Getting pharmaceutical research right at the preclinical stage saves time and money by highlighting problems early in the process. Pharmatest believes that choosing the right preclinical partner can help make your preclinical tests more predictive, and ultimately cut down on attrition.

If you trip and fall when jumping off a rock, you will probably only get bruised. However, if you fall down a mountainside, you are much more likely to crash and burn. The same principle applies to drug discovery; preclinical attrition is less painful than clinical. If your lead candidate is bound to fail, the sooner it happens, the better.

All of us who are working in the field of pharmaceutical research probably agree that reducing attrition is one of the key challenges that drug discovery is facing these days. At the very least we need to find ways to shift whatever attrition is inevitable towards the early stages of drug discovery. The past years have also seen tremendous streamlining and rightsizing of R&D operations throughout the entire pharmaceutical industry. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical research does not work on homeopathic principles.

You cannot keep cutting the research resources and expect higher throughput and higher quality of results. You can stretch for a while, but if you keep stretching long enough or hard enough you will wear your resources so thin that sooner or later something has got to give. In the long run you can expect a dramatic drop in both quality and quantity of research.

Taken separately, these two issues – the need to cut attrition and the constant pressure to cut costs separately – can easily appear as problems or threats. However, there is a way to turn these threats into an opportunity. Choosing the right preclinical partner will both increase the predictiveness of your research and help you manage and reduce your strategic costs.

Never fear, help is near

This last decade has witnessed the rise of a new type of contract research organisation, the preclinical CRO. These companies are often small, flexible and highly specialised, which enables them to keep abreast of the latest developments in their area of expertise, and apply this knowledge in their service selection. This allows them to invest significant resources in a narrow niche of research and in turn develop specialised services and disease models whose commercial availability is, at best, limited. In an outsourcing market dominated by a few large service providers, these small specialised CROs step in to fill the gaps left by the big players who mainly focus on providing bulk services.

These preclinical CROs are a welcome solution to the discovery and R&D departments of many pharmaceutical and biotech companies. By outsourcing their preclinical efficacy research and lead validation they can control and reduce fixed research costs without sacrificing performance. That, if anything, is called killing two birds with one stone. Validating and maintaining the speciality methods and models these small CROs offer would often be impractical and cost-prohibitive for a pharmaceutical company.

Pack the right gear

Everyone knows not to go hiking in high heels. In this sense, life in the lab is not that far from life in the outdoors. Proper equipment guarantees best results. In the lab this means the latest translational methods. However, it is extremely hard – if not impossible – to maintain the latest models for your preclinical research if your R&D department is constantly under pressure to keep fixed costs at a minimum. Yet predictive methods are an absolute must before any drug candidate can make its way to the shelves of a local pharmacy.

Cancer drug discovery is an excellent example of this. Cancer and its progression is a complex process of physiological events and their consequences. Nevertheless, the preclinical efficacy of many new cancer drug candidates is still being tested with less-than-optimal methods, such as primary tumour models alone. Could this perhaps be one reason why so many of these candidates fail in clinical trials? Medical professionals worldwide are beginning to accept that in many cases cancer should be categorised as a chronic disease that cannot be cured, but which can be controlled. Almost invariably this includes inhibiting the ability of malignant cancerous cells to develop metastasis to distant sites. The only reliable and predictive way to achieve this is to equip your drug discovery with preclinical models that provide adequate clinical resemblance to the clinical setting.

If we wish to reduce attrition in clinical trials, we need to pay more attention to the tools used for preclinical research. This is where the preclinical niche CROs, such as Pharmatest Services can help. They often focus on a narrow field of expertise and provide highly specialised services and disease models that are designed specifically for diseases with unmet clinical needs. Pharmatest, for instance, specialises in preclinical lead validation services in disease areas with unmet clinical needs. Its services include such speciality models as cancer metastasis models and orthotopic cancer models, as well as models for musculoskeletal diseases, urology and inflammation.