilot batches and complete scale-up. We are now able to function much more independently and also to work on several projects simultaneously, in order to perform our mission of developing new products and thus supplementing the Group's product portfolio. Secondly, the new building frees up space in the main manufacturing building to allow quality control laboratories to expand and provide new office space for Industrial Operations.
Were other locations considered?
There was some consideration of alternate locations, notably the headquarters of Virbac North America in Fort Worth, Texas. Ultimately, two deciding factors led us to remain in St. Louis. First, St. Louis is the main manufacturing site for products in North America. Products developed by R&D will subsequently be scaled up and manufactured by this commercial manufacturing facility. In addition, the activities required by regulations to qualify the manufacturing facility lead Virbac to choose the current location. Indeed, under US regulations, the commercial manufacturing site must be the same site that made the registration batches, or we must undertake a manufacturing site change process. Making the registration batches at the St. Louis site eliminates this step as a precursor to going to market.
How is the building structured?
The total space in the new building is 808 m², which does not include a separate, pre-existing office building. This represents an increase of almost 60% over the previous facility for formulation, pilot scale work and analytical laboratory space. Eight team members work on these new premises. The new work area has allowed us to have space for a new tablet press, a development scale fluid bed drier, high sheer granulator and additional liquid mixing equipment. We also have growth space in the analytical lab for new testing equipment for the next several years. It should be noted that the building was constructed with the capability to add a second level in the future if needed to accommodate R&D growth.
Is the R&D activity evolving?
Continuously! While the main focus is North American product innovation, the team also handles product transfers from headquarters and is currently working on its first joint North American – European product development activity. The St. Louis facility and team are EU GMP compliant and will be conducting the work, providing the data, and collaborating with headquarters colleagues on the European Part II dossier for this product. There are plans for the group to be actively involved in other trans-national projects in the pipeline. Additionally, several of the products will also be exported to other Virbac subsidiaries once in commercial production.
What were the main stages of this project?
Approval of the concept of a new R&D building was given in early 2011 by the supervisory board. Specifications for this new structure were drawn up in the second quarter of the year, which enabled us to establish the budget allowance for the project. Based on the plans, the project was then approved by the executive board at the end of the 2012.
What about construction work?
The actual construction of the building began in the middle of 2013 and was overseen by Conway Construction. It took approximately six months from ground-breaking to occupancy. Virbac received an occupancy permit in February 2014. Following this, equipment and teams were relocated in order to ensure that work resumed in May, after the final finishing touches.
What are your thoughts at the end of this process?
Being able to design the space starting with a blank page enabled us to create just the space we needed in an efficient arrangement. Our aim is to deliver important products to the business, with deliverables on five products currently depending on the team’s efforts. The team is currently working on three formulations, two scale-ups, several stability programs and supporting several commercial changes. We are pleased and honoured to have this new building, which we believe illustrates Virbac's long-term commitment to innovation.