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SOLVIAS – Innovative and Customer Focused

Karen Huebscher is the Chief Executive Officer of Solvias, a contract development, manufacturing and research organization with more than 400 employees headquartered in northwest Switzerland. Solvias develops, analyzes and tests a wide range of substances and products for the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, agro and cosmetic industries. With a PhD in molecular genetics and more than 16 years in senior management roles at Novartis, Huebscher has been the CEO of Solvias since 2014. Her top priorities are innovation and first-class customer service. Huebscher talks about the values that make Solvias a partner of choice and what’s in store for 2016 and beyond.

What geographical areas is Solvias focusing on? Solvias started in 1999 in Switzerland, and the primary customer base was in Switzerland and Western Europe. The company soon developed quite a significant footprint in North America, particularly in solid state, custom synthesis and catalysis. Recently, we have observed a strong interest in our analytical capabilities from customers in North America, especially in biopharma and small molecule analytics. Growth in this area is certainly one of our priorities in 2016.

What other areas will Solvias concentrate on for 2016? Talent management and attracting the right people continues to be a core focus for the whole organization, right up to the executive committee.

How do you handle innovation at Solvias? In 2014, we introduced an Innovation Board, so employees can bring their brightest ideas forward for review. The most promising ones receive resources and management support. Innovation is not a new notion for us. We are the only commercial CRO with a metal-free sample preparation laboratory for our ICP-MS analysis. We have rolled out cell-based bioassays. We are introducing the first rapid sterility test, which reduces the time for analysis from 14 days to just 5 and includes the ability to identify the contaminating agent. We also have one of the largest and most innovative portfolios of ligands. We will continue to invest in innovation and cutting-edge expertise, as this is at the heart of what our organization represents.

So are you planning to launch any products or services in 2016? What are the main areas for Solvias to grow and develop? Areas for growth are fast sterility tests and microbiology in general, cell-based bioassays, and extractables & leachables, where we have an industry-leading proprietary database. Another area of growth is biopharmaceuticals. In fact, we were one of the first analytical companies working on biosimilars! Clearly, we also work with NBEs or originator products, and continue to broaden our capacity and capabilities to keep up with our clients’ demands as well as the ever-changing regulatory environment. Also in 2016, we are greatly expanding our QC-release capabilities and have built a dedicated QC-lab offering 95% of all compendial methods (Ph. Eur., USP and JP).

What makes Solvias a good partner? It is our scientific expertise, our innovation, our continued investment in new technologies, and always providing customers direct access to our industry-leading experts. Many customers appreciate the opportunity to speak with our scientists without having to go through organizational layers.

How has Solvias changed in recent years? In 2010, Solvias moved from its original location in Basel, Switzerland, to new facilities just outside the city. Following the acquisition of  Confarma in France in 2013, we now have three facilities in close proximity. We can get experts to the table quickly to address questions from customers – that really differentiates us from other companies.

And finally, how is your industry changing and what is driving it? We are seeing strong consolidation, and there are two or three large players in our industry that continue to grow – inorganically to a great extent. But while there is pressure on pricing, there is also significant opportunity. We are seeing a continued outsourcing trend in particular by the pharmaceutical industry, as it looks for cost savings and expertise. Solvias can leverage its passion for high-level expertise and quality, science and problem solving. We love challenges.

This article was published in Chemical & Engineering News.

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