Pharma IQ Speaks to Rose Gonzales, Director Compound Mgmt & Distribution at Pfizer

The role of CROs in the drug discovery process is constantly evolving, and as data management and distribution efforts improve, there is increased opportunity for leveraging CROs within drug discovery research. In this podcast, Rose Gonzales, who is a director at Pfizer, joins us to talk about the ever-changing role of CROs as well as the effective utilisation of strong compound management within the drug discovery process.

Pharma IQ: Now Pfizer recently announced the closure of the Pfizer UK site.  What do you foresee as the consequences of this move?

R Gonzales: So, with the closure of our research laboratories in Sandwich, we’re standing down on our research efforts in a number of therapeutic areas, as you’ve seen in the press: allergy and respiratory, gastro, urology, among others.  We’re also closing our HTS Centre of Emphasis along with the Sandwich Liquid Store, which is one of two rep stores within Pfizer that contain a copy of our liquid compound collection.  So the closure of that Liquid Store means that we now only have the one Groton Liquid Store to house our liquid compound collection.|

And from a compound management standpoint, we now have to review discontinuity and disaster recovery plans and strategies.  We also obviously have to build new workflows that will supply the Pfizer screening collection for future HTS support.

Pharma IQ:
And what are some points for companies to consider when supporting multiple research sites, in your opinion?

A well-known and often talked-about consideration is around the risks and logistics of shipping compounds to other places, whether they are internal or external parties.  We also, in addition to that, consider the impact of having to ship compounds on the overall cycle time of lead optimisation.  The focus on shortening that cycle time has led to the co-location of small compound-handling groups with compound synthesis and plate-based screening groups when it makes sense.  At least, that’s what we’ve done within Pfizer.  And now in a model where that does not happen, we have to think of innovative ways of cutting dead time, but at the same time balance that with compound-sparing consideration.

Pharma IQ: And how has your role as head of compound management and distribution at Pfizer changed in recent years as CM evolves?

R Gonzales: Over the years, there has been a growing realisation that compound management in support of lead optimisation is quite different from compound management in support of target validation and hit identification.  At Pfizer, those two groups were separated for a number of years.  However, last year here in the Groton research labs, they were combined again under one roof.

We have maintained the two operations separately but have tried to maximise opportunities to leverage each other’s strengths.  So, for example, we used the data around QC that is generated in the lead-optimisation compound-management group to curate our collection at the Groton Liquid Store, which supplies and supports compound management for target validation and hit identification.  We also now do a better job at coordinating our activities and have made changes that ensure rapid availability of liquid samples to project teams as the compound moves from the lead-optimisation store to the long-term store. 

Looking ahead, we always try to foster strong partnerships with our stakeholders, whether those stakeholders are here internally or externally, whether they’re co-localised with us or not, the screeners who use our plates.  We also have strong partnerships, or try to, with design chemists who consume the data, computational chemists who look at the effectiveness of our screening file, and even our informatics colleagues who help design and support our information infrastructure.

Pharma IQ: Now you’re also going to be speaking at the upcoming IQPC Compound Management and Integrity Conference.  Could you just give us an overview of some of the points that you’re going to discuss at that panel?

R Gonzales:  So the panel discussion is meant to be a venue to share current thinking around compound provisioning for HTS.  I think some of the subtopics that we could go into might include what new liquid-handling technologies can do to speed up HTS… so, for instance, like, acoustic dispensing, what strategies different compound-management groups have taken to ensure a good-quality screening file, as well as any other issues that CM groups face in provisioning compounds for HTS.

Pharma IQ: What technologies or strategies are going to be the most significant, do you think, in the evolving relationship between CROs and CMI?

R Gonzales: Yes, as with any partnership, I think it’s critical that each side know the capabilities of the other, way down to the rubber-meets-the-road level, as they call it.  We have to think of how we can use technology to form an effective partnership.  In any relationship between a CRO and a compound-management group, the most important interaction that we have to get right is the one between two human beings exchanging thoughts and views across an organisational divide that is physically manifested by a separation of location, of language, time and culture.

One example I could give was a conversation we had with a CRO where we were asking them, can they shake a plate?  And they said, yes.  And we just assumed that they had… they could shake a plate.  And it turns out that the shaking methodology that we had was very different from theirs.  And we ended up using technology by way of videotaping our procedure to show it to them across the ocean.  So that is how I think we can use technologies in a way to make that human and very, you know, rubber-meets-the-road relationship work.

Interview conducted by Amber Scorah.