It’s been 3 years since FPS opened the US office: how are things going?
Very well. Things have moved very fast. There was a demand from our customer base for FPS to be here and once we arrived a lot of projects accelerated.
Are the United States much different from Europe?
Oh yes much very different. I often tell Europeans that the difference between Americans and Europeans is as wide as the difference between Japanese and Europeans. But because Europeans speak English and have access to a lot of American entertainment they feel they know the US. However the values are completely different but it’s not so obvious at first sight so you really need to live here to realize what makes America very unique. I can tell from experience: I have lived here for 25 years and I am now a US citizen. Also the country is made of very different areas and some can change quickly.
What type of systems do you sell most in the US and Canada?
The majority of the sales are for custom isolators for HPAPI. We really focus on the process of the user and find creative ways to improve ergonomics and ease of use while guaranteeing a low Containment Performance Target. When the product is not as toxic we can design an open structure such as a Laminar Air Flow or Down Flow Booth.
What are the typical applications?
For powder it can be just charging a reactor, discharging a filter dryer, packing off some material, doing some in-process control. We also design isolators for milling and micronization because we design that type of process equipment and it generates a lot of dust so containment is key. For sterile some of the applications include small fill/finish applications, sterility testing, sterile cap feeding, etc.
What are the newest applications?
More and more we deal with toxic powder that are sterile (ADCs are an example). The powder must be kept sterile until a certain point and then the isolator must protect the operator from that toxic product.
Can you share with us one of your recent success?
We won a bid for the largest isolator for HPAPI in the United States. It is also the most ergonomic because of its innovative design. It is very large in size (20 feet wide by 17 feet high by 16 feet deep) and has 4 levels with 3 platforms. The full system can be used for continuous milling and micronization of large commercial quantities but because of its unique design a few chambers can be used to make a small batch. Such flexibility in a large system is really unique and the containment level for such large quantities is also very high (50 nanogram/m3).
What is the Covid-19 situation in the United States now?
Right now, the number of cases in the US is still growing in 20 states including 14 states that are currently experiencing their highest levels of cases. In other states the situation is now under some control. As things are reopening a lot of people are nervous about a second wave. It seems that we will be affected by it longer than other countries because of the local disparities.
What is the effect on the pharmaceutical and biotech industries?
Some sites are really busy pursuing a vaccine and the other sites continue to operate almost at a normal level, however a lot of people work only partially at the office or are only working from home still. As a result, some projects are on hold or postponed by a few months. Now there is a certain level of stability in pharmaceutical that other industries don’t enjoy so I expect the activity to resume to a normal level soon.
How do you see the next 5 years for FPS America?
Now that we are based here, we are really getting to know our existing and prospective customers very well and they better understand our capabilities. Our relationship with them is getting much stronger and that opens up another level of cooperation which is very exciting. I really expect a lot of success in the coming years.