GEN: What key factors do you take into account before finally deciding that you will take on a particular biotech or pharma company as a client? Have you ever turned anyone down, and why?
Dr. HART: The main factors that lead us to work with biotech/pharma companies revolve around scientific engagement and clarity of objectives, both at a strategic and tactical level. Getting this in place up front establishes a professional relationship, manages expectations, and minimizes the chance of issues arising. We do not engage with prospective partners who lack the expertise to know what they want as this makes it difficult to establish a clear plan of work with defined milestones and objectives.
Dr. NEWTON: We obviously have to be able to perform a project technically, and we do assess that a client has the ability to pay the price of a project. That said, we pride ourselves on being able to work with any culture and any size and type of organization.
Yes, we have declined a project based on our view that we did not have the technological ability to perform a project. We do not think we should spend a client’s money without real chance of success.
Dr. GILLETT: We work with all types of companies to build customized drug development programs with the goal to develop safe and effective new medicines; however, the clients with whom we have the most successful partnerships are those who fully utilize CRO expertise and infrastructure, viewing CROs as an extension of their own team.
The strategic model creates deeper relationships on both sides, which results in better service, consistent communication, and stronger commitments. In addition, the scientists within the CRO become part of the client’s team because there is more knowledge sharing, which creates a greater level of trust.
Dr. SOMBERG: In assessing a potential opportunity, we focus on the molecule and the development plan, considering both the safety profile of the molecule and the proposed plan. For example, we want to see molecules in which the risk to subjects is appropriate for the potential benefit. We also assess the opportunity to be sure we will be able to deliver for the client in terms of assay development, subject recruitment, or whatever the particular opportunity entails.
We may turn down a client if we think their molecule is unsafe or if the planned studies pose excessive risk. We also may turn down a client if we feel our expertise and experience is not a match for the needs of their scientific or clinical program—though given the breadth of our experience and broad scope of services, this is infrequent.
Ms. GLADWELL: Expertise and availability are the key factors we consider before taking on new work. A cross-functional team reviews the RFP or protocol and any other relevant information gathered from previous conversations with the client. The team determines whether we have the necessary expertise and the staff available to provide a high-quality customer experience.
We have turned down work when we could not commit the necessary resources to complete the work without sacrificing quality.
Dr. BASU: One of the key factors in taking up work for us is to match our competency with what the client’s project requires. Since each project is unique and requires dedicated resources we also take a hard look at the desired timelines, project management, and communication mechanism, if any are proposed by the client.
We have declined projects where we have found ourselves lacking in the particular scientific domain expertise which the client’s project demanded.