Corona Virus – Real World Experience Directly from Front Lines

Storm before the Calm – Lessons Learned from Largest Biologic Contract Development and Manufacturing Company in China

Written with Direct Permission from Wuxi Biologics China

The information provided is a summary of a successful action plan implemented by WuXi Biologics. The article captures and summarizes “Best Practice to Fight COVID-19” sent to their clients, including the practices and tools they used to achieve a great outcome.

The following lessons learned provide a fantastic roadmap for how a company with over 5600 employees in China was able to weather through the Coronavirus storm. Their proactive approach and detail execution plan that is outlined below provides a potential path forward for other companies to follow.

In terms of disclosure, Biosciencescorp is not being paid for any of the information we are providing. We are just attempting to summarize in the most basic terms how a giant company in China was able to control the Coronavirus exposure. The information that follows is a roadmap that was developed by WuXi Biologics that has helped them get back into full operation with no Coronavirus incidents.

The article aims to help other companies who may be wondering how to tackle the upcoming COVID-19 storm that impacted countries around the globe. It summarizes some of the successful components that were used to reduce, and in this case to prevent any cases from happening in a very large Biologics cGMP enterprise.

China and WuXi Biologics have been fighting the virus outbreak for over 8 weeks, and the following represents their insight and experience that may be useful for other companies to follow.

WuXi Biologics, a Hong Kong-listed company, is a leading global open-access biologics technology platform offering end-to-end solutions to empower organizations to discover, develop and manufacture biologics from concept to commercial manufacturing. The company has multiple facilities across China and has an excess of 5600 employees and their plan has resulted in zero person in their facilities tested positive with corona virus.

The following is a summary of what they have done and is excerpted from documents they sent to their customers. WuXi has created a list of their top 10 actions to ensure the company and current manufacturing is protected throughout the life cycle. The most important component of their plan was to establish a cross-functional team that reported directly to the CEO to ensure elements to first focus on protecting their employees with an aim to ensure business continuity. Their focus on ensuring that their employees were well started with monitoring basic information such as body temperature and contact history which provide a crude signal, but very important as it is a sign of potential infection. They developed a very simple cell phone application that will track all the employees to ensure their wellbeing. Secondly, the team focused ensuring clear line of communication between employees, government, and management.

TOP 3 Things to Implement Immediately:

  1. Create Task Force with a focus on employee well being
  2. Develop simple tool like an app to ensure employees entering the facility were screened
  3. Reconfigure spaces to reduce transmission which included cafeteria, meeting rooms and policy related to using enclose spaces like elevators.

The following details the Top 10 Actions that were used successfully to control and get the facilities back into normal operation.

As discussed key to success was creating an operation team focus on establishing actionable practices and procedures that can be implemented quickly across multiple sites. The following image illustrates the cross functional make-up of the teams created at WuXi Biologics.

As you can see the team requires the involvement of multiple disciplines with direct leadership from CEO who was able to make changes and re-direct the plans without the need to use regular business bureaucracy. The success of the team was also associated with the creation of leads who were experts in their areas. The leads and departments were provided with clear direction that this guidance were to be implemented and executed as designed. The CEO acted as the “SEAL TEAM LEAD” and he ensured that all the pieces were in place to protect both employees and product with patients being the ultimate focus.

The key to their success was the simple and elegant ways that they use to communicate the objectives. They designed information in a very simplistic manner so it could be understood and distributed directly to all the staff very quickly. This was done to reduce the need to meet and train as this will defeat and contradict the actions to reduce large gatherings. The following are examples what the WuXi Biologics team developed in order to ensure hyper implementation of their plans. The communication tool quickly explained what was needed from the staff with definition of areas that maybe impacted and potential preventative measures that were required in order to their plans to work.

The concentrated effort by the cross-functional team lead by CEO has resulted in full company being back into normal operation. The following are some the published statistics as of March 12 that were collected. As you can see majority of employees have return to work with no cases of employees being diagnose with COVID-19. All the facilities have returned to normal as of writing this measures continue to pay off.

Special precautions were implemented across cGMP facilities to ensure all employees, product and patients were protected. Here is a list of the action plan implemented to reduce product impact risks.

As the measures were introduced throughout the facilities another area of focus was keeping employee focus and ensuring high morale. For that a special task force was created and lead by HR to ensure the emotional side of employees were taken into consideration. Knowing that employees worried about their job as well an intense focus on their families. The HR team an operating temple where executive met on daily basis to evaluate current information from the facilities and government In order to keep the entire team connected in real time they created a mobile chat group for employees which served as the information hub and gave access for employees to communicate to each other and HR in real time. The employees were divided into groups which were used to establish the operational tempo and plan for how each employee will return to their working schedule. A risk assessment was quickly conducted which generated a 5 tier calling in plan to re-introduce employees back to work. This lead to a staggered start of employees where many the non-direct employees were requested to work from home. At the site, the team redesigned the common spaces to reduced proximity and introduce new ways to handle daily chores with an aim on reducing personal contact.

This post was written to provide a quick overview and case study that has proven to be successful in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak. All the measures mentioned here were developed as part of the WuXi Biologics team commitment to keep both employee and patient safe while ensuring the continuity of the business.

I like to thank Dr. Chris Chen, the CEO of WuXi Biologics for agreeing to publish some elements of their plans that was successfully implemented in China.

The outcome of WuXi Biologics roadmap provides real world experience for managing and controlling potential outbreak for large organizations who are in critical business like making medicine for people who are getting ill.

As always I would appreciate your comments and you can connect with me via  Robert.Salcedo@biosciencescorp.com or Kevin Huang from Wuxi kevin_huang@wuxiapptec.com if you are interested in the full presentation and details of the actions plans.