Taking a More Relaxed Approach to Discovery Outsourcing

Pharma IQ

The outsourcing of drug discovery functions is an increasing trend within the pharmaceutical industry.

According to a recent Business Insights report entitled The Drug Discovery Outsourcing Market: "As large pharmaceutical companies seek to drive down fixed costs they are outsourcing an increasingly wide range of functions. Strong growth in drug discovery outsourcing will continue and the market is expected to exceed $18bn by 2015."

Chemistry services hold the lion's share of the market, accounting for 39 percent of all outsourcing, while biological services account for 28 percent and their share is expected to grow.

"Virtual companies which outsource almost all research, manufacturing and sales activities are also expected to drive growth in the drug discovery outsourcing market," said the report.

The trend is also presenting a number of challenges within the field of compound management, putting strain on the systems and infrastructure currently in place.


Onno van de Stolpe, chief executive officer of Galapagos, of which BioFocus is a subsidiary, told Outsourcing Pharma there has been a steady increase in demand for compound management in the past few years, and he believes this is due to"drug [industry] discovery efforts focus[ing] more on science and less on the supporting activities."

In other words, firms are keen to spend their resources on the technical aspects of drug discovery, rather than the management and logistics.

As further transfer of compounds with contract research organisations (CROs) grows in line with the increase in outsourcing, demand for services such as sample shipping have risen.

In response to this need companies have developed products which offer the opportunities to transport from multiple research facilities to locations across the globe.

BioStorage Technologies said it has seen an increase in demand for end-to-end sample services, and has been expanding its offerings accordingly.

It recently launched a new biorepository to deal with samples that need to be transported under temperature controlled conditions, saying it provides "door-to-door, full-scale support during the entire drug development process."

International Outsourcing

As with many other functions within the pharmaceutical industry, drug discovery is increasingly being outsourced to emerging markets.

A recent Frost & Sullivan report suggested China, with its "advantages of scientific expertise and comprehensive infrastructure", is emerging as a key location for such outsourcing.

Amritpall Singh, a research analyst at the firm, said: "Expired patents and the rise in diseases are expected to fuel the growth of the Chinese drug discovery market. China offers a large talent pool in the field of pharmaceutical research and development, including an increasing number of western-educated graduates or researchers having international working experience."

However, the report also serves to highlight the key challenges the outsourcing of drug discovery can have, particularly on an international scale.

Data security and intellectual property protection - key concerns for big pharma looking to hit upon the next blockbuster drug - are both less than adequate in the country and Frost & Sullivan believes it "is likely to take a while before these problems are ironed out."

Security of samples, as highlighted by BioLogic's offering of a mobile biorepository, is also a much larger challenge when compounds and biological materials are crossing international boundaries.

The report stated companies outsourcing their drug discovery functions to China were also likely to select a single partner which "enables optimal leverage of the knowledge obtained during the early stages of R&D process within the same organisation" – and likely simplifies compound management.