Issue:March 2022

CDMO INNOVATION - How a Global CDMO Puts Innovation at the Forefront of its Business Strategy

Kai Vogt, Senior Vice President Corporate Development/Legal/Corporate Compliance/IT, Vetter


By its very nature, the healthcare industry is subject to continuous change. The need to adapt to customer and patient requirements, ever-more complex and sensitive drug substances, and steadily increasing regulatory requirements in the pharmaceutical environment poses numerous challenges. And, while the dominance of the blockbuster drugs is no longer the status quo, COVID-19 and its variants have also demanded significant time and energy from pharmaceutical/biotech companies. To keep pace with future challenges in this rapidly changing market, innovation is essential.

In the pharma/biotech market the term “innovation” refers to developments that open up new markets, processes and/or technologies. It also means pioneering ways of putting existing technologies to the test, rethinking, and utilizing them to the best of their advantage. Innovation begins with an idea or an invention, which is then subject to research, creativity, discipline, and consistent ongoing development before being market ready.

At Vetter, a leading Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO), progress has always been an element of its identity. As a family business, we drive innovation, so that we can continue playing a leading role in the global markets and improve the quality of life for patients worldwide. We also recognize that an innovative corporate culture forms the basis for motivated and committed employees.

Innovation begins with an idea or an invention.


As part of a wide-ranging digitization strategy, our focus areas include projects in the areas of production, quality, and industry 4.0. Innovative technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), and autonomous, cooperative robots, are firmly anchored in the company’s strategy. Digitization always plays a role where it clearly and comprehensibly leads to quality or process improvements.

The factory processes of the future also have high priority. Artificial intelligence methods are key to tomorrow’s smart factory with topics such as predictive maintenance, data analysis, or intelligent worker-assistance systems. In addition, robotic process automation is planned to be used for suitable processes in the future. Recurring, clearly definable, or time-intensive activities can be carried out by digital software robots.


Our continuous, company-wide pursuit of excellence in production, aptly named Production Excellence (Prodex), leads to sustainable results. By creating an internal team of experts, “solutions from production for production” are designed and implemented with internal resources. This enables a holistic approach for all production sites as well as for cooperation with other departments. Through ProdEx, we strive to meet high flexibility and efficiency in production while exceeding the increased quality requirements of customers and regulatory authorities.

Quite a few of the systems we are using were developed completely in-house. In this manner, our company is building up internal competencies that will become increasingly important in the future. The holistic cleanroom concept V-CRT® (Vetter Cleanroom Technology) is based on the idea of a fully automated decontamination of the entire cleanroom. Our company was awarded the Fraunhofer CLEAN! award for this in-house-developed system which honors groundbreaking developments in cleanroom technology.

Collaborative work with so-called YuMi® robots (short for you and me) is already taking place within our company. After a successful pilot phase with the two-arm robot in secondary packaging, we have now increased the use of this technology. The close cooperation between man and machine makes it possible to design manufacturing processes more flexibly and thus be able to respond even better to customer requirements.

Recurring, clearly definable or time-intensive activities can be carried out by digital software robots.


Developments in the pharmaceutical world are multifaceted. As a future-oriented service provider, we continuously monitor market trends and customer requirements. To achieve a new industry standard for small batch production, our company has partnered with Syntegon Technology to develop a fully automated, highly flexible production cell that sets new standards in the fill/finish industry. For this successful partnership, the industry association Parenteral Drug Association (PDA) awarded both companies with the Drug Delivery Innovation Award 2021Partnership Category.

Partnerships can be an important basis for innovative strength and future-oriented processes. The strategic alliance with Rentschler Biopharma SE, initiated in 2020, is intended to create added value for customers and their patients through the active exchange of know-how and best-practice experience. Our two companies expand their service portfolio by providing complementary services and expertise along the value chain. This way, promising new therapies are intended to reach patients with severe and rare diseases even faster.


Innovations are advanced at all corporate levels, both across the business divisions as well as within the individual departments. A well interlocked and open organization focusing on resources and goals forms the foundation of an innovative company culture. Innovative strength goes hand-in-hand with reliable, efficient, and safe processes. A continuous, close dialogue with customers about product, service, and process requirements is also crucial.

In addition to a good organizational structure and close orientation toward the markets, it is important to have a feel for emerging trends among our staff members and throughout the company. Innovative action also requires business acumen because innovation requires investment in the idea as well as effort in its implementation. There is no doubt, however, that there is no alternative to this courage. As the development and manufacturing of medications becomes increasingly complex and competition more intense, future-oriented companies must work on innovative solutions to keep pace.


Innovation is diverse. Therefore, we have in place a variety of methods in order to promote innovation. One of them is managing innovation processes. This is realized in many of our business areas dealing with trends, new developments, or technology ideas in terms of filling processes as well as injection systems and packaging solutions. In addition, all staff members can submit ideas via an internal platform that are then reviewed by a multi-professional committee of experts. If proposals are successfully implemented, the innovators receive a bonus.

With the ideas, visions, and passion, the 5,500 employees lay the foundation for successful innovations.

In addition to cooperation and intensive exchange across all levels, willingness to innovate is of fundamental importance. The decisive factor is to be passionate about what you do, finding the topics exciting and meaningful. The focus is always on people – on the patients whose quality of life we improve with the drugs we produce and on all the staff members who have shaped and developed the company for more than 70 years. Today, there are around 5,700 of them on three continents. With their ideas, visions, and passion, they lay the foundation for successful innovations.

Developing and producing drugs for our international customers and ultimately for patients around the globe is our world, but it is innovation that keeps it going and continues to move us forward.