The drug development industry has benefited greatly from the practice of outsourcing. And as the desires and demands of vendors by pharmaceutical sponsors have evolved—from reducing costs to augmenting expertise, to offering competitive advantage—contract services providers have evolved to meet the challenges. But is the maximum benefit being reaped from outsourcing? Innovation experts would say no. Rather, the global economy/relaxing of trade borders combined with the strengthening of patent laws in developing nations have just started to provide the right environment for strategic partnering to drive innovation.
The definition of innovation—the creation of better, or more effective products, processes, technologies or ideas—ties closely with the common goal among the various players in the drug development industry: creating better, more effective and affordable medicines. Consequently, it makes sense that a CRO’s or CMO’s innovativeness is an important factor when evaluating potential vendors for strategic partnerships. When responding to Nice Insight’s Q1 2012 pharmaceutical and biotechnology outsourcing survey, 10% of respondents stated that innovativeness was the most important attribute when selecting a CRO or CMO.
Historically, the drug development process hasn’t been a completely transparent, collaborative undertaking. Instead, managed risk, intellectual property and profit were focal points for contract negotiations between the sponsor and supplier, often suppressing any true opportunities that may be leveraged from a strategic partnership. When these concerns take a backseat to driving sustainable growth, strategic partnerships become a mechanism for innovation.
Innovation through strategic partnering is a fluid and flexible means to sustainable growth, and complementary to the more traditional forms of growth. Organic growth of a business is oftentimes slow and requires patience. While expansion through the acquisition of complementary or competing businesses requires substantial capital. However, growth through strategic partnering has low financial barriers and as discussed in the March and April editions of Outsourcing Insights, some of the operational barriers have been resolved through harmonized regulatory guidelines, improved education systems and free trade. Of course, these partnerships still require significant due diligence, as the business will become an extension of the sponsor’s brand.
Survey respondents who ranked innovation as their number one criteria for partner selection were most likely to come from the Biotech sponsor segment (32%) followed by Big Pharma (24%), and Emerging/Niche/Start-Up Pharmaceutical companies at 19%. Interestingly, it was outsourcing executives from large companies—44% worked for a business with 500+ employees—who ranked innovation over quality, reliability, productivity, regulatory and affordability (listed in their respective order).