Among the many pharmaceutical containers, one type is currently particularly sought after. Cartridges are high in demand, which has their market grow at a noticeable speed. An increasing demand for injectable drugs, as well as an aging population and a rise in acute and chronic diseases is enhancing this trend. A trend that Rechon has not only observed but has been preparing for during the past years. “Rechon has been offering cartridge filling and closing services for ten years,” Maria Wingren, Head of Operations at Rechon, explains. “Some of our cartridge projects have now been transferred from the clinical phase to the commercial stage, which increases the volumes significantly. In parallel, we are receiving more and more inquiries for new cartridge projects. We needed to boost our filling capacities – and have taken the right steps to fulfill our customers’ needs with our new MLD cartridge filling line from Syntegon.”
A perfect match
Maria Wingren has witnessed the cooperation between Rechon and Syntegon since the very beginning. When she joined the company in 1995, three lines from Syntegon were already installed. Two years later, she was involved in her first installation of a new Syntegon line. Just like Maria, who has passed through various stations in her career – from process engineer to the development and the technology transfer department through to her current position – Rechon has also undergone several transitions. Today, the company is a recognized CMO, covering APIs, commercial pharmaceuticals, and biopharmaceuticals. Rechon offers its services to customers across Europe and North America with a strong focus on aseptic manufacturing including bulk and ready-to-use syringe and cartridge filling, vials and ampoules, device and pen assembly, packaging, and labelling. Moreover, Rechon is one of only a few companies to cover the entire value chain – from clinical trials to commercial production.
In fact, Syntegon and Rechon not only look back on a long-standing partnership. Their current mottos also underline the similar mindset. While Rechon is “advancing medicines that benefit humanity”, Syntegon develops “processing and packaging solutions for a better life”. Syntegon has almost 50 years of experience in cartridge processing. More than 200 filling machines on all five continents ensure safe and flexible filling of liquid pharmaceuticals into cartridges – regardless of container size and output rate. “From my perspective, Syntegon is one of the market leaders when it comes to cartridge filling. I have thorough experience with their technologies, and I know their project management and services are just what we need. So it was a logical choice to turn to this long-term partner for our new cartridge filling line,” Maria underlines.
Cartridges – a booming container
The containers themselves are more versatile than they might seem at first glance: varying in size and volume, they are used for many different pharmaceuticals in single-chamber or dual-chamber systems. Rechon has the capabilities to process different cartridge sizes of 1, 1.5, 1.6 and 3 milliliters. When it comes to handling such a variety of containers, one thing is of paramount importance – state-of-the-art processing technology. For Maria, the benefits of the MLD line from Syntegon are obvious: “The line is capable of great speed. But for us and our customers, the priority is on reliable processes and results. We handle a lot of expensive APIs, so we need low rejection rates.”
The MLD 3061 is suited for medium outputs can handle up to 300 cartridges per minute. Moreover, the patented transport system offers several advantages: instead of a conventional transport system, a specially developed clip system gently conveys the cartridges from one station to the next. This not only results in a more precise filling process, but also in reduced overall line dimensions. The smaller footprint is especially useful in combination with barrier systems and in cleanroom environments with limited space. The machine’s design also ensures optimum accessibility for easy operation and maintenance.
Fast and lean project management
Besides top-notch equipment, for a rather small company like Rechon with a 210-strong team, fast and lean project management is key. “Knowing each other well and relying on fast answers in case of any kind of problems was the decisive success factor for the new project,” Maria explains. And the cartridge line stood the test: Rechon placed the order in May 2020, the FAT took place in August 2021, and the CMO started commercial production as planned in October 2022. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, every single milestone in the project was accomplished as scheduled. “In fact, it is the very first machine project I have accompanied where everything was exactly on time,” Maria emphasizes. “Considering the long qualification process of cartridge lines including further equipment like tunnels, one year from delivery to production is a very impressive achievement.”
New contracts – and new opportunities
The new cartridge line already proved its worth, even before it was taken into operation: Rechon was able to win two new customers and extend another contract from the clinical phase into commercial production due to the prospect of increased filling capacities. “We are very confident that there is more to come,” Maria says. “With the new MLD line from Syntegon, we are well equipped to answer current and future needs of our customers.” Following large investments during the past five years, the company now aims at a 10-15 percent growth rate.
This ambitious goal is underlined by significant further investments in new machines and new buildings. Rechon will expand with an additional 5,000 square meter packaging site in 2024, including the expansion of aseptic fill-finish operations. “We are moving some part of the services out of Malmö center and want to decrease our ecological footprint by minimizing transport,” Maria explains. “Of course, we will also have much more space, which needs to be filled with great machines – and we know that Syntegon also has the matching technology to offer in this field.”
Author: Martin Maerz, Area Sales Manager Syntegon Technology