Made to order: chemo drugs from Onekawa

Behind a plain white door, in an innocuous looking building set down an ordinary asphalt driveway in Onekawa, there’s a hive of industry going on. And the primary goal is to make sure that Kiwis sick with cancers and other illnesses have speedy access to the best drugs available.

It’s like something out of ‘Breaking Bad’. Men and women clad in head to toe hazmat suits, gloves and masks, diligently measuring and mixing highly sensitive substances behind layers of protective glass. To the rear of them, and on the other side of a second thick window, is a room housing what look like enormous tumble dryers.

This is iMIX, an aseptic compounding plant in Napier, founded by Jeremy Egerton. And if you don’t know what aseptic compounding is, you’re not alone. “It’s a very niche industry,” begins Jeremy – a Southlander who fell in love with a Hawke’s Bay girl and moved to Napier in 2017.

iMIX isn’t the only company compounding chemotherapy treatments, but Jeremy’s is definitely the most interesting, with a commitment to being more nimble than, and “deliberately different” to the multinational drug companies in this space. “The pharmaceutical companies can’t deal with individual orders like we do – instead, they’ll mass produce medicines at particular levels of concentration and each patient will need a specific dose of that compound. With the service we provide and the way we do things, the patient is more than just a number.”

Jeremy only began his business three years ago. He’d studied pharmacology and biochemistry at the University of Otago, then moved to Melbourne to work at a small family-run compounding business, starting off as a technician. Travelling on to London, he managed large aseptic compounding units in London hospitals and after he returned to New Zealand, helped a DHB build one before branching into consultancy. “I guess all that experience gave me the confidence to have a crack at something of my own,” he says.

So he went to Canopy Cancer Care, New Zealand’s leading private medical oncology provider, with a proposal. And that proposal resulted in the establishment of iMIX, with a model that split the business 55/45 – the majority holding to Jeremy.

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First published by Bay Buzz. Click here to read the full article.