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In 1984, Hovione PharmaScience Ltd. arrived in Macao and officially set up its operations here in 1986 with the opening of its first factory.

The following year, Hovione Macau passed U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) inspections and received formal approval to sell its products to the United States. Today, it still remains as the only factory in Macao to have successfully passed FDA approvals.

Hovione Macau General Manager Eddy Leong, who has worked with the pharmaceutical company for more than 20 years, shares his insights into the company’s future prospects and the importance of working with the local community, in an exclusive interview with Macao Image.

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Particle engineering is technologically very demanding, and Hovione is taking the lead in this area.

Why did Hovione choose Macao for its manufacturing site in Asia?

Hovione is a Portuguese-based multinational corporation, and it first set up an office in Hong Kong in 1979. Ivan Villax, who co-founded Hovione, travelled to Asia frequently attending exhibitions and trade fairs. He also had the opportunity to meet a number of business people in Macao, which was under Portuguese administration at the time. In 1986, he decided to set up a manufacturing site in Macao since it shared similar laws and regulations with Portugal.

Having spent more than 20 years with Hovione, how have you personally grown with the company and how does Hovione share its corporate culture with its employees?

I think it is important to start working for a company in a lower-level position, and we should continue this tradition. My first two years working as a junior member of staff at Hovione meant a great deal to me. I gained a lot of experience and learned all about the pharmaceutical processes, which was extremely helpful for me when I later became an engineer and took on management roles. I can now tackle all sorts of challenges because I have a thorough understanding of every detail of the pharmaceutical procedures here. Foreign-capital companies often have a more open culture and encourage employees to share their thoughts and creativity to help simplify work procedures. Most Macao residents are hardworking, yet, they seldom express their opinions at work or put forward suggestions. In view of this, Hovione launches various incentives to motivate local staff to speak out and think creatively. The employees have now become more willing to share ideas, which greatly boosts efficiency and, in return, streamlines the manufacturing procedure.

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Hovione is not solely focused on profits, but is also very much committed toward giving back to the community.

In 2001, Hovione Macau poured further investments into Macao. How will Hovione continue to expand here in future?

At the outset, Hovione Macau produced only one type of antibiotic. Now, we produce 10 different types. We are also investing in new equipment and plan to introduce new products in order to stay competitive. The existing space we have is now being re-planned. Therefore, we are working on freeing up space to extend our office and laboratory at our current site until another location is found.

In 1987, Hovione Macau passed U.S. FDA tests and successfully remains as the only company in Macao to receive this approval. What is the key to passing these stringent tests?

I think quality control is key. There are very strict requirements and guidelines in drug manufacturing. Our system must meet all requirements and our employees have to be fully familiar with all guidelines. “The team” is another important element to the quality of the company’s products. Whenever new colleagues join us, we share all of our experiences with them to make sure every single team member has a comprehensive and clear understanding of how to operate the system and are completely aware of the procedures. We guarantee the quality of our products by making sure our people are thoroughly familiar with the guidelines. Quality is paramount to success.

Hovione Macau is also focused on producing products that are difficult to make and cannot be found elsewhere. Is Hovione Macau also manufacturing such products? If so, what are they?

Among the 10 products we produced, four are exclusively developed by Hovione Macau, including our inhalants. Drugs are manufactured through chemical synthesis and inhaled drugs require another step in the process known as particle engineering, which involves changing the size of drug particles. The effectiveness of inhaled drugs depends on when the particles are inhaled and whether they can be absorbed by the human body. Particle engineering is technologically very demanding, and Hovione is taking the lead in this area.

The vision of Hovione is to become the most innovative, integrated pharmaceutical provider by 2028. In your opinion, how can you make make this happen?

We are working as a CDMO (Contract Development and Manufacturing Organisation) to become the top innovative, integrated pharmaceutical solution provider to the global pharmaceutical industry. When a client comes to us for a new kind of drug, our team will handle the entire process including development, drug manufacturing and sales, as well as after-sales services. Our products are API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients). After they are sold to a client, the client will need to combine the API with their own excipients. This may turn the final product into capsules, pills or other forms of medicine. There are times when our API may not be compatible with the client’s excipients. In these cases, we will work with the client to solve the problem, which may involve additional facilities. Our goal is to build not only a buying-selling relationship, but a long-term partnership with our clients.

Another goal of Hovione is to be sustainable. Could you tell us how Hovione Macau is trying to achieve this goal?

Sustainability is integrated into our overall business strategy. Hovione’s Portuguese and Irish manufacturing plants have already been using 100 percent certified renewable energy as this is something that they can do in those countries. I think Macao can achieve this as well in the future. Aside from reducing our carbon footprint, Hovione Macau has been working toward sustainability in other ways. For example, we have equipment for food waste treatment; we have stopped selling bottled water and have installed water dispensers; we provide our employees vacuum flasks and we participate in activities such as the Food Bank in Portugal and clearing the pathway to the Grand Taipa Natural Park. As the first Certified B Corporation in the pharmaceutical field, Hovione is not solely focused on profits, but is also very much committed toward giving back to the community.