Continuus Pharmaceuticals (CP) is a Massachusetts-based startup focused on making medicine more affordable and accessible all over the world. To do this, CP employs end-to-end integrated continuous manufacturing (ICM) using technology initially developed through a $65 million joint research project between Novartis and MIT. ICM allows for on-demand manufacturing and is gaining ground as an alternative to traditional batch manufacturing.
CP turned to MIT Sloan’s Healthcare Lab (H-Lab) for help developing an actionable distribution strategy for ICM-made pharmaceuticals. Two students teamed up to take on the project: Dr. Ahmed Mady, a physician and entrepreneur in MIT’s Executive MBA program, and Avery Fullerton, a US Army veteran and mechanical engineer in MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations program.
The pair began by assessing the operational advantages of ICM and the challenges of trying to change the drug manufacturing landscape. The team researched the pharmaceutical supply chain and identified pain points—such as shortages that stem from a lack of incentives for producing less-profitable drugs. The students also interviewed experts to gain insight into the pros and cons of three distribution channels: providing medications directly to the consumer, going through a wholesaler, or leasing the CP equipment to other manufacturers.
The biggest challenge we faced was deciphering the complexity in the pharmaceutical supply chain system. Identifying the key stakeholders, continuous regulatory changes with the ever-shifting incentive structures, and highlighting the current technology trends were among our team’s top priorities.
“We learned about the advantages of specialization at each step of the drug distribution chain.” Fullerton adds.
In the end, the H-Lab team recommended the company engage a wholesaler to distribute its products.
Dr. Bayan Takizawa, co-founder and chief business officer at CP, praised the students for providing the company with critical insights into the pharmaceutical supply chain. “The team members were able to integrate data and information from various sources and formulate a practical set of recommendations that we believe are spot-on,” he says. “Their analysis has allowed us to focus on tangible near-term objectives that will eventually enable our long-term goals.”