Europital, a Belgium-based provider of medical management services for clinical research and drug development, plans to open a UK contract research organization (CRO) facility. The company, opening the facility to meet growing demand in the UK biotech sector, reportedly anticipates compound growth of approximately 30% over the next three years.
The company also plans to add staff to its operational team at the site over the next few months. Additionally, it anticipates working with small- and medium-size companies to design and execute projects for first-human, Phase I and Phase II clinical trials.
Mohamed El Malt, Europital’s CEO and chief medical officer, told Outsourcing-Pharma that the country’s biotech landscape has grown and evolved in recent years.
“According to Venture Valuations' ‘UK Life Sciences Trend Analysis 2020’ report, since 2010 the number of therapeutically focused UK biotechs founded has grown steadily from 14 in 2010, to 29 in 2017,” he said. “Whilst Brexit has caused a sharp decline in the number of newly founded biotechs, the amount of venture funding for UK-based biotechs has remained steady over the last 5 years hovering around the $1.1b – $1.2b mark each year, with only 2019 experiencing a more significant drop in funding to around the $716m mark."
El Malt added that while Brexit has affected overall investment in UK biotech activity, it remains the European country with the highest volume for life-science research. Further, he told OSP that his company is uniquely poised to handle future growth.
“We already partner with several biotechs in the UK, and what we have seen is that there is a clear gap in the market for small innovators looking for a science-focused CRO that can provide the detailed knowledge and therapeutic experience,” El Malt explained. “Gaining access to senior medical CRO expertise can be extremely challenging for the smaller innovators; what they need is a partner to bring a medical department with real-world trial experience to implement study design and protocols and be a scientific driving force behind project’s success.”
Company leadership anticipates staff will focus on serving partners in complex oncology indications, inflammatory diseases, immunology and infectious diseases studies. The UK site opening also will be used to leverage the company’s Phase III experience with clinical studies conducted at UK investigative sites.
One of the challenges the industry faces in the region is a relative shortage of staff with the knowledge and skills necessary to serve clinical research clients.
“Finding qualified candidates for hiring into the clinical trial industry has twin challenges of a limited and expensive talent pool,” El Malt explained. “Qualified clinical research associates (CRAs) who conduct monitoring at investigator sites, need very specific skills, such as very sharp critical thinking, the ability to travel to various research sites and relevant therapeutic experience.”
Retaining qualified staff and training them on new skills also is important, El Malt added. Making them feel valuable can help them remain, he told us.
“Surveys have found that the most important driver of satisfaction is feeling valued; knowing that the clinical professionals' work is contributing to the company and to society,” he explained. “Participating in breakthrough research or helping a new medication or treatment get to market is a powerful motivator.”