Quality Assistance (Thuin, Belgium) faces challenge of attracting qualified personnel

Now hiring! Quality Assistance (QA), a contract research organization (CRO) dedicated to 3rd generation medicines, has announced a €4.5 million investment over the next 18 months and a commitment to creating 15 new jobs by the end of the year.

In 2010, Philippe Draux, industrial pharmacist, founder and majority shareholder of the Thuin-based company, opted to refocus the company services on third generation medications, i.e. treatments based on the use of living cells.  He has no doubt about the success of the strategic orientation of his company, saying “By the end of 2014, we’ll have acquired all the appropriate tools required for managing the many facets of the entire approval process for new molecules or therapies stemming from biotechnology.”

Refocusing – a proven winner!
With its 5200m2  site already dedicated to biotechnologies, this CRO focusing on the approval process for new molecules, is now working on three particular sectors: biologics (antibodies, ADCs, proteins, peptides), therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines, and advanced therapies (cell-based and gene therapy medicinal products).In 2011, sales increased by 23% to € 9.1 million and by 32% just one year later, reaching €12 million.

Between 2012 and 2013, the cash flow of Quality Assistance is expected to grow to €3.9 million (+ nearly €1 million), while stockholders’ equity could peak at around €6.8 million. The net result exceeded the €1 million mark in 2012 and should approach €1.5 million by the end of the current financial year.

The financial forecast for 2013 predicts a turnover of somewhere between €14 and €14.5 million, which represents a minimum 15 % growth!

Recruitment challenges

“My real challenge today isn’t finding customers, but rather finding enough skilled workers to prevent us from having to refuse business“, stresses the CEO. “Today around 20 % of our staff is French, and we’re actively recruiting in Western Europe”, adds Mr Draux.

This year the company expects to hire at least 15 new employees, increasing the staff from 100 to 115 full-time equivalents (FTEs).
However, attracting biologists, chemists and pharmacists to the heart of Thudinie (Walloon Region, Belgium) is anything but a walk in the park, “even though we offer the same salary package as the biggest pharma companies operating in Belgium”, emphasizes the CEO.

Support from Wallonia

Thanks to the approval of a €4.5 million bank loan and another one from Sambrinvest, Mr Draux explains, “We’ll be able to complete our analytical facilities and extend the line of services in order to offer our expertise at the most upstream steps of the current regulations, and advise our customers throughout the approval process”.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the approval of a new molecule generally takes around 10 years and requires an investment in the whereabouts of €1.03 billion ($1.4 billion).

Moreover, QA has obtained €2 million in financial aid from the Walloon Region for a three year €3.2 million research and development programme focussing on Cell-Based Medicinal Products (including viral safety). The Thudinie company has already recruited a new team of five researchers specifically for this programme.

All these investments mean that Quality Assistance will need to extend their premises, starting with the imminent acquisition of a 5-hectare plot adjoining the current site and continuing with the construction of a new building to be operational in 2016.

For Thuin-based Quality Assistance, strategic reorientation seems to bring a new meaning to the expression, land of opportunity.

So, if you’re qualified for one of the jobs (see http://www.quality-assistance.com/careers/jobs), what are you waiting for?

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Quality Assistance
Technoparc de Thudinie, 2




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