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Corning, Pfizer share insights about collaboration during pharma conference keynote

Corning, Pfizer Valor Collaboration

CEO Wendell Weeks presents lessons from decades of co-innovation experience

Corning and Pfizer affirm continued commitment to Corning Valor® Glass

June 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – There’s an art and a method to Corning’s innovation alongside companies like Apple, Samsung, Ford, Verizon, Sharp – and most recently Merck and Pfizer. Wendell P. Weeks, chief executive officer of Corning, shared extensive insights about the drivers behind the company’s 167 years of successful collaboration, focusing on the development of revolutionary pharmaceutical packaging Corning Valor® Glass.

 “What all of these had in common was a deep customer-supplier partnership aimed at a step change in performance and life-changing innovation,” Wendell said of the innovation examples in Corning’s portfolio.

Pfizer’s Ron Perry, vice president and site leader for Kalamazoo, joined Wendell for a discussion during this keynote presentation at DCAT Sharp Sourcing on June 26, offering his perspective on the collaboration and affirming commitment to Valor Glass.

Wendell began with an overview of Corning’s long track record of successful collaboration, which starts deep in the company’s history.  In 1879, Corning worked with Thomas Edison on glass for incandescent light bulbs and a ribbon machine that could produce 2,000 of them per minute. That same type of machine has made every incandescent bulb since then.  Fast forward to the present, and recent highlights from Corning’s strategic collaborations include Apple’s $200 million investment in Corning’s Harrodsburg, Kentucky, facility; Verizon’s $1.05 billion purchase agreement to build a 5G-ready network with Corning fiber; and the announcement of Corning Valor® Glass at the White House with Merck and Pfizer.

 “All were made possible by a customer who wanted to change the world,” Wendell said. “We helped enable their vision.”

Five lessons in co-innovation

Across the examples—which span different industries, generations, and technologies— a common set of principles have emerged, Wendell said. He shared five lessons on what it takes to successfully co-innovate:

  1. A strategic relationship versus a transactional one
    A strategic relationship must be based on trust, which enables the type of risk-taking that can lead to innovation and disruption.

  2. A joint understanding of the key problems to be solved
    Customers and suppliers must share “in depth” to close the gap between suppliers' focused technical expertise and customers' understanding of the problems.

  3. Deep technical understanding of the system
    To design a component, the supplier must work toward a detailed understanding of the manufacturing system in which it will be used.

  4. Open sharing of value creation and economics
    Corning pursues innovation opportunities where there’s potential to improve quality and cost by at least a factor of ten—and often a factor of 100. The customer, too, must be convinced of the opportunity for value creation and be willing to work together openly on the economics in order to realize the full potential.

  5. Relentless execution and investment
    Disruptive innovation is only successful with a significant investment of time and money. “This type of change takes a sustained commitment by everyone,” Wendell said.

Pfizer shares continued commitment to Corning Valor® Glass

In the case of Corning, Pfizer, and Merck, those insights about collaboration have resulted in Valor Glass, a modern pharmaceutical packaging solution with the potential to improve patient safety and manufacturing efficiency, as well as create hundreds of jobs.

Speaking about the current standard in pharmaceutical glass, which has been unchanged for more than a century, Wendell said, “It was never designed for the way you make drugs today.”

Valor Glass dramatically reduces particle contamination, breaks, and cracks while significantly increasing throughput. As a result, Valor helps protect patients and improves pharmaceutical manufacturing. Both Merck and Pfizer provided insights on pharmaceutical formulation and manufacturing processes to Corning in the development of Valor Glass.

When Corning introduced the product in 2017 at the White House alongside Merck and Pfizer, it committed to invest $500 million and create 1,000 U.S. jobs. Corning followed with significant investments in Big Flats and Erwin, New York, for development, as well as Durham, North Carolina, for a high-volume manufacturing site.

Reflecting across their experiences, both leaders agreed that alignment, dedication, passion, and trust have been catalysts throughout their collaboration process. The companies established “principles for collaboration” that have guided their work together.

“It takes a lot to get people to share, like you did, open access to your facilities, your data, doing trial runs.” Wendell said. “You need a lot of trust.”

Ron also said Pfizer remains highly motivated to bringing pharmaceuticals packaged with Valor Glass to healthcare providers, and that regulatory approvals and trials continue.

“We’re working as fast as we reasonably can to provide those solutions we’re talking about today,” Ron said.