In this Industry Viewpoint, CTA Staff Writer Charlie Abrines speaks to an industry professional who’s the Director of Clinical Operations at a small biotech company in the North Carolina region.

Prior to joining their current organization, she worked for 10 years at a larger pharmaceutical company where all of its clinical trial activity was done in-house. In the ensuing conversation, the professional opens up to Abrines on the challenges of outsourcing clinical trials, from the perspective of a small biotech.

Charlie Abrines: How do you improve relationships between sponsors and vendors?

Industry Expert: I think the best way to improve your sponsor-vendor relationships is to move away from an overreliance on either outsourcing all your activities (or keeping these in house), and gearing towards a hybrid model. This allows you to have greater control, while also improving team motivation between CRO staff and internal teams.

CA: How does this hybrid model lend itself to improving team cohesion?

Industry Expert: While at my previous company, I worked on multiple projects where I requested the CRAs, who had been contracted in through the CRO, be assigned to my team leading the trial. By doing this, I ensured they felt part of the in-house team, and not just as additional manpower needed to assist the development of the study.

This meant throughout the trial’s duration, these CRAs became part of the family at the company, and equated their own success with that of the other team members. By managing to create their team spirit between all members of the group, we not only improved the running of the trial itself, but had a much easier relationship with our provider than has been in any other trial I’ve conducted.

CA: Was this something that you’ve managed to achieve in your present organization?

Industry Expert: In my current role, we’ve been trying to recreate the atmosphere this partnership generated back when I was at my last company. However, this is something which we are currently struggling to replicate with our new partners. Unlike previously, where all of our work was insourced, we have had to outsource all our capabilities here given the small size of the company. As such, creating a feeling of unity between us and our vendors is something which should improve relationships and better trust.

CA: Why do you think this is proving hard to achieve?

Industry Expert: The main roadblock we are finding when we seek new partners is that for them working with us is just another contract in their already busy client book. Meanwhile for us, the success of this venture is our livelihood on which we have invested our years of expertise and desire to find a drug that can help patients.

Therefore, it becomes very difficult to find partners who are willing to join us, let alone generate the sort of relationship that’s needed to foster a cohesive team spirit. Large CROs don’t understand that for small companies like ours, the success of this trial is the difference between survival and redundancy.

CA: Do you see a solution to this?

Industry Expert: I believe partnering with smaller CROs who can better accommodate our needs is vital, as well as working with different partners who will take responsibility for various aspects of our trial’s success. We are very excited to have raised sufficient capital for the continuation of our trials and look forward to connecting with companies that wish to develop new drugs to assist people and reduce illness.