Almac Sciences: Company Activity and Sharing Risks in Collaborations




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Video title: Almac Sciences: Company Activity and Sharing Risks in Collaborations
Released on: June 23, 2010. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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  • Summary
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  • Participants
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks with Denis Geffroy, Vice President Business Development at Almac Sciences at Almac. Filmed at BioTrinity 2010 in Newbury, UK, they discuss:

• Almac Sciences' functions and its clients

• The Almac Sciences business model

• Almac Sciences' functions and its clients

• Sharing risks and collaborations

• The future for Almac Sciences

Focus of Almac Sciences
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioTrinity at Newbury, Berkshire in the UK. On this show I have Denis Geffroy, who is the Vice President of Business Development at Almac Sciences which is based in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, welcome to the show.
Denis Geffroy:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Denis Geffroy, Almac is a pretty well known company these days, it's a company that's emerged particularly in the last decade as a company particularly in the area of manufacturing contract manufacturing but Almac Sciences has a particular is one of the divisions within that organization could you tell us a bit about what Almac Sciences is and what's it focused on?
Denis Geffroy:
Well Almac Sciences is focusing on quite a broad range of services and what really we have been focusing on especially in the last couple of years is to try to all have the same objective to really shorten the time lines of taking clinical candidates to development reducing cost and helping towards improving the attrition rate through the clinical development. So it's a pretty ambitious objective but that's what we always try to keep our eyes on these three key indicators and within this we are offering API synthesis, radiolabelling services, solid state physical chemistry like polymorph screening but that doesn't only apply to small molecule but also to peptide synthesis.
Types of clients
Fintan Walton:
So who are your clients? Who are your customers?
Denis Geffroy:
Well our customers are ever changing anyway because of the different life cycle in the industry that we've observed but traditionally if you go back to the earlier that will be about 10-years as you've mentioned the start of Almac we were really much looking at big pharmaceutical company when they were starting to emerge with the outsourcing model. We've seen a dramatic change in our customer landscape over the last few years coming to probably about at a peak about three-years ago where actually majority of our client were actually start up biotech virtual company a very different type of customer profile and it's only in the last couple of years that we've seen a drought of biotech company really linked to the financial crisis and return from the big and medium pharma, so it's both, it's big medium biotech company but really is our customer landscape is ever changing.
Business model
Fintan Walton:
Right, so let's just go back to the actual business in essence what you are is you are a contract research organization focusing on overcoming the issues of synthesis of molecules will that be a fair way so you can produce them in amounts that can be used in either preclinical or clinical settings?
Denis Geffroy:
That's correct and that's what a mainly true I would have said up to about two years ago and that was a very much a classic model, what's really has changed in the last two years within Almac is that we don't want to be seen anymore just as a contract manufacturer who just do what they have been told to do, we are now much more in line of working together in a partnership with our clients and especially when we talk with medium or biotech or virtual company we can bring them some level of expertise of advice of how to bring the clinical candidates to development in a most efficient way, so we are more now positioning our offering as a strategic partner within our client rather than just a contract manufacturing or custom synthesis.
Fintan Walton:
So in essence then it's what you are trying to do or also what you are offering to the industry is a way in which they can align their clinical development program along with their manufacturing competence, because obviously if you don't get your manufacturing competence right or your manufacturing capabilities right your clinical programs could fall over?
Denis Geffroy:
It's exactly correct, I mean we have to look at the whole picture and we have to offer all this services in a most integrated way as possible, you have to have you must get everything right you can't just afford to have one part wrong because otherwise it's pointless. So what we have been already focusing on in the last couple of years is not only to offer services in API synthesis which is the traditional model but to fully integrate it with the drug product or formulation, formulation development the manufacturing actually of making the tablets or capsule really the commodity that people recognize as a drug and to integrate these two together API and the product and over the all and that's been done through partnership and this is really what we launching here today at this event, it's a the rapidd" package, rapidd" package stand for an accelerated process on an integrated drug development package which put together API drug product, but also as a pre-clinical safety tox assessment which we do in collaboration with CRO like Covance or like CIT in France that we have a collaboration with to integrate the three component of what it takes to take a compound through the clinical development.
Fintan Walton:
So most of your clients then are either operating on a virtual business model or there are larger companies who are looking to outsource most of this work now?
Denis Geffroy:
