San Diego-based Synteract has its sights set on continuing to provide research services from early phases of drug development through post-approval, but it’s able to avoid competition from its larger peers by not targeting the largest pharma and biotech companies.
Barr told us that unlike larger CROs, such as Quintiles or Parexel, Synteract isn’t focused on establishing strategic partnerships. “As a smaller, more mid-sized CRO our focus isn’t to go in and try to find a way to do all of sponsor’s projects,” he said. “We see the larger companies every now and then but they’re more focused on the larger strategic partnerships.”
Instead, the company has honed in on the smaller biotech companies.
“We’ve seen very active progress on our proposal pipelines and we think that’s because there’s more money flowing into the biotech space…we see some correlations between continued funding into biotech and ability to see more RFPs in the pipeline,” Barr said.
Some observers of the CRO industry, including the CEOs from Parexel and Quintiles, have said it would be difficult for smaller CROs to continue to thrive in the industry because of the increasing number of larger companies with diverse geographic footprints and increasing IT investments.
“That’s the kind of thinking that creates opportunities for us,” Barr said. “We get asked a lot about what makes us different from a large CRO – and it’s not because we have more capital or capabilities that they have, it’s about the way we work with our clients. We’re a small organization, more nimble, responsive and reflexive to our client needs.”
Push into Asia, New Tech
But as far as what Synteract, which has projects running in over 50 countries and operations in about 14 countries, needs to do to drive growth further, Barr said there are “opportunities for expansion” in Asia, though he didn’t offer any specifics on the types of companies or service it’s targeting in the region.
The company is also focused on the application of new trial services, such as risk-based monitoring (RBM) and adaptive trials, and it’s made upfront investments in both adaptive design and data integration capabilities.
Phil Doren, VP of biometrics, told us that in terms of RBM, “basically it’s how we’re handling information and are we pulling it together quicker and faster and evaluating more meaningful points of data, and implementing corrective actions when needed.”
Like most of its peers, Synteract has also turned to electronic data collection, which Doren said “gives us more timely access to data collected in the field – when it used to take 30 days to get CRF forms in, and now it can be turned around in five, which allows you to analyze it more effectively and in a more timely fashion.”
Barr added that company has also been investing more in identifying where patients are as part of its feasibility process and it also works with a number of specialty vendors focused on finding and retaining patients.