EPR Podcast 22 – Pharmaceutical packaging – Manu Kittanakere, Gilead

In this podcast, Manu Kittanakere, Associate Director of Packaging Engineering at Gilead discusses the future of pharmaceutical packaging, including the growing importance of AI, automation and sustainability in packaging engineering.


In this episode, Caroline speaks to Manu Kittanakere, Associate Director of Packaging Engineering at Gilead, about the pharmaceutical packaging landscape. Manu reflects on the changes he has witnessed in pharmaceutical packaging over his 17-year career.

“There is a lot of dynamic change happening with supply chain regulations, which has a direct impact on packaging,” Manu says.

He also explains how pharmaceutical packaging sector has evolved significantly over that period, with the growth of contract manufacturing/packaging organisations and an increased emphasis on sustainability, automation, and innovation.

Pharmaceutical packaging: the landscape and challenges today

Packaging plays a crucial role in preserving medications and ensuring patient adherence. Manu speaks about a range of packaging options on the market, including the use of bottles, blister packs, vials, and pre-filled syringes/autoinjectors.

In the oral solid dose (OSD) space, the bulk of pharmaceuticals rely on HDPE bottles or blister packaging”

In the oral solid dose (OSD) space, the bulk of pharmaceuticals rely on HDPE bottles or blister packaging. However, regional and company preferences do vary.

“What I have observed is that…in the US, bottles are preferred compared to blisters. But in Europe and Japan, blisters are preferred,” Manu says.

“Vial kits, pre-filled syringes and auto injectors are also gaining a lot of traction with biologics being one of the main focuses in the coming years,” he adds.

Finally, there have been advancements in the cold chain packaging to meet the needs of cell and gene therapies and other biologics.

Sustainability: a focus for 2024 and beyond

Looking to the future, Manu predicts that sustainability will be a major focus in the pharmaceutical industry in 2024.

Additionally, packaging developers and engineers will increasingly leverage virtual simulation and smart software to support packaging design.

Looking further ahead, Manu projects innovations in desiccants, materials, and smart packaging. Listen to the full podcast to find out more!

About the speaker

Manu headshotManu Kittanakere, MS is Associate Director, Packaging Engineering at Gilead Sciences. He Joined Gilead in October of 2022 and is responsible Gilead’s clinical programmes from a packaging development perspective. Manu and his team support about 20+ Gilead clinical programmes and manage the packaging CMOs and vendors.

Manu has over 17 years of experience in Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Packaging. He joined Gilead Sciences following tenures with Kala Pharmaceutical, Alnylam Pharmaceutical and bluebird bio where he held roles in multiple facets of packaging including QA pack & label, external manufacturing focused on Packaging & Labelling and head of packaging technologies department. Manu holds a patent in Glass vial packaging design for Valor glass WIP packaging.

Manu obtained his academic training at Visveswaraya Technological University, India (BS, Printing Technology), Rochester Institute of Technology (MS, Packaging Science) and Cornell University (Executive Leadership).