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Client Focused

EPC: What is your company’s background and entry point into the pharma and biotech industry?

David Spaight: Clients rely on us to apply scientific and technological expertise to ensure the safety of new drug candidates and industrial/agro-chemicals; increase their development and compliance speed, precision and productivity; and help them to quickly determine which drug candidates should move forward to clinical development.

How would you describe your business philosophy?

Since WIL Research was founded in 1976, we have continued to pride ourselves on our practice of listening; it allows us to develop relationships based on trust, resulting in quality work. Clients especially value having direct access to our scientists, and often our full technical teams, because of their expertise and collaborative approach to problem solving.

How has the contract research industry changed in the last five years?

Overall, the market is down – leading to a great deal of pricing pressure and excess capacity. To compensate for this, drug discovery services are being outsourced earlier in the process. While the largest drug companies are forming partnerships with big contract research organisations (CROs), smaller and mid-sized CROs are still thriving because they bring something unique and special to the marketplace.

What are the unique needs of your customer subsets and what has been your approach to meet these changing needs?

Our larger and mid-sized pharma clients, as well as biotech companies, are looking to consolidate the number of CROs they work with. What they are seeking is a broad array of capabilities to support their preclinical and non-clinical development programmes. To meet the growing global needs of our clients, we continue to review our offering, and build on our services and technical expertise at a regional level.

On the other side of the spectrum, small biotechs often need to procure funding to outsource specific areas of expertise to bring a molecule to market. As such, we are brought on board as their external R&D department, working closely with them to provide support, advice and documentation to aid the funding process and facilitate investor relations.

To address these differing needs, we are fl exible and responsive to our clients’ needs, while providing a small company experience with large company capabilities.

How do you see the biotech and pharma market developing in the next five years?

Drug discovery and development is moving towards a more collaborative, cost-effective model. Participants will continue to optimise this paradigm, improving the funding structure, project delivery, communications, operational processes, research schedules and relationships needed to make it a success.

In addition, many of the big pharma companies are investing heavily in R&D facility relocation, seeking to increase their proximity and access to the thriving biotech clusters.

What does the five-year plan look like for WIL Research?

In the immediate short-term, we want to be fi rst-in-mind for our clients. We do not have to be the biggest CRO out there; we just want clients to look to us when they have critical work that needs to be done on time and with high quality.

At the same time, we want to continue to recruit top talent; we have been very effective in attracting and retaining exceptionally smart people with specific expertise, and that is extremely valuable to our clients. We have about 1,200 employees and the work they do has a deep impact on new drugs coming to market. In the longer term, we will continue to look at opportunities for geographic expansion – expanding our European footprint, while also looking to China.

Finally, we will continue to explore a number of cutting-edge technologies, both in vivo and in vitro. New models and new types of in vitro safety assessment are emerging. We are looking at a range of new technologies to bolster our portfolio and meet the needs of the clients we serve.

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About the author

David Spaight joined WIL Research as Chief Executive Officer in April 2010. He has more than 25 years of experience in the life sciences and analytical sciences industry. David was President of MDS Pharma Services, served as Senior Vice President at Fisher Scientific, and spent 20 years at PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences.

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