Drug discovery in the new normal: From Contracting to Partnering.

I have previously emphasised how crucial collaboration is in today’s science: drug discovery, research and development are strong examples of that importance.

Let’s consider, in simple terms, what effective collaboration or partnering looks like. And I will use a favourite example.

Several years ago the CRO industry decided that its future lay in securing ‘strategic partnerships’ with its key customers in Big Pharma. The CROs which had competed so fiercely for contracts to conduct studies for their clients now turned to a model reliant on offering even deeper discounts on their rates and related costs to secure guaranteed projects over prolonged periods of time. Worse was the inability of most of the breed to identify what was or was not a profit making contract! What a great example of a race to the bottom.

Big Pharma relished the time and pushed harder and harder for discounts and did eventually consider applying quality metrics as well.

The CROs had their strategic partnerships but many lost money. Lots of money. The consolidation of their industry duly followed. 

Today I think we see a different picture. The CRO community is now promoting the experience in clinical trials in key disease areas, the creativity and innovation in applying new technologies, e.g. digital, through which to manage data and analyse history to inform protocol design, site selection, Principal Investigator engagement and patient identification and enrolment.  The proposition is built on quality and efficiency of the process ‘from soup to nuts’!

There is a lesson here for all service providers. A former colleague put it very well when he said: When a customer comes to you and asks ‘I need you to do X. Can you do that?’, then in the eyes of that customer you are the contractor and you should expect appropriate treatment. You are outside the inner sanctum. Quality standards and price of contract will be major considerations. By way of contrast, when a customer comes to you and says ‘I have this problem, what do you think I should do about it?’ then you are in the realms of a strategic partnership where the solution is everything, the quality of input is assumed and price is . . . well, less of an issue.

Something to consider as we enter into our discussions with customers whom we wish to become long term clients. For in that domain the quality of the projects is higher, the satisfaction of the clients higher while the cost of sales is lower. Recipe for success!

Ken Fyvie

Non-Executive Director

To read the previous blog in this mini series click here

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