AstraZeneca and Assay Depot's VRM allows full drug discovery from a laptop

By Natalie Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

AstraZeneca and Assay Depot's virtual research lab for drug discovery

Related tags Clinical trial

AstraZeneca and Assay Depot have launched a new “virtual research lab” which they say will allow a small group of scientists to run full drug discovery from a laptop.

The lab – a vendor relationship management (VRM) system – is a database of service providers both internal and external, which can quickly be filtered by preferred vendors, providers with legal agreements and highest customer ratings, amongst other categories.

Users can then access detailed technical information about each listed service, and can contact the vendors for additional questions or quotes, before adding the custom service to a “cart”​ – all from a laptop, tablet device, or even a cell phone with internet.

“The experience is much like shopping at Amazon but with much greater emphasis on enabling the direct researcher-vendor communication typically required to create custom research services,”​ Assay Depot CEO Kevin Lustig told

The database has now been developed and integrated with AstraZeneca’s catalogue of providers and systems.

Lustig said: “AstraZeneca has been populating the online laboratory with internal service listings, vendor ratings and reviews, legal information and other AstraZeneca-specific information.”

He added that Assay Depot has also been working with the firm to integrate the online laboratory with existing IT systems in an effort to “further streamline the user experience.”

Why go digital?

According to Lustig, the age of "science apps"​ in research management is upon us.

He told us that transparency across the board, a greater level of reproducibility, and enabling experts across the world to work together more easily are all virtual lab features that could fix the “broken” ​pharma research process.

“The industry will move from using monolithic pieces of software that have hundreds of features (think Ariba) to using many hundreds of small and nimble apps that communicate easily with each other through an Application Programming Interface (API),” ​he said. “The costs of research management will decline dramatically.”

He added that though other research/ vendor relations sites are out there – for instance and – Assay Depot’s VRM program is the first to include such a “comprehensive”​ run down.

The lab was originally developed for use in pre-clinical research, but now also works with other outsourcers such as CMOs (contract manufacturing organisations), as well as post-marketing providers.

“Assay Depot will be adding clinical sites and clinical research organizations to the platform in 2013,”​ Lustig added.

Virtual R&D

The new program is not AstraZeneca's first foray into the world of virtual R&D (research and development) management in recent months. In February, the firm made significant cuts in its global drug development division - as many as 2,200 - and established a 50-person virtual neuroscience team​.  

Similar to the new program, the team were tasked with conducting "discovery and development externally, through a network of some of the most innovative partners in academia and industry globally."

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