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Creating a Growth Mindset: Interview with Celonic’s COO

In an interview published in the August 2021 edition of the Business Enquire Magazine, Celonic’s Chief Operating Officer, Vikalp Mohan talks about the industry’s rapid response to the pandemic and Celonic’s recent investments – in terms of skilled talent, technologies, and manufacturing capacities – to develop and manufacture novel therapeutic modalities like mRNA vaccines and other advanced therapeutic medical products (ATMPs).

“No one would have anticipated getting a vaccine out in a year since the outbreak of the pandemic. It has been possible because of the advancements in modalities such as mRNA, which has been in existence as a potential modality for almost two decades. But just compressing the development and creating a vaccine which could have your body’s immune system tuned to create antibodies for defending against a new novel virus in this timeframe? It’s fascinating. COVID-19 has changed the game in life sciences.”

Taking a novel therapeutic from discovery to patients is an arduous journey, with many technical and regulatory hurdles. Vikalp talks about the role that Celonic plays – as a trusted CDMO partner – in enabling its partners to complete this journey successfully, which in most cases means getting first to clinic and market.

 “We want to serve our end community of patients as well as our collaborating partners across the globe. The question is how can we accelerate it? And in a true sense, what is Celonic’s platform, what could Celonic offer to add value to biotech players? There’s a huge focus on the time element, that’s part of our strategy – does Celonic’s platform continue to help our collaborators bring the future of the innovations to the patients earlier?”

The industry is dealing with a talent crunch. Vikalp highlights the need to have a corporate purpose and to nurture a learning mindset. Celonic continues to invest in training and upskilling talent to deliver on the promise of bringing the next generation of biotherapeutics safely and quickly to patients in need.

“People are the most significant investment that we do as an organization. There is a talent war, it is extremely challenging! These are young and experienced minds; what I have seen is you have to give them a purpose.

Everyone, including myself, you have to have a corporate purpose and then you need to believe in that purpose. Our purpose is quite well defined: we truly want to be the enabler of the biotherapeutics of tomorrow. So, we really want to be an enabler and this puts us into having a thinking and upgrading and learning mindset of what’s coming up, utilizing platform process analytics.

When we go out and attract talent, we do promise our talent pool that you will be working on the frontier of innovation and bio innovation.”

Investing in the right technologies is as important for Celonic as investing in the right talent. Vikalp talks about Celonic’s recent expansion of manufacturing capacities including new facilities to manufacture cell and gene therapies.

“The industry is massively consolidating,” explained Vikalp. “There has been huge interest and there are more players coming in. The industry is growing and we want to stay ahead of the pack. If someone is looking at Celonic, we are actively striving to be known as the true technology partner of choice.

And technology for us is central, we do invest heavily in this area. Out of the investment we are making, we have already made high-level CAPEX at the life science park in Stein for €100 hundred million and Heidelberg for around €60 million.”

What’s next for Celonic? Vikalp discusses Celonic’s plan to expand to the US and strengthen its capabilities for developing and manufacturing advanced therapeutics. 

“This [Serving clients across the globe] requires a global footprint, so we would be beyond our physical footprint at present. So we will be expanding into the US, that’s part of our strategy and focus.

The next element goes more into looking at our internal platforms, and where we want to focus on advanced therapeutics or ATMP cell and gene therapies. How do we build our capabilities and capacities to serve the novel modalities? ATMP will be a part of this, and so will cell and genes.”

Read the full interview here.