Four contractors team for drug development

George Miller

WALTHAM, MA - An alliance among four service providers aims to ease project management and to smooth hand-offs between drugmakers and contractors throughout the various stages of drug development. The companies are Avantium, Xcelience, Cambridge Major Labs, and Beckloff Associates. Their respective areas of expertise are crystallization, formulation, API, and regulatory compliance.

The four have hit the road, speaking to about 40 VPs, directors and other high-level titles from Boston-area pharma and biotech companies. The concept involves alliance project managers who can assume many of the tasks of a pharma drug-development project manager, and who maintain the same entire-development-cycle view of the program or project.

Each member company has named an alliance project manager. These managers, already accustomed to collaborating with one another, work with and on behalf of their pharma client project managers, taking the lead on consensus building among the internal and external team members. The alliance project manager also establishes and maintains a communication loop via regularly scheduled conference calls.

"It seems like common sense, but very few of us actually do it," says Brian Scanlan of Cambridge Major Labs, about the timeline consensus building and ongoing communication. They are his chief silo-busting tools, for "breaking down the natural barriers between functional areas," he says. The process, done correctly, amounts to "in-process technology transfer" rather than the segregated activities that typically precede project handoff to a contractor.

The alliance is perhaps most attractive to resource- and production-constrained small biotechs. But the partners make a case for big pharma companies as well, through the varying degrees of project management available and through a la carte selection of alliance members or contractors of the drugmaker's choosing. They make a case to venture capitalists, too, who may want to get more deeply involved with portfolio company operations.

Each alliance member serves as an entry point to the collaborative, with the lead taken by the project manager of the company contacted. Additional Chemistry Playbook presentations are planned for San Francisco, Research Triangle Park, and San Diego.

- here's alliance information