CWWeekly presents this feature as a way to put the spotlight on issues faced by executives in the clinical trial space. Writer Karyn Korieth spoke with Tom Pike, chief executive officer of Quintiles, the world’s largest biopharmaceutical services company.
Q: How do you see the CRO industry evolving?
A: We see two industries evolving simultaneously: the CRO industry and the pharmaceutical industry. At present, CRO leaders are evolving into value-add service providers who can really make a difference in terms of speed, quality and cost associated with drug development and commercialization. At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry is evolving—it’s becoming less vertically integrated and more open to companies that can bring them expertise and improve the way they work.
This evolution of the CRO and pharmaceutical industries is possibly at a tipping point and allows for the opportunity to become important partners in subsequent successes. Quintiles is always trying to develop approaches that will help customers improve their probability of success. We feel like we have an obligation to lead on issues like patient engagement, increasing the use of analytics and being able to use big data to improve the results of both development and commercialization.
Q: What strategic directions do you anticipate the market leaders will pursue to continue to drive their growth?
A: Several of the larger CROs are trying to be innovative business partners, and trends are emerging such as the exploration of genomics and companion diagnostics with pharmaceutical firms. Through Quintiles’ Q² Solutions, the things we’re looking at range from speeding up and making effective companion diagnostics to creating oncology panels that get the right drug to the right person in the right trial. Industry leaders are now investing in those things to increase customers’ probability of success. Some of the areas are quite technical, while others are broader, like the use of analytics, more patient engagement and work with patient advocacy groups.
We believe the best large CROs will continue to increase the scope of work that they can offer their customers. The more skills that Quintiles develops, the more mature the company becomes. The more offerings we can bring to our pharmaceutical customers, the wider the scope of assistance we can provide. This ranges from designing the right protocol and portfolio selection, helping larger pharmaceutical firms and small biotechs, to the integration of real-world evidence into the randomized clinical trial process.
Q: What changes do sponsors need to embrace in order to better leverage their CRO partners?
A: If the industry really opens up to partnerships and we see less of a procurement exercise and more partnering with the therapeutic areas of pharmaceutical firms, there is tremendous opportunity to leverage CRO partners better. For CROs, it’s still a very RFP-driven business. Looking at other service industries, many of them have already moved beyond RFPs into truer partnerships. A few CROs have the ability to do that. CROs need to deliver quality that meets or exceeds the quality their customers expect or can provide themselves. We need the opportunity to show what we can do to add value for our customers.
In other industries where there are larger service providers, it has become an issue for (executive) boards to ensure that companies leverage the skills of those service providers. We’ve seen it especially in IT where boards have come to realize that service providers have gotten so skilled and attracted so many experienced professionals that they are comparable to in-house IT shops. A hallmark of our industry will be when boards ask the question: Are you involving your CRO in the development strategies that you’re undertaking? When we get to that point, you’ll see the potential for CROs to make the same impact on pharmaceutical firms that companies like IBM and Accenture do in IT.
I often look to other industries for analogies in terms of how we can be better partners for pharmaceutical firms. What we’re trying to do is pick some of the best things done by service providers in other industries that have really made a difference, like exceeding the customer’s own level of quality or having great dashboards for oversight so people really feel comfortable when they outsource things. Developing relationships that extend all the way up through management and potentially even into boardrooms is what makes a lot of the great service providers effective. At Quintiles, we’re trying to pursue those world class service-provider approaches.
This article was reprinted from Volume 20, Issue 07, of CWWeekly, a leading clinical research industry newsletter providing expanded analysis on breaking news, study leads, trial results and more. Subscribe »