A Specialised Approach to Maximising Innovation for Small Biotechs and Start Ups

While tremendous pricing pressure has led some companies to make deep price cuts, maintaining strong relationships and ensuring high business value from outsourcing is of great concern. In this Q&A interview, Ajit Narang, Senior Research Investigator, Drug Product Science & Technology at Bristol Myers Squibb, discusses establishing strong relationships with your outsourcing partners and key points to consider when choosing a partner and negotiating a contract.

Pharma IQ: Can you identify some successful strategies for smaller companies and startups to employ when they are going about finding/ locating/ attracting a suitable CMO?

A Narang: When looking to select a CMO/CRO for one’s specific needs, one should consider the track record of the organisation and their history of satisfied customers and completed projects. Although it is reasonable to compare costs from multiple organisations, one must refrain from using this as the sole criterion in selection. Going with the lowest-cost CMO/CRO may not be desirable both in the short-term and the long-term for project success and building a strong relationship with an outsourcing partner, respectively.

In the short-term, the quality impact of operating variables that may not be directly or immediately evident can be of great significance for project direction in the quality-focused and highly regulated biopharmaceutical industry. Maintaining such operating variables at their best requires investment on the part of the outsourcing partner, and the lowest cost CMO/CRO may not be geared towards excellence in these aspects.

In the long-term, any relationship strengthens with a win-win situation. Therefore, both partners must gain from the relationship in both technical matters, value addition, and financial stability. In selecting a suitable CMO/CRO, any company must keep the focus on the quality systems, operating models, and the technical expertise.

Pharma IQ: What are some techniques to locate cost-saving solutions and techniques within the outsourcing chain?

A Narang: Experience tells us that greatest cost savings come from going down the right path, than by negotiating the cheapest way of going down a path. These cost savings are realised when on-time project completion with no issues and better technical direction for greater future impact are important to project success. For example, mutual technical expertise can significantly impact the decisions and the direction of research projects for greater future success. The most cost saving solution often is to do the best quality of work while limiting what and how much you do.

Pharma IQ: What are some elements and/or challenges that smaller biotechs and startups should be on the look out for?

A Narang: The greatest challenge in outsourcing is to be able to perceive things that are not quantifiable or easily seen. Just as the difference a scientist makes to a project by bringing in experience, dedication, and creativity; the capability of the outsourcing partner’s technical staffing and leadership to bring these skills to the table is critically important to making a difference in the project outcome. These aspects, however, are not easily measured.

Pharma IQ: Can you discuss the importance of focusing on your pilot projects from beginning to end?

A Narang: Any project deserves full attention and focus all the way through. The pilot projects are of even greater significance since they help assess the technical depth and quality of work that may be expected in an outsourcing relationship. Periodic review of pilot projects with insightful focus on quality and technical depth, in addition to traditional outcome measures, can be one of the best ways to assess attributes that are difficult to measure.

Ajit Narang is a speaker at the upcoming IQPC 13th Annual Contract Manufacturing for Pharmaceutical and Biotech Companies Summit, December 05 - 07, 2011, Philadelphia, PA.

Interview conducted by Amber Scorah.

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