CCAB blog – Finding our niche in the CRO market

By CCAB - May 6, 2019 11:02 am (leave your thoughts)

Contract research organizations provide critical assistance to emerging biotechs

By Marcus Manocha PhD, MBA
Business Development Associate

I recently had the pleasure of attending the PEGS conference in Boston on behalf of C-Lab at CCAB. PEGS is an annual event where the protein drug development community assembles to discuss advances and accelerations in the biotherapeutic space. I had the opportunity to speak with scientists from diverse backgrounds and many supporting service and product providers who all contribute to this exciting space. As someone who is relatively new to the antibody science field, the conference gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about the market and the needs of our academic and industrial clients. More broadly, I’ve had some time to reflect on how C-Lab fits into the contract research organization ecosystem (CRO) and how to take advantage of the opportunities that lay ahead.

Emerging biotechs & CROs: The make or buy dilemma

The CRO market is massive with many companies focusing on high value services such as asset creation (discovery services), clinical trial management and GMP production. Finding C-Lab’s place in this market has been a rewarding task as it has helped us to better identify and serve our clients, which includes academic laboratories and a growing number of emerging biotech companies.

While these young biotech companies are developing promising therapies, limited financial resources can prevent them from undertaking the capital-intensive process of creating a wet lab. For these types of companies, developing a relationship with a CRO is a crucial part of advancing their scientific innovations. Working with a facility like C-Lab allows companies to de-risk their assets, providing a forum to support their projects and execute their needs.

How to stand out as CRO

Over the last several years, emerging biotechs have taken a more prominent role in the research and development of new therapies. According to a report published in April 2019 from the IQVIA Institute, emerging biotech companies patented almost two-thirds of new drugs launched in 2018, while large pharmaceutical companies patented only one-quarter. (Source: Adams, B. (2019, April 23) Biotechs getting bigger in late-stage R&D, leaving big pharmas behind: report. Retrieved from https://www.fiercebiotech.com/biotech/biotechs-getting-bigger-late-stage-r-d-leaving-big-pharmas-behind-report)

This shift presents a rich opportunity for CROs. However, it is not enough to simply provide services in this market. The C-Lab team has learned that emerging biotechs are looking for a scientific partner, one which can add value and can truly appreciate an organization’s concern for return on investment, especially in those early start-up days.

C-Lab’s work with a number of emerging biotech companies, including Empirica TherapeuticsImmunoBiochem and Pionyr Therapeutics, has helped us confirm that from the earliest conversations with a potential client, it is important to leverage the CRO’s expertise and experience to work with the client through a deliverable focused strategy. In this way, the CRO helps to set a client up for success on their overall project. By taking the burden of production off their hands, it allows a company to focus on their core competencies and plan for the future.

Keeping up with the clients

One of the biggest lessons the C-Lab team has learned has been the value of flexibility. In the CRO space, the process to define a project can be rigid and controlled for good reasons. Scope creep and changes can have an impact on the margins of for-profit entities, leading to an unexpected escalation in costs.

However, the scientific process is not linear and project changes are inevitable. Through our work with both our industrial and academic clients, we have learned that it is important to define solutions and continue to grow with the client throughout the course of their project. Often, C-Lab has been challenged to come up with custom solutions to their needs and we have learned to lean on our expertise to help clients find the optimal solution.

It is one of the most satisfying parts of my job, when a solution advances a project and helps a client solve their scientific dilemma. Remaining flexible in our service offerings and staying open to expanding our capabilities to suit a client’s deliverables has allowed us to truly fulfil the needs of our clients and produce high-quality products.

Are you working in a CRO or have you worked with a CRO? Share your experiences. What worked best and what could work better? Please comment below.

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