May 01, 2022

Futurizing healthcare by localizing the life sciences

By Cytiva

International funding brings significant value to young scientists and their work around the globe. One scientist’s story illustrates how in-country for-country research and manufacturing can strengthen biopharma´s resilience.

Mustapha Bittaye is a senior scientist working on diagnostic assay development at Medicines Discovery Catapult. Prior to his time at the Catapult, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Jenner Institute helping to create the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. Mustapha was born in The Gambia and earned a scholarship that took him to the UK to study Microbial Proteomics, laying the groundwork for his truly amazing contributions to human health.

Though his education and resume are impressive, it is his humble beginnings that have stayed with him; in particular he credits his scholarship as the landmark moment in his scientific career. His story is illustrative of the significant value international funding can bring to young scientists and their work around the globe.

“I started my scientific career in The Gambia, working at the Medical Research Council there, which is funded by the UK government. And that gave me the opportunity to see in real life the impact that science can have on the life of people.”

Mustapha’s journey from The Gambia to the UK raises an important issue: talented individuals often have to move abroad to conduct research or seek professional opportunities because there are no capabilities or resources in their home nations. In fact, the biopharma industry has acknowledged that many countries have struggled to foster a strong base of local talent dedicated to the field, and this remains a key challenge in creating a more resilient industry. So how can organizations in the life sciences help bolster in-country for-country research, facilities, and funding?

Cytiva found one answer: bring the resources to them. Since 2016, Cytiva has partnered with Seeding Labs, a non-profit organization that empowers scientists in developing countries by providing the tools and resources they need to collaborate and connect.

So far, Cytiva donated 250 000 USD of well-maintained lab equipment to researchers at nineteen universities in ten developing countries as part of this ‘Giving Back to the Science Community’ initiative. That essential research equipment is being utilized in Cameroon, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Peru, Ukraine, and Zambia to tackle local and global human and environmental health challenges.

Echoing the importance of this partnership, Dr. Aina Adeogun, Associate Professor at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, says "With access to the instruments they need, my students will definitely produce research of high quality and visibility. The ideas are there, they just need to be crystallized with the right instrumentation.”

In-country for-country initiatives are not only focused on empowering research, but also improving biomanufacturing. According to data from the Global Biopharma Resilience Index 59% of biopharma executives agreed that offshoring of drug manufacturing to low-cost countries is over, and 67% believe that biomanufacturing will dramatically increase in their own countries over the next three years.

However, despite the growth, respondents said that they would only be able to meet 75% of local needs in the event of a surge in demand for insulin and vaccines. This is a huge hurdle for the industry: If countries are unable to fulfill their country’s demand for therapeutics, that becomes an impediment to global access to healthcare. To help the industry make this much-needed shift, Cytiva is helping companies build manufacturing capacity and increase their speed to market in areas across the globe.

As an example, in response to the growing demand for biologic medicines from neighboring markets like Japan and South Korea, Cytiva and Wego, one of the largest healthcare technology suppliers in the country announced a collaboration to triple the single-use manufacturing capacity in Asia Pacific. This effort will improve the manufacturing resilience and cost efficiencies, decrease lead times, and deliver high-quality products to our customers in the Asia-Pacific region.

In 2021, Cytiva also announced an additional strategic growth plan with our sister company (under Danaher) Pall Life Sciences. It includes major investments to expand manufacturing capacity for life sciences products helping to meet customer demand.

So, if the funding is available, local research efforts are supported, and there is a large-scale movement towards production of therapies in-country, what remains to ensure we can deliver global access to therapeutics in these developing countries? Mustapha’s vision for the future is simple in words, yet ambitious in practice: The transformation of human health will be realized through equitable access to therapeutics.

“It's not just deploying the vaccine[s], but also deploying them at a time of need to the communities that need them the most. For me, it is the accessibility which has greater impact.”

Cytiva’s VP of Marketing and Strategy, Conor McKechnie, echoes many of Mustapha’s concerns in an article he wrote on his 2022 predictions, where he argued that the inequity in access will prolong this pandemic: “With vaccines, this is not just a problem for poorer countries. It is a problem for all. […] no one is safe from COVID-19 until we are all safe.”

Learn more about Mustapha Bittaye and the Discovery Makers