That's correct, although we have seen a decrease of our business from biotech or virtual company for obvious reasons because of the lack of finance nevertheless there are still a lot of product there to grab, but in terms of large pharmaceutical company they are as the headlines always say that they are downsizing substantially and are starting to benchmark what is a difference between doing it internally and doing it externally with Almac and we have several program ongoing where naturally we are being benchmarked against internal big pharma and see who is actually can do the best. It's too early to say which one the best the act its ongoing, but there is a lot of activities of trying to benchmark what is a most cost effective way and the quickest way to take a compound through the development.
Sharing risks in collaborations
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so you talked about collaboration you talked about partnership sometimes when people talk about that, that means the company one of the parties is at least prepared to take on the risk, are you collaborating on an advisory level without taking the risk or are you an organization that's prepared to take some of the risk in the product going forward?
Denis Geffroy:
That's a very good question, because this is actually the kind of question we face with our client everyday and there is definitely a drive for that risk balance to be shifted towards company like Almac , obviously we are prepared to take some risk but we want to be part then if we are asked to take some risk we want to be part of the decision process of selecting the drug candidate. So we have several example now with medium size pharma especially when they've asked us to take some more risk so with this we said okay we are willing to take more risk but we want more reward if it's successful and to be able to take more risk we want to be able to at least have our say in a selection process of the drug candidate to enter clinical development, so it's very matured partnership is working as one team. So to reply to your question yes we are willing to take more risk but not at any cost.
Fintan Walton:
But is Almac actually says up to do that because some those companies that have embarked those contract research organizations like for an example Quintiles have actually set aside a fund that will actually be used to fund these sort of risks, have you adopted are you in that situation or is it just simply saying making decision on a case by case basis saying okay on this particular one we are prepared to take some risk?
Denis Geffroy:
I think this the model you are referring to of Quintiles is probably said a bit different the way we operate at Almac , while we said increasing risk we said about would be willing to reduce our margins see if they can even go at cost level. So we don't actually need to fund anything so the risk we will take would be as much as doing some of the work we do at cost because we have a long-term view about been able to recover the greater part of return later on, so that's the type of model we've applied so far.
Fintan Walton:
And when you make those sort of decisions are those decisions made at Almac Sciences level or they have to go all the way to the Board of Almac itself?
Denis Geffroy:
Well it's done at board level but the Board of Almac is extremely close, there is no board of each division, so the board actually behave extremely close to each business area. And as we are integrating these businesses we are going to see going forward in the next few months really is the division or name to be phased down and actually Almac is going to be the leading entity in terms of positioning the offering. This is a result of this full trend towards integration of services that our clients are asking for.
Future vision of Almac Sciences
Fintan Walton:
And going into the future how does a company like Almac , I mean you are obviously in this particular division what is the vision for your part of the company that division which is in this particular field what's the way forward? Are you looking to grow the business just get more of the same sort of business or are you taking a greater line on this risk side?
Denis Geffroy:
Probably the later, because I mean only time will tell how far we would be willing to go because this is early days and we hope to get the bigger reward that we will come with the bigger risk and if that bigger rewards come I think that we would see a natural shift towards that type of model. I think how I see the future is that we are already behaving in a very different way today than we were two-years ago and I've seen two, three-years time as offering solution really trying to respond to these three key indicator that every single customer are always referring back, they want things to be done fast at a most cost efficient way and with the highest chance of success and that for that we can now because not only we can do it in integrated way but we bring technology like biomarker for example for personalized medicine this is all new area could be talking to you about for a long time but this will allow us to actually select candidate at a very early stage and to try to prevent taking clinical candidate which are not really worth taking through so what we call kill early or kill fast don't waste your money on something which is never going to be a drug and that's what we are helping client to do. So it's really trying to select the winners, a bit like the horse racing there you know select the winners and there also integrate services to speed up at a reduced cost. And I don't see that trends changing in the next few years on we'd be focusing on this going forward.
Fintan Walton:
Denis Geffroy, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Denis Geffroy:
Thank you very much.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Denis Geffroy
Vice President
Denis Geffroy at the time of recording is working as Vice-President Business Development at Almac Group. His past experiences include Commercial Manager at Johnson Matthey and Commercial Manager at The Dow Chemical Comp, (Chirotech).
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Almac
Almac has the most comprehensive range of integrated drug development services available to the pharmaceutical/biotech industry. The privately owned company employing 2,500 dedicated professionals is headquartered in Craigavon, Northern Ireland and has extensive facilities in the UK and US. Over 600 companies worldwide, including all the market leaders, use our services, testament itself to the quality, innovation and efficiency of our business. Almac 's world-class pharmaceutical solutions extend from research, through development, to the commercialization of product.