Innovation in laboratories: meet the Ordina expert

Pharmacist, lab supervisor, university assistant and doctor with specialization inalternative animal models for drug development: the resume of Moayad Saad, Quality and Compliance Engineer at our Q-team, is quite impressive. Since 2018, Moayad has been helping Ordina customers from the life sciences sector to optimize their processes. His most recent realization? Paper-less: a digitization project for labs that required a good deal of guts and perseverance …  

The story of Moayad Saad takes place in Syria until 2012. After studying pharmacy, Moayad ran his own pharmacy there for five years until he decided to go for a master’s degree in biochemistry. That degree opened the doors to a job as an assistant at the University of Damascus and later at the International University of Science and Technology, in the same Damascus. In addition to teaching, he was also head of the laboratories there on each occasion. “Between those two jobs I was head of biochemistry and laboratory at a pharmaceutical company for a year and a half,” he adds, “but still that urge for knowledge kept gnawing …”

From academia to practice

In 2012, the opportunity came to learn again: Moayad received a grant from the EU for a PhD program at the University of Antwerp. For five years he studied the metabolism of zebrafish. “Embryos of zebrafish are often used to test the extent to which a drug can cause harm to a fetus. But knowledge of embryonic development was very limited until recently. That became our research area. Biology with a subtle link to my earlier studies in pharmacy, actually,” Moayad explains. “That was fascinating, of course, but after all those years in academia, I was eager to put my know-how to some more practical use and go into industry. ” His last months at university, he already combined with a job at Ordina.

The common thread: life sciences

“I have swum through many waters in my studies and career, but there was always a link to life sciences. In Syria, I was head of labs, both at the university and at the drug manufacturer. So quality control and the qualification of laboratory instruments were not foreign to me,” Moayad continues. “When a friend pointed me to a vacancy at Q, Ordina’s Quality and Compliance team, it seemed like a great match.”

Moayad was immediately able to start working for a well-known pharmaceutical company as a CSV engineer on behalf of Ordina. A good year later, together with a colleague, he was given responsibility for a brand new offering from Ordina: a service package for the qualification of laboratory equipment.

Qualification of laboratory materials

“The pharmaceutical giant I had always worked for before Ordina asked for our support to track their lab materials,” Moayad explains. “After all, this is a huge job, which is not only time intensive but also requires expertise. We guarantee that all devices used by the customer are monitored, maintained and repaired if necessary. For each new device, we also take care of the testing, calibration, validation and interfacing with existing IT systems and software – always in compliance with legislation and regulations. I do like challenges and this was a great opportunity for me to do something new.”

The qualification of laboratory materials is a mammoth task, which is not only time intensive but also requires expertise.

Paper trail for lab qualification

Moayad says it himself: he likes to set the bar high. On day one at the customer’s he immediately spotted an opportunity to offer even more added value: “I was walking through the corridors and barely missed falling over the mass of boxes piled up. That turned out to be part of the archive: the lab qualification team still worked entirely with paper. Getting an approval quickly took a full day because signatures had to be collected across departments. Then someone really had to physically visit three different buildings to snare all the people responsible. ”

“In addition, those documents have to be kept for ten years. An archiving partner took care of that. They came to pick up the boxes and stored them. If there was an audit, they would bring the necessary documents back to the customer. It was all very time-consuming. And not without risk: paper can get lost or damaged.”

Standardize and digitize processes

Moayad decided to do away with a lot of paper. “The CSV team at the same customer worked completely digitally. It had to be perfectly possible for the lab qualification team to do the same,” he says.

His proposal met with some skepticism but he persevered. In one and a half years he succeeded in standardizing and digitizing all processes. Moayad: “The hardest part was to bundle all the procedures into a single uniform workflow, while still having the necessary flexibility to support different technologies, lab instruments, etc. In addition, of course, everything had to be compliant with Good Documentation Practices. In addition, of course, everything had to be compliant with the requirements around Good Documentation Practices (GDP) and data integrity. We succeeded. Once this standard was in place, we worked on the digitization. I knew quite a few tools and documentation systems from my CSV days, so it was just a matter of applying them.”

The benefits of paper-less

The client was over the moon with the new system. Documents can now be revised and approved in one hour instead of one day. The time and cost of paper filing has been eliminated. And the digital system is much more reliable.

“The corona crisis further highlighted the benefits,” adds Moayad. “Our solution was just live when Belgium went into lockdown. Suddenly everyone had to work from home as much as possible. That would never have been possible with the paper workflow.”

Documents can now be reviewed and approved in one hour instead of one day. The time and cost of paper filing has been eliminated. And the digital system is much more reliable.

Don’t wait too long, it pays off

Moayad carried out the paper-less project alongside his job as a quality engineer. Meanwhile, he is also innovation and project manager at the client. “Change is always difficult but once people see the result, they all want to cooperate. Meanwhile, we have a large team that thinks along and makes suggestions. And the customer receives every suggestion with open arms,” says Moayad. He also advises every company in the pharmaceutical sector to digitize its processes: “I expect that the regulatory institutions (FDA, EMA, … ) will require further digitization in the first few years. Those who still work with paper now, best start preparing.”

From inventions to innovations

“At university, I was mostly concerned with ‘inventions.’  Today it’s ‘innovations.’ A task with a lot of potential. So for the time being, I will continue to take on this role with conviction. In Belgium, because I have been an official Belgian for two years now. When I came here at the invitation of the University of Antwerp, I only knew Belgium through chocolate and mirrors. Strange but you are very well known for that in Syria. Meanwhile, I feel completely at home here. Belgium is a fantastic country, it’s just a pity that you Belgians don’t always realize that,” concludes Moayad.