The first half of 2020 has been like no other. The coronavirus has swept across the country, bringing the economy to a standstill and forcing families to shelter in place. Worst of all, it’s caused unimaginable suffering for many, including friends and loved ones.
Difficult times, however, bring out the best in America. Today, neighbors are watching over one another. From grocery store clerks to truck drivers, people in essential roles come to work every day, and brave first responders and healthcare workers wage a heroic battle on the front lines. American industry, too, is working together to deliver the products and solutions needed in the fight against the coronavirus.
That’s why, when a long-time customer and pharmaceutical leader asked for Serpa’s help to fast-track the production of its experimental COVID-19 medication, our team responded with “we’re all-in!”
A Promising Treatment
Headquartered in California, the research-based biopharmaceutical company focuses on the discovery and development of innovative new medicines.
When the coronavirus entered the headlines, the company immediately began exploring whether an experimental antiviral drug they’d developed (but not yet approved for widespread use) could potentially treat the virus.
The company’s team worked quickly to enroll patients in several clinical trials, and also made the investigational medicine available for severely ill patients unable to participate in a trial. Throughout this process, the pharma leader’s prime focus was to ensure the safety and effectiveness of its experimental treatment prior to worldwide distribution.
As they await the trial results, the company is taking steps to ensure that a sufficient supply of the drug will be available if approved for wider use as a coronavirus treatment. The company is providing its entire existing stockpile (over one million doses) at no cost for compassionate use, expanded access, and clinical trials, and has also set an ambitious goal of producing more than 1 million additional treatment courses by the end of 2020.
The Serpa Connection
The pharma leader began working with Serpa in late 2013, and in 2014 we delivered the drugmaker’s vial packaging line for use in supplying a range of medicines across the globe. In 2019, the firm purchased a second line to package a variety of solid-dose medications.
Packaging the experimental coronavirus medication was a key challenge for our customer’s team as they planned their ambitious ramp-up for the latter half of the year. To support the increased supply, they needed to retrofit two machines on their existing vial packaging line. They also needed a new machine — a specialized tamper-evident labeler — and they needed it right away.
That’s when they called our team here at Serpa.
All Hands on Deck
Building the tamper-evident labeler presented a daunting challenge. Typically it would take four months to complete all production steps, from design and engineering to testing and delivery. However, the pharma company needed delivery in two and a half weeks to meet an inspection deadline.
To achieve that timeline, our engineers and production staff worked around the clock in rotating shifts, seven days a week. As one team member describes it, “People volunteered to work the extra hours, and everyone wanted to be a part of the project. Spirits were very high — everybody knew what was at stake. The entire organization was extremely focused because we simply had no time for mistakes.”
With a lot of hard work, great collaboration from our suppliers, and a bit of luck, our team was able to complete and ship the labeler on time. At full speed, the new machine can run 120 products per minute through the line, giving our customer all the capacity it needs and more.
The entire Serpa team is hopeful that the experimental drug trials will be a success, and is proud to have played a small role in the bigger story.
Doing Our Part
Here at Serpa, morale remains high. We face several challenges — for example, our salespeople and engineers can’t see customers face-to-face, and everyone’s getting used to using video.
We remain fully staffed, and are finding new ways to engage and support our clients. We’re committed to providing the level of service that our customers have come to expect. Our team knows the best thing they can do each day is to take care of themselves, their families, their co-workers, and our customers.
A Note of Thanks
Many of our clients are in the food and pharmaceutical industries and are doing extraordinary things to keep essential products and services flowing across the country. To those customers and everyone on the front lines everywhere, the Serpa team expresses their most profound gratitude.