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CNS-centric CRO matching service launches

Monday, June 19, 2017

A new matching service has launched for scientists working in the therapeutic area of the central nervous system (CNS) who are ready to move their discoveries from the bench to trials, but have no idea where to turn when it comes to finding and choosing a CRO or lab that knows their therapeutic area well.

The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) and Science Exchange, which connects scientists with CROs across many therapeutic areas, have united to create the CNS-centric ADDF ACCESS matching service, launching what’s thought to be the first such service tailored to a specific therapeutic area.

Said Lauren Friedman, ADDF’s associate director of scientific affairs, and now program director of the new platform, the need for such assistance is robust and growing.

“Academic investigators and investigators from small biotech kept coming to us for advice on where to go, who to work with and how to put these teams together,” said Friedman, whose nonprofit organization is focused on funding the development of drugs for Alzheimer’s. “With this new partnership, we can realize our vision for helping these scientists, plus we’ve added a concierge service to help them solicit competitive bids to find the right research provider.”

The service also offers early-phase scientists help to manage projects, as well as a library of educational resources, including a guide to CNS drug discovery and development.

Cliff Culver, vice president of strategy and general manager, explained that Science Exchange and ADDF both do their own vetting of CROs before allowing them into the matching service mix. Science Exchange reviews Dun & Bradstreet profiles for credit history information and checks FDA databases for inspections, violations or other problems the company may have had. ADDF conducts interviews with each provider to ensure they fully understand CNS and offer the right services for the therapeutic area.

Friedman said, “Many academic scientists have never done the final stages of drug development; they might not even know they have to look to see if the CROs or labs they’re going to work with have had any violations. They may not know how to do their own due diligence.”

Both partners will actively continue the vetting process, Culver added. “It’s a living community that we monitor,” said Culver. “We connect with these CROs and labs on an ongoing basis to make sure they remain who we understand them to be.”

The ultimate goal is faster timelines and faster cures. “This service can save at least a month and potentially many months for scientists,” said Culver. “It breaks down into two phases. One is just finding a provider to talk to, which would normally involve a lot of Googling and making phone calls. That’s hours and days of work. And once that connection has been made, the next piece is the contracting process, which varies from organization to organization, but this is where we can save weeks to months of time, speeding up the overall timeline by quickly connecting scientists with CROs and other providers they can trust.”

CNS, said Culver, is a unique area in that the need is urgent but funding is challenging due to long timelines inherent in studying the brain and conditions that play out slowly over time, like Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important to find CROs that understand that, and also the challenges in working with the brain-blood barrier, added Friedman.

ADDF has partnered with a handful of other CNS-focused organizations to bring the new service to as many scientists as possible. Those include the BrightFocus Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Together with ADDF, these organizations represent thousands of scientists. And, said Friedman, ADDF will continue to spread the word to any and all working in CNS drug development.

It’s not just CROs and labs in ADDF ACCESS’s vetted database. The matching service includes other service providers—some offering CNS-centric services that scientists didn’t know existed. One example is BrainBits, a company that provides fresh, micro-surgically dissected brain matter from rats and mice that can be overnighted. This is unique in the marketplace, and of great help to those working in CNS, said Michael Goy, president of BrainBits.

“The service that BrainBits provides—the concept of being able to source live tissues—is not one that’s known to researchers,” said Goy. “The new matching service is exciting because it lets CNS researchers see more of what’s out there for them, while also making sure the credibility is there among the companies, adding additional transparency to the whole endeavor.”

Friedman said other matching services are out there for scientists looking for CROs and other providers needed during research, but none are wedded to one therapeutic area, and none offer the concierge services and hand-holding that ADDF ACCESS does.

Since 2013, ADDF has helped match interested scientists with CROs and other providers who get CNS, but only via lists the organization kept, said Friedman. This new partnership takes ADDF’s assistance to scientists and the area of CNS to a whole new level.

Science Exchange was founded in 2011, and has since then helped connect scientists with CROs and other vendors. ADDF ACCESS is its first foray into providing services for a specific therapeutic area. But it won’t be the last, said Culver. “It’s likely that we’ll have news to share in other therapeutic areas before too long,” he said.  


This article was reprinted from Volume 21, Issue 24, of CWWeekly, a leading clinical research industry newsletter providing expanded analysis on breaking news, study leads, trial results and more. Subscribe »

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