“We understand the East and the West”
By: Mudeeha Yousaf
PharmEng Technology works as an integrated consulting firm specializing in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device and nutraceutical industries and provides quality services to the manufacturers of healthcare products locally and on an international level. Operating from its Toronto head-quarters, the global company strives to meet the demand of the stringent regulatory environment through innovation and cost-effective measures.
Founded by CEO and Chairman Alan Kwong in 1997, PharmEng provides commissioning and qualification, validation, quality systems, engineering, regulatory affairs, training and teaching services to its clientele. Kwong, a University of Toronto graduate in the field of Chemical Engineering, worked for a major pharmaceutical company in the United States when he discovered that a niche service was not readily available in Canada, triggering him to make the plunge to start his own company. As well, he found that “Chinese people enjoyed entrepreneur opportunities, and I thought ‘okay let’s give it a try.’ If it didn’t work I believed I could always go back to the industry and get a job,” says Kwong. “If I could do it, there might be a transformation, and that’s exactly what had happened.”
Initially starting as a consulting company in ’97, the firm made the decision to take the company public in 2005 and listed in the Toronto Stock Exchange venture and dive into the manufacturing business. Although the company relished in being the exclusive manufacturers for the big players in the industry, such as Pfizer Canada and Johnson & Johnson, the economic times did not agree with their business platform and caused a re-branding of sorts. “At the time there was a financial turmoil in 2009 and many companies were going down because of this. Unfortunately we were caught in this financial crisis and I realized that the manufacturing business and consulting business are very different.” As a result, PharmEng reverted back to its consulting roots in 2009 and have only been growing from this stage.
The consulting firm has offices in Canada, the U.S. and Asia and whole-heartedly believe that creating global networks is vital for any business endeavour. “Nowadays, all businesses are global with the new technology. You have to see what value you bring to the client, and that is the key to success,” advocates Kwong. “It’s not nailed by contract or agreement but what value your company will add to the client you are serving. If you can do so, the company can excel, and if you can’t the company will not grow, no matter what any contract says.”
Kwong and his skilled team bask in their triumph of taking a small Canadian firm into international waters. In early 2000, at the brink of the SARS epidemic, PharmEng was awarded a contract by the National Health Research Institute – a government organization dedicated to medical research and improved healthcare in Taiwan — to design a vaccine plant which is now used to produce other vaccines for preventive diseases and was a feat for the Canadian company. “It’s important for small companies in Canada to advance to global markets,” says Kwong. “We have developed long-term partnerships with the top pharmaceutical companies around the world… We help them achieve their objective and add value to what they’re doing.” Not turning a blind eye towards Canada however, PharmEng had a hand in validating the Manitoba Blood Centre which complied with Health Canada Standards — the first of which was done in Canada.
A strong believer in providing customized quality services to their clients, the company emphasizes catering to different niches and demographics, and has recently supported the release of halal pharmaceutical products to accommodate the Muslim community. “Our employees in Asia are very well-versed with halal requirements. This is something that is relatively new to the pharmaceutical industry, especially in North America, but many Asians are aware of that and notice it is an area we can develop,” comments Kwong. “The key is to understand needs. It’s hard for someone in the West to understand needs from people in the East. We understand minority and regional needs and know the unique requirements for those niche markets.”
As well, “some of the things we make sure to do is the continued improvement of infrastructure to make sure we have a quality system in place and be aware of the changes, whether in the global or national economy, and adapt to fit the needs of the clients.” The ISO 9000 certified company believes that innovation is the key to success, second to ambition, and “If you can’t do those then you will be one of those companies that will just disappear.” Kwong notes that the trend in today’s industry is more towards innovation, cost and efficiency. “Many of the multi-national companies look at how to optimize cost and explore the most cost-effective way to conduct the business in an efficient manner.”
On the agenda for the company is to reach target markets in Africa, Europe and South America that have potential and similar requirements with those in North America and Asia, and are working towards realizing this potential in the future. “We will continue to expand our presence from where we are today, and in the long-term we would like to be a real global company and expand our services. I think that will complete the picture for PharmEng to be a global organization.” In the meantime, Kwong is honoured to take on his leadership role, in both the company and with his position as the President of the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs which guides business-minded Chinese individuals. PharmEng bridges the gap between the western and eastern markets and this understanding of distinct domains will undoubtedly help the company secure a place as a renowned consulting firm around the world.
“The world is getting smaller and the technology is improving,” closes Kwong. “For a company to really excel they have to be local as well as global in order to be successful in what they are doing.”
For more information on PharmEng, visit www.pharmeng.com