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How changing times require a new approach to partnerships.
Strategic relationships with CROs have typically been the exclusive domain of large biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms with multi-millions to spend on clinical trials. But, as the face of the biopharma world is being altered by smaller firms, these strategic relationships have taken a new form. Now, growing biopharma companies are working with more synergistic and more specialized CROs for new gains in efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Rather than being the small fish in a big pond, emerging firms are actively elevating their status by testing the waters of strategic partnerships with their CRO. Many of the benefits of working with a CRO that accrue to larger organizations are even more important for the smaller research sponsor that likely has limited resources, such as:
However, it may be difficult for an emerging firm to elicit the level of attention needed from a large CRO to achieve these benefits.
At Clinipace, we have been successfully exploring the full range of a strategic relationship with Inspire Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing prescription products for ophthalmic and pulmonary diseases.
With one or two drugs, Inspire was able to work directly with investigative sites to manage clinical trials. Generally, the company had been reluctant to outsource the management of studies. Inspire felt that it was good at developing relationships with investigators and had worked hard to build and maintain those relationships. They felt that inserting a big CRO into the mix would dilute the relationship with those sites.
But as Inspire's portfolio grew, the company began to realize that time spent managing trials was time taken from development and other core competencies. While the company had worked with larger CROs in the past, Inspire felt the time was right to be more strategically engaged with its CRO partners.
Inspire had previously deployed another of our technology-based research software solutions and thus had established a good working relationship with our executive team. Chad Ice, senior director of Clinical Research at Inspire, has significant experience working with large CROs, and he knew the particular aspects and dynamics of those relationships that worked, and those that didn't.
As Chad and I recently discussed lessons learned from our strategic working relationship, several important themes emerged.
According to Chad, "We especially like having the ability to communicate directly with senior members of the Clinipace team. It is important to us that we are important to them. As much as we value open communication, trial visibility is equally important as many program decisions must be made internally."
Much as this sounds like it all benefits the sponsor, the smaller CRO has a lot to gain from forging strategic partnerships as well. Some key benefits to the CRO include:
As relationships among sponsors and CROs of all sizes change from contract to collaboration, smaller CROs can distinguish themselves by becoming market leaders. The combination of visibility, personalization, and lower overhead will make the CROs more attractive as emerging company sponsors place higher value on skills and operational expertise, not just capacity.
At Clinipace, we've experienced firsthand how an open partnership with an emerging biopharma firm can benefit both companies. For any biopharma firms considering this kind of relationship, here are some parting words of advice:
David Levin is vice president at Clinipace, 3800 Paramount Parkway, Suite 100, Morrisville, NC 27560, email: firstname.lastname@example.org