While much of the attention and development of pharmaceuticals is focused on oral solid dosage forms, the market for topical treatments of dermatological indications is growing. In fact, according to recent reports the dermatology market is expected to grow to more than $13B by 2017.
As the market for dermatology products increase, so does the need for expert contract formulation and product development services. With this in mind, Debra Dow is working to assemble a team best suited to assist in the development of high-quality topical medicine, with knowledge and understanding of FDA dermatology division regulations and a track record for success.
Dow is a co-founder of Symbio, LLC, a specialty clinical research organization with extensive expertise conducting clinical studies in dermatology, and has recently opened Dow Development Laboratories, (DDL) in Petaluma, CA. The new laboratory facility is set-up to provide full scope topical product development services.
The team has experience and resources to take dermatology product from concept through the product development process, concluding with submission of the regulatory application. In collaboration with Symbio, DDL is a CRO that can bring API through product approval, in manner that offers unique efficiencies in dermatology development.
History and Background
Symbio opened in 2002 and has become a leader in the management of pivotal clinical dermatology studies in the U.S. According to Jared Holley, a project manager at Symbio, this success can be attributed to strong relationships with U.S. dermatologists and clinical research sites, consistently high-quality service, and the partnerships they form with their sponsors.
Symbio was working out of a small laboratory in Colorado, but to better serve their clients and expand the services they offer, the company decided to re-locate to a larger facility in Petaluma, California about two years ago. Holley, who was involved in initial planning, says very few organizations bring together CMC with clinical development in the contract dermatology Industry. In addition to providing complete topical product development services, DDL ensures compliance with FDA and/or EU regulations.
Construction on the new facility began in December 2013, and it was completed in May 2014, with a grand opening on July 15, 2014.
Holley adds, “Initial team members were focused on creating quality systems, SOPs, procedures, and the equipment acquisition required to become an FDA-approved facility for manufacture of clinical supplies. The FDA audited DDL in November 2014 and granted DDL with the clinical manufacturing license. Holley attributes the speed with which DDL was able to create and grow the company to the team’s extensive experience working together in a very similar environment and business structure during their time together at Dow Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Dow Development Labs, LLC currently has 16 people on staff with the intention of ramping up to 30 by the end of the year.
The Services That Matter
For a company to be successful, they have to offer something that either no one else offers, or do that “something” better than anyone else. For DDL, that something is formulation development expertise.
“The service that we pride ourselves on and consider our core competency and expertise is formulation development,” explains Holley. “Clients come to us with a vision for their product and we bring it to life, ensuring strong science supports the product idea for a smooth regulatory pathway. We are the best at creating a formulation that is stable, delivers the drug to the site of target indication, and is aesthetically elegant for ease of use by future patients. That is our core expertise.”
He continues, “Creating a quality formulation is the first step in the product development process, and most important. Our scientists have experience in choosing optimum excipients to attain a quality formulation, understand both the art and the science behind topical formulation development, and are experienced in positioning the program for regulatory approval.
“Various experiments are designed to develop formulations, assess skin penetration profile, select packaging, select preservative systems, conduct stability studies, and manufacturing process scale-up for GLP and GMP batches. DDL is able to manufacture batches to support up to Phase II clinical evaluation, and routinely transfers the technology package to a well-known CMO for manufacture of registration batches.
“After technology transfer, the work is not done for DDL, as we will manage the NDA submission and support the program by negotiating with the FDA through submission of the regulatory application”.
DDL supports their topical formulation services with an analytical team specializing in API and drug product method development and validation, product stability testing, and very soon, in-vitro release evaluation. Formulation and analytical teams work very closely together in development efforts – collaborating on writing the CMC section of IND and NDA documents.
“Our team understands what the FDA Dermatology division is looking for in regulatory submissions, as well as the best ways to present the data,” offers Holley. This experience allows DDL to more efficiently move through the regulatory process for client development programs. Additionally, DDL offers clinical labeling, packaging and distribution services with experience in creating custom labels and packaging.
Holley also admits that every project and every client brings a different set of challenges. “Sometimes it’s a retinoid that requires extensive effort to be stabilized. Sometimes it’s a peptide with large molecular weight, and we need to devise a way to get the API to the site of action. We are often asked to modify or optimize existing formulations to improve efficacy, penetration, safety or elegance. DDL works hard to ensure the formulation works well and that the client’s expectations are exceeded,” he states.
Complete Program Management
In addition to their expertise in topical development, DDL prides themselves on being efficient, focused on quality and responsive to client needs.
“By managing the complete topical product development program, laboratory teams work together to support non-clinical and clinical teams, which allows us to maintain efficient project timelines and budgets.” Holley adds, “As the company grows, the focus will be to maintain a nimble, responsive and efficient company focused on meeting the goals of our client’s. DDL doesn’t develop its own products, so our teams are focused on making our clients’ projects a success. We are equipped to manage a full topical development program – we can promise certain things that a larger company can’t.”
Debra Dow is very clear that DDL is different from other service providers in its expertise, technologies and staff. “We have expertise in the whole process – from starting the formulation to scale-up. Sometimes companies have a technology that they’ve built their business on. We are just a very broad-based, very experienced group of people that have done a lot of topical product development,” she states.
Holley adds, “We are bringing clinical and topical development together. Our team has a better understanding of the big picture in topical product development – attaining clinical efficacy. For example, our team members understand the details required for conducting successful clinical studies, and we bring that into our development process. We provide the complete topical development program.”
“We look at the broad picture,” says Dow, “we want to make a product that patients are going to like and are going to use.” Having built a solid foundation on which to grow and establishing themselves as a premier supplier of topical product development services, DDL is excited about the future.
“In the next five years we want to expand on what we have established already,” says Dow. “In the contract business it’s all about what clients ask you to do. So we are certainly open to making decisions based on clients’ needs.
“Our core competency is topical development and that’s not going to change. The part of our business that will develop and expand depends on whether we get into small scale manufacturing or more clinical labeling, analytical services etc. Those decision will be driven by client needs. We keep our ear to the ground and try to anticipate what clients will need.”