Clinical trials specifically for biotechs: A distinct solution born from the recent integration of Covance and Chiltern

Feb 14, 2018 Tags: Biotech Pharma Drug development

Nimble biotechs have different needs than large pharmaceutical organizations. That’s why a new biotech-specific clinical trial solution was launched in January under Chiltern, a Covance company brand, the result of the recent Covance and Chiltern integration.

This new biotech-dedicated clinical trial solution is built on the successful Chiltern model, providing personalized attention, deep therapeutic expertise and extensive experience working with biotech firms. Chiltern, a Covance company’s mission is to provide biotechs with agile clinical trials, while also offering access to a breadth and depth of innovative services that span preclinical to post-marketing via the broader Covance and LabCorp organizations through The Hub.

Biotechs differ from large pharma

“A typical biotech has a small number of drugs in clinical development—one or two in their pipeline,” explains Lewis Cameron, head of global clinical for Covance.  “For these companies, the importance of every detail is more magnified versus big pharma who is managing a larger portfolio. Executives are involved at much more senior levels, too.” For instance, CEOs and COOs of biotechs engage with the CRO much more frequently than do the CEOs of larger companies. Their active involvement is necessary, not only because they have smaller staffs, but because they often seek results quickly to meet the next milestones that are linked to funding and stakeholder requirements.

Lewis Cameron, Covance

“As a partner, we are aware of and offer solutions to support this specific and unique way to work. In this case, continuous communications, escalating information and bringing in specialized expertise when needed,” Cameron says.

This observation isn’t a mere platitude. It’s based on research of pharma and biotech clients conducted when Chiltern was acquired.  “Interestingly, the two groups perceived the Covance and Chiltern brands differently,” says Roger Hunter, Chiltern’s global head of business development for biotech. “Those differences underscored the value of maintaining Chiltern as a division dedicated expressly for biotech firms—allowing for a different and dedicated clinical trial experience.”

Additionally, Cameron and Hunter each have experience running biotech companies. They’ve faced the same types of challenges their clients face. To them, these concerns aren’t academic. “This is our world,” Hunter says.

They understand that biotech companies expect and deserve attention, and often fear getting lost in the mix at large CROs. Therefore, it’s very important to Covance and its parent, LabCorp, that these companies have a dedicated biotech solution in Chiltern.

Your trials, designed around you

The customized, “design around you” approach is imbued in the Chiltern culture. Continuing it after the integration was a natural decision. “Chiltern’s clients are from biotech,” Hunter reiterates. “They’re innovators, so we partner on the most up-and-coming drugs.” That exposure helped build Chiltern’s deep therapeutic expertise in immuno-oncology and other emerging and rare disease areas.

Roger Hunter, Chiltern’s global head of business development for biotech

“Our clients also need a focused approach to data, so our strategy adapts to what the client needs,” Hunter says. “For example, a company developing an oncology drug may want to publish data to coincide with an important conference such as BIO-Europe Spring (March 12–14 in Amsterdam).” Ensuring that data is ready for such events can be challenging because it requires advance collection or analysis. One of Chiltern’s strengths is its flexible approach—helping biotechs meet specific timing so they are prepared for big opportunities.  “If you prepare up front, it can be addressed,” says Hunter.

“It’s also important to offer competencies, in addition to services,” Cameron stresses. “The competencies of a project manager, for instance, are very different for biotech than for pharma. A biotech project manager will engage directly with the C-suite (in addition to scientists and mid-level executives), so they must have a keen understanding of the broad drivers of the client.” That same broad knowledge is expected for business development and other personnel, to maximize the value of their insights and guidance.

Chiltern, as a new Covance company, is the only CRO to offer clinical trials plus access to The Hub, a full portfolio of drug development services exclusively for biotechs. Services that once were outsourced are now available in-house through Covance, enabling Chiltern clients to access central labs, clinical pharmacology, market access strategies and more from one streamlined partner.  The Hub also enables broader access to medical and scientific experts, whose experience aligns to the therapeutic indications, to inform projects from the preclinical to post-marketing stages, including regulatory aspects. “We can additionally help introduce biotechs to potential partners and investors through MarketPlace, a unique partner networking system,” says Hunter.

“Increasingly, biotechs are taking their novel drugs through the development process to market,” Cameron points out. “Working with a CRO can seem daunting,” he acknowledges. “We try to make it simple.” That means having a few key points of contact so clients always know whom to reach out to when they have questions.

“Ultimately,” he continues, “biotechs get the best of both worlds—an intimate, agile, biotech-attuned clinical trial experience that’s typically associated with boutique CROs, as well as access to The Hub, extensive, global resources and expertise of Covance and LabCorp.”