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Advice for mid-market firms on selecting the right development partner for their needs.

When biopharma companies transition from small companies in pursuit of one or two compounds, to mid-sized companies with a growing portfolio of molecules, they face a number of important decisions about their company’s future. Most notably, they need to decide whether they are going to build talent and infrastructure in-house to manage all of their development and commercialization efforts, or remain small and lean by working with collaborative providers to deliver the work outside of their core expertise.

Both choices are apt, though in the fast paced world of biopharma, the former can be riskier, requiring more resources than most mid-sized companies can access. These companies already have limited time and finances, most of which is earmarked for bringing the next big molecule to market. They may also have small teams that may not have all of the knowledge and expertise needed to effectively commercialize their products. Keeping operations entirely in-house can also threaten the ‘hallway conversation, easy way of doing business’ culture that enabled them to achieve their early successes in the first place.

By choosing to work with a development partner, mid-sized companies can avoid many of these growth obstacles. Working with a contract research organization requires less upfront capital investment, and gives immediate access to an established network of experts, technology, and global infrastructure as well as a long history of lessons learned that can be applied to their projects. This can help these growing companies better manage resources, enable them to scale their operations in response to current project needs, and make faster decisions about the potential of a molecule.

Partnering with a service provider isn’t a risk free solution. To be successful, mid-sized companies need to do their due diligence to choose partners who can provide them with the tools, services, and guidance they need, while also aligning with their culture, values, and long term goals.

When companies do decide to work with a development partner, they should look for the following traits:

Industry awareness. One of the big challenges for mid-market companies in their commercialization efforts is that they may not be well-known among payers and providers, which can slow market access and short term profitability on a new product. A good partner will fill that gap, providing an extensive network and proven commercialization skills to rapidly increase awareness and adoption of the product as soon as it hits the market.

Post-approval support. For many companies, obtaining regulatory approval can feel like the ultimate victory; it also launches a whole new phase of the project, with an entirely new set of processes and complications. It’s important to choose a partner who can help them master market analysis, communication strategies, safety protocols, registry use, and myriad other steps that make the commercialization process successful. The partner must also be willing to work with the in-house team, transferring knowledge so they can develop their own expertise for future initiatives.

A desire to innovate. Many bigger pharma companies today are entrenched in the “we’ve always done it this way” approach to product development. That gives mid-sized companies an opportunity to gain an advantage over their larger peers – but only if they work with providers who are willing to be innovative, and to brainstorm faster, better, more efficient ways of getting things done. Both parties have to work together to collaboratively advance the long term goals of the mid-sized company’s portfolio and pipeline.

Proven time savings. In an industry in which time to market will make or break the profitability of any product, choosing a partner who can expedite trials is vital. Time savings is one of the greatest advantages that mid-sized companies can gain from these relationships, and the best partners will do more than just shave off a few days here and there through incremental efficiencies. They have a toolbox full of strategies that can be proactively implemented to add significant savings to the trial process. For example, rather than waiting for a trial phase to end before taking the next steps, they can gather results from an earlier-phase trial and have the planning and pre-work done in advance. They might also conduct robust due diligence for every single protocol to minimize the risk of unnecessary delays and set-backs that derail so many trials.

An end-to-end option. Mid-sized companies should look for a partner that has the potential to meet all of their clinical trial needs, from planning early phase trials through to post-approval commercialization. That doesn’t mean they have to use that partner for every step in every trial, but they know it’s an option if the need arises. One benefit of choosing a single end-to end provider is having a single set of systems and technology for every project, which reduces the risk of errors, improves knowledge sharing and communication, and lessens the number of touchpoints needed to advance the product to the patient. This streamlines productivity, and ensures all laboratory and clinical trial data is captured and stored in the same place.

The best partners aren’t just around for a single trial or product launch. These relationships can last for decades, and play a critical role in the current and future success of a growing company. Taking the time up front to do the due diligence, and vet potential partners ensures that you will get the most value from these vital industry alliances.