The arrival of Ratliff at Albany Molecular Research (AMRI) is the latest, and assumedly final, step in a whiplash round of job changes for the executive.
In October, LabCorp, the parent company of Covance, revealed Ratliff would leave his position at its contract research unit to run its main diagnostics business. Ratliff, who took over as CEO of Covance in 2016, was due to take up the position as CEO of LabCorp Diagnostics at the start of November.
The new role was short lived. In the first week of November, LabCorp said Ratliff had left the company with immediate effect “to pursue another opportunity.”
Now, AMRI has revealed the opportunity that Ratliff left to pursue; Ratliff has taken over as CEO, replacing Mulhern, who spent less than two years in the job. AMRI appointed Mulhern as chairman in conjunction with the hiring of Ratliff.
The appointment of Ratliff gives AMRI a leader with considerable experience in the contract service sector. Ratliff took over as CEO of Covance in 2016, landing the position in part on the strength of a decade he spent at Quintiles rising to the rank of chief operating officer and president.
AMRI has a somewhat different set of capabilities than Covance or Quintiles, categorizing itself as a contract research, development and manufacturing organisation, but Ratliff thinks he can help take the business forward.
Ratliff said, “I am excited to join AMRI and look forward to collaborating with a very talented group of professionals. Together we will strengthen AMRI’s position as a market leader and strategic partner for pharmaceutical and biotech companies worldwide.”
AMRI’s ambitions have caught the attention of some its rivals. Talking at the Jefferies London Healthcare Conference last month, Catalent CEO John Chiminski highlighted AMRI as one of a clutch of smaller contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) that are buying up assets to gain scale.
Chiminski said, “AMRI in the US has bought a lot of assets. They’ve now gone private. I think what they’re trying to do is build the next Catalent.”
At the conference, Chiminski drew a distinction between CDMOs that he thinks are already in the top tier and those that are smaller but have aspirations to become one of the market leaders.
Chiminski classed Catalent, Thermo Fisher, Lonza and WuXi as “very strong, marque players” in the CDMO industry. Below these companies, Chiminski sees a group of smaller CDMOs, some of whom are trying to enter the top tier through acquisitions.
The Catalent CEO picked out Recipharm, which recently struck a £505m ($652m) deal to buy Consort, and AMRI as examples of the upwardly mobile class of CDMOs. However, having spent a decade as CEO of Catalent, Chiminski thinks the smaller CDMOs will find adding the scale to be top-tier players is a long-term project.
Chiminski said, “I’m here to tell you that’s a 20-year march. I think those that are at the top tier and in a strong position will continue to be in that position for the next decade or so.”