By: Meaghan Casey
With a focus on leveraging strategic partners to accelerate drug development, the MassBio CRO/CMO Symposium was held on Nov. 13 at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel.
“We know that more biopharma companies are contracting services out—or remaining virtual—in order to bring new products to market faster and more efficiently, and we know Massachusetts companies can provide the full spectrum of services,” said MassBio President & CEO Robert K. Coughlin. “We need to talk about how to ensure our competitiveness well into the future.”
The CRO/CMO Symposium is an annual event that shines a spotlight on the strength and success of the CRO and CMO communities in the Commonwealth. This year’s event drew more than 300 attendees, discussing and evaluating the best alternatives that have evolved in shortening time to market.
Michael Martorelli, Director of Fairmount Partners, gave a keynote presentation on piloting strategic options and stressed the importance of maintaining focus in terms of nature and range of services, geographic scope, types of prospective clients, desired rate of revenue growth and extent of profitability.
A series of case studies, interactive panel discussions and networking sessions followed, providing ample time to explore the various techniques and approaches being used by both virtual and established companies. Panelists discussed trends in outsourced biopharma and global and local options for outsourcing.
“If you’re looking for services that are capacity-oriented vs. capability-oriented, you have different needs,” said Richland Tester, Senior Manager at Celgene. “If you just need the space, that’s one thing, but if you’re selecting a company for what they can do, you’re probably going to look more locally. You might want to visit the biologists in the lab and build a closer relationship.”
The amount of roundtable discussions doubled this year, with 18 hot topics for panelists to select from.
In the closing keynote presentation, Willy Shih, professor at Harvard Business School, spoke about the risks and opportunities for the Massachusetts cluster.
“The choices you make today will influence the long-term health of this cluster,” said Shih. “The easiest choices might not be the best ones. We’ve seen this in the electronics industry, the computer industry and the semiconductor industry.”
Shih talked about his time at Kodak—which for a long period focused on film and outsourced manufacturing. Then the industry went digital, forcing the company to refocus its priorities back to the camera itself. Shih said the biotechnology industry also might need to refocus.
“There’s a huge difference between being able to create a couple milligrams in a lab and a year’s worth of supply,” said Shih. “We really need to strengthen biomanufacturing in this country.”