Powerful partnerships: One year on with Upperton Pharma Solutions
Upperton is a specialist pharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organisation with more than twenty years of experience. In 2022, the leadership team chose to work with Inflexion based both on their experience in the healthcare sector as well as a common vision for the growth of the business in its home market and internationally. In the year since, headcount has doubled, and a state-of-the-art facility is due to open ahead of schedule. CEO Nikki Whitfield shares the firm’s experience.
At the time of the partnership, you’d been impressed with Inflexion’s demonstration of belief in Upperton’s team and their commitment to your vision for growth. How has the first year been compared to your expectations?
Our first year with Inflexion has exceeded our expectations! At the time of the investment, we were ready to move forward with locking our new facility design and expand the business rapidly. We hoped that the commitment given by Inflexion to support this significant business growth would be realised but were concerned there may be a slowing of our progress whilst the Investment team engaged with the business. Our concerns were completely unfounded and instead we found that Inflexion’s trust in the management team and vision allowed us to push forward faster than we had anticipated: with their support, we accelerated recruitment ahead of plan and invested in significant manufacturing process trains that will provide a far greater business offering at the completion of the facility build.
We have found that the Inflexion team share our commitment to recruiting the right people for the business and investing in the current employees to strengthen the culture that is so critical to our success. The Inflexion team respect the experience that is within our business but have also opened up their network to make sure we have access to seasoned professionals throughout the industry to provide advice and often provide an experienced sounding board.
Part of your early work together included expanding scale through a new manufacturing facility, and ground broke in January. How will this enhance Upperton’s offering?
Our new development, analytical and GMP manufacturing facility is going to complete ahead of schedule in late summer and we anticipate the facility being operational at the end of 2023. The new facilities represent a ten-fold increase in manufacturing space with an associated four-fold increase in analytical space; this expansion combined with the trebling of headcount over the last 18 months ensures that we can continue to offer fast development timelines to more customers and strengthens our ability to handle the more complex molecule classes at scale, including highly potent compounds. We have made significant investment in larger scale manufacturing process trains which will provide the capability to manufacture larger batch sizes (up to 250Kg powder, 500,000 tablet or capsule batch sizes) and offer gold standard processing equipment such as the Gerteis roller compactor which was too large for our existing facility. All of this expansion means that we can support existing and new customers into larger stage development and into commercial production for smaller volume, high value products.
How has your business grown since the Inflexion investment and how has the Inflexion investment/talent team supported this growth?
The business has grown significantly since the investment; in addition to our overall headcount doubling in that time, we have also installed numerous financial, commercial and operational systems to strengthen our infrastructure and increase the efficiency of the day-to-day operations. As part of the growth, we have been fortunate to add a Chief Financial Officer and a Director of Quality and Compliance to the leadership team, while new groups have been established to support streamlined operational delivery including a technology transfer team and a business development function.
Inflexion provided invaluable input on the technical side for the CFO recruitment as we did not have the expertise in the business to make sure this critical role was successfully filled by a strong candidate. Their support ensured we could focus on making sure the successful candidate was a good cultural fit for the leadership team and the business.
We recently received the Kings Award for International Trade, and this was due in part to the investment in the expansion and capability of the business provided by Inflexion which has allowed the Upperton team to expand their services internationally.
What are plans for the next year?
Upperton is now entering a very exciting phase as we look to move to the new facility and expand our services into the larger scale manufacturing space; the facility will open with the capability to offer drug development programmes from pre-clinical through to late stage clinical and commercial operations. It is a fantastic opportunity to continue to work with our current customers and build on the strong relationships that have been built through their early development as well as welcome new customers to Upperton and support their drug development whatever stage they are at.
What will Upperton look like after three years with Inflexion?
The leadership team and Board remain laser focused for the remainder of 2023 to ensure we start 2024 with a state-of-the-art development and manufacturing facility with expanded capabilities to support customers developing oral, nasal and pulmonary products. In the next 12 to 18 months, we will build on the current capabilities to ensure we are able to continually offer our customers scientifically robust development programmes and efficient, streamlined pathways through scale-up and delivery of clinical trial materials. Our headcount is expected to continue to increase but we are passionate about maintaining the flexibility, agility and scientific talent that makes Upperton special today. We will also look at establishing an increased global footprint for the business to expand process scale, capability and access to alternative technologies in line with our customers’ needs and expectations.