Identifying the most promising leads in the shortest amount of time is critical in drug discovery. Since many companies have multiple projects ongoing simultaneously, internal resources including space, lab equipment, and personnel can be limited and delay progress. Alternatively, some targets require innovative solutions that may not be accessible in conventional drug discovery labs. Outsourcing can alleviate unnecessary backlogs and provide access to cutting-edge technologies, giving companies an edge to reach critical discovery milestones in a timely manner.
Here are three factors to consider to minimize the challenges and ensure success for outsourcing drug discovery:
Factor #1: Hidden costs or hidden value?
For many scientists, understanding the costs and value for various projects is challenging. For example, a company’s decision to run the project in-house may appear to be the lowest cost option since the outsourcing budget is zero, but how much value will they generate with this option versus outsourcing?
An assessment of costs versus value reveals many aspects that are often overlooked by scientists, like the cost for rent for example, as well as lost opportunities due to the use of internal resources on projects that could be outsourced. Additionally, the lower cost options may come with more expensive follow-up, which is why it is important to understand the total costs from project initiation to lead compound rather than the cost to generate hits alone.
Factor #2: Time is of the essence
Time is one of the most valuable commodities. While it is common for scientists to ask outsourcing partners “how long until I see my data?”, the true value of time is not always appreciated. Imagine a company develops a blockbuster drug that generates $1 billion per year. Once that compound is identified and the IP is filed, the clock starts on IP protection. Each week that goes by without data costs the company significantly in lost revenue and daily expenses.
Consider that internal resources may have other commitments that delay progress. For example, internal schedules and screening resources at larger pharma are often planned far in advance, so slotting a project into an existing pipeline poses its own timing challenges. Alternatively, CROs can dedicate as many resources as needed to complete projects rapidly while maintaining high data quality.
Factor #3: How innovation drives success
Innovation in assay development and screening has opened new avenues to tackle challenging, and previously intractable, therapeutic targets. Many CROs are driving innovation in this space through new instruments with higher sensitivity, faster read times, and with new drug discovery tools to augment assays and data analysis.
Access to these innovative tools through CROs requires dedicated—and often expensive—instrumentation and highly-trained staff. The initial costs for innovative technologies may appear higher than traditional approaches or running programs internally. However, when considering the additional expenses and time needed for reagents and validation assays, for example, innovative technologies may offer significant cost and time savings in addition to generating higher confidence in the results.
Selecting the optimal path for generating quality drug leads is a critical decision for any company. Considering a variety of options will present opportunities and identify potential challenges. It is important to evaluate costs, time, and innovation with respect to overall value when evaluating where and when to run hit finding efforts, including through unique solutions offered by CROs.
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