Manufacturing Month Feature: Azzur Group Bridges the Gap from Molecule to Market for Early-Stage Biotech, Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Companies
“Azzur Cleanrooms on DemandTM allow companies that have a successful molecule to get to market efficiently without building or managing their own manufacturing facility,” said Daniel Dernbach, senior vice president of global operations at Azzur Group. “Our clients bring the science, and we bring the compliance.”
Azzur Group provides services and facilities for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies that allow them to start, scale and sustain operations. Its location in Vista is one of its Cleanrooms on Demand facilities that fill a unique market need by offering FDA- and EU-compliant lab spaces where companies can securely develop early-stage products and begin full-scale production.
The alternatives are either building a custom manufacturing facility, which requires significant upfront capital investment, or working with contract development and manufacturing operations (CDMOs) that require companies to share proprietary IP information and lack control over their production schedule. Offering a hybrid model, Azzur’s cleanrooms and wrap-around good manfacturing practice (GMP) services provide comprehensive early-stage solutions with scalable manufacturing spaces and materials management, all while allowing companies to maintain direct control over their production.
“We allow companies to use their people and have private, cGMP-
Dernbach explained that outside of understanding the basic necessities of clients’ needs for lab spaces for health and safety reasons, clients are able to work securely and privately. “Access to all of our cleanroom spaces is restricted and managed with monitored key card access, and clients cannot enter our on-site warehouse to protect the privacy of materials and equipment that are delivered and stored there. Maintaining the privacy of our clients’ work is a critical element of our cleanroom facilities because that allows our clients to protect their operations without the need to build their own facility from the ground up. This is especially important for early-stage companies.”
Azzur Group’s Vista location opened in April 2021, and it has nine cleanrooms that range in size from 750-900 square feet. “When we were looking to open an office in San Diego, we researched all of the usual suspects near downtown, La Jolla and Sorrento Valley, but ultimately, Vista and North County checked all of the boxes,” said Dernbach. “We chose Vista because being in North County enables us to draw clients from Orange County. We have a client from Irvine, for example, that is able to utilize our Vista cleanroom facility, but if we were further south, that could arguably have been too far away for them.”
Also, the ability to have more space in North County was noted as a plus. “Being in Vista, we are adjacent to San Diego’s biotech hotbed, just a 30 or 40-minute commute away, but we can have a larger facility than if we were right there.”
The impressive and growing medical and biotech cluster in North County was also considered when Azzur was exploring where to open their San Diego cleanroom space. “As we were going through our research, San Diego proper was the third largest target for us behind San Francisco and Boston. At the time, we were still growing our consulting presence in the San Diego region, so opening our Vista Cleanrooms on Demand facility gave us a sweet spot to expand our overall footprint here. This location was just what we needed.”
“Attracting companies like Azzur to Vista is important for us to build our expanding network of high-wage, technically-oriented companies,” remarked Larry Vaupel, director of economic development for the City of Vista. “Azzur is able to attract top talent from our nearby universities and collaborate with neighboring biotech companies. We have the space they need, and in turn, they help employ our community. It’s a great fit.”
“Vista is growing into a fairly seriously, biotech and biopharmaceutical hub,” said Dernbach. “Lots of companies have moved here recently, and we have good people coming out of Cal State San Marcos and Mira Costa with the right type of education for our needs.”
“Finding top employees is always challenging, but the nice part about those institutions is that they are industry focused. That means, we can find employees who have experience with and interest in the medical and biotech industries, as opposed to strictly research chemists or biologists.” He continued to say that they have had great success with their Cleanrooms on Demand model in Vista. They have been able to find and keep talent, which is always important, but was especially critical amid the COVID-19 pandemic when Azzur first opened its Vista office and managed to stay open as an essential service.
“Our Vista office opened in April of 2021. There was a slowdown in construction due to COVID, but we were able to hedge our bets and secure the equipment we needed,” said Dernbach. “As an essential manufacturing service, we stayed open, and actually supported the development of the vaccines.”
When reflecting back on that time, Dernbach recalled the City of Vista being responsive and helpful to facilitate construction.
“The City of Vista is actively seeking to attract medical and biotech companies, and they were easier to get ahold of than most cities during construction. They are working to create a welcoming and collaborative environment, and I cannot overstate how important it is to engage the City early in the process. It’s important to make sure everyone is on board with what you’re doing so they can help you.
“The San Diego North Economic Development Council and Innovate78 are also great resources that help you see how other businesses are managing things. Don’t go into it blindly. Let them help you.”
Resources from the City of Vista’s Economic Development projects and resources are available on the City’s webpage. Additionally, Vista is a founding partner city in cross-city collaboration, Innovate78, that supports North County’s business ecosystem. Existing and current businesses, as well as entrepreneurs, are encouraged to utilize available resources through Innovate78 and San Diego North Economic Development Council.
For more Information Contact:
Economic Development Director, City of Vista