Since its inception more than 60 years ago, Charles River Laboratories has seen the entire gamut of partnership agreements with pharma. In his talk, David Collins, senior manager, described the range of possibilities of commercial collaborative relationships: from transactional relationships, to preferred provider, to strategic partnering, to alliances between CROs and client pharmas. He noted that which of these is the best fit depends on the particular customer’s specific circumstances, “how mature they are, what their product pipeline is like, and how they are constituted as a company.”
The looming, industry-acknowledged patent cliff will see generics come on-stream as IP protections on branded drugs dissolve, decreasing pharma revenues by as much as 30%, according to some estimates. This is all while pharmas are seeing the “low-hanging fruit already picked,” Collins said, even as the scientific landscape becomes more complex—looking at diseases with intricate etiologies and poorly understood mechanisms while facing the technical challenges of working with complex molecules like biologicals and immunomodulators.
Still, one concern among pharmas in selecting broad-service CROs is that those suppliers may lack the nimbleness associated with focused expertise. To this, Charles River cites the strong intraorganization communication it has developed among active, global working groups with deep expertise in a number of therapeutic areas.
“We can spot trends very early according to patterns in the kinds of requests we receive from our customers. As a global network of various working groups, we can then either see where we already have that expertise or quickly identify how we will develop it.”
In response to a growing demand for earlier-stage discovery work, Charles River has been building its discovery capabilities over the last three years, with the acquisition of Piedmont Research Center and Cerebricon, augmenting its range of efficacy models. Indeed, over the last decade, Charles River has strategically made numerous acquisitions preemptively to broaden its capabilities from discovery through early-stage development.