Lab managers are responsible for their organization’s success in advancing business priorities. Developing capabilities and strengths aligned with your internal or external customers’ needs is key to your success and theirs. There are a multitude of lab services out there that can help add to this success, but how do you know which one is right for your lab?
In this eBook, you’ll learn about:
- How to decide when to use a laboratory staffing service
- Completing a successful laboratory relocation
- Marketing your lab’s services
- How to choose a contract laboratory
- Trends in outsourcing laboratory services
LAB SERVICES RESOURCE GUIDE
? How to Decide When to Use a Laboratory Staffing Service
? Completing a Successful Laboratory Relocation
? Marketing Your Lab’s Services
? How to Choose a Contract Laboratory
? Trends in Outsourcing Laboratory Services
How to Decide When to Use a Laboratory Staffing Service
Staffing services offer a range of benefits but how do you know when you need them?
Maintaining a well-staffed laboratory can be a challenge, especially for small businesses with limited budgets. One way to overcome this is to use a laboratory staffing service. Laboratory staffing services provide qualified personnel to fill a variety of roles, from technicians and analysts to managers and directors. These services can provide temporary, on-call, or permanent staff and provide flexibility, allowing you to increase or decrease your workforce as needed.
One of the biggest advantages of using a staffing service is that it gives you access to a pool of qualified candidates. Staffing firms can help managers find highly vetted candidates, develop faster onboarding of new hires, reduce the number of unqualified applications you have to review and reject, and help advise on the current hiring trends specific to the laboratory industry.
So how do you know when it’s a good time to hire a staffing service? There are several important considerations including turnover, onboarding processes, and diversity, among others.
In any business, it’s important to pay close attention to turn- over. This is especially true in the laboratory setting where a high turnover rate can quickly lead to staffing shortages and decreased productivity. If you’re starting to notice an uptick in the number of employees leaving your laboratory, it may be time to consider hiring a staffing service.
One reason for a high turnover rate could be flaws in the selection process. Experts believe that internal recruiters who are often responsible for filling all the positions with their employer may lack the technical knowledge required to find a good quality technical person for the lab’s specific needs. It is recommended to keep track of the length of the hiring cycle, how often you need to fill a role or similar roles, how technical the role is, and the turnover rates for that type of position.
Evaluate recruiting and onboarding processes
Effective recruitment and onboarding processes are vital to maintaining the right workforce, and one mistake managers make is assuming these processes are the same across industries and business areas. Recruiting and onboarding through a staffing service can save you time and money while also ensuring that you add the right staff members to the team.
Training recruiters, with the help of staffing firms, as subject matter experts in a specific industry or area of business can help in reducing hiring time and the time spent in the hir- ing process. Staffing services can also handle all the admin- istrative responsibilities such as setting up the candidate for interviews, preparing offers, and checking references. Post- hire, a staffing service can provide support with onboarding new employees, helping them to acclimate to their new roles and responsibilities.
Any good manager knows that a diverse workforce is essential for success. Not only does diversity bring different perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, but it can also help to foster a more positive work environment. One way to gauge diversity is to consider the number of employees from different backgrounds. This includes employees from different racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as those with different genders, sexual orientations, and physical abilities.
In addition, it’s important to look at the number of employees who are parents, veterans, or members of other traditionally underrepresented groups. By taking stock of the diversity within a company, managers can decide whether their workforce is truly representative of the communities they serve. If not, a staffing service can step in to help fill the gaps.
Determine workload and skillsets
One key indicator that you might need a staffing service is seeing that your existing staff members simply have too large a workload. If tasks aren’t being completed, projects are falling behind, or you’re seeing burnout among staff members, it’s likely past time to get some help with staffing.
It’s also important to consider the skillsets of your current staff. If your procedures are complex or require specialized training, it may be necessary to hire a staffing service that can provide the qualified personnel you need.
By carefully evaluating the factors above, you can make the decision that’s best for your laboratory. If you decide to go ahead with hiring a staffing service, be sure to consider the most important factors before jumping in. These include evaluating the workload, skillsets, and capacity of your existing staff and considering your budget carefully. When selecting a staffing service, ask for referrals and interview multiple agencies to find the ideal fit for your needs.
Completing a Successful Laboratory Relocation
Assembling a well-rounded team is essential to relocating a lab successfully
Planning a laboratory relocation can be a balancing act, no matter the scale. The due diligence of coordinating timelines, satisfying regulatory requirements, and protecting instrument investments quickly becomes difficult to manage alone.
The reality is it takes a team to move a lab. A professional laboratory relocation service provider is a core component of a well-rounded team. Identifying a partner best fit for a particular project requires a clear understanding of the scope and gaps of the resources at hand. Before engaging key stakeholders, a successful move starts with diligent pre-planning.
The first decision to consider is whether the lab must remain in production, fully or partially, during the move. A single-phase move consisting of a complete production shutdown is substantially less complex than a multi-phase move. The decision for a multi-phase move is often driven by productivity demands. For those operations proceeding with a multi- phase move, an experienced partner helps minimize the risks of delays that could affect productivity.
Planning decisions are also influenced by lab accessibility, including considerations like the building layout and when it can be accessed. Perhaps certain spaces are only available during day shifts, while others are only on nights and weekends. Identifying challenges with a floor plan, both at the initial location and the final destination, shape the approach and sequence of a relocation project. Structural limitations impact critical aspects of a project. For example, factors as simple as the size of door frames are a starting point to inform the planning process. Other things to consider include:
Moving truck access, e.g., loading docks, driveways, or overhead doors
Access to various levels and spaces within a facility, such as physical dimensions of doorways, hallways, elevators, and stairs
Availability of staging areas for packaging materials and pallets to be loaded
Before a single piece of equipment is unplugged, teams must account for regulatory compliance protocols. Quality system requirements are often industry-specific, such as GMP, FDA, ISO, and other regulatory standards. To prepare for these protocols, document the instruments and facilities that require specific support, the applicable regulations, and the project phases in which these are relevant. Relocation service providers help coordinate details for subsequent calibrations, IQ /OQ /PQ , validations, certifications, and more.
Instrument warranty and service contract agreements must be reviewed and considered. Before jeopardizing stipulations in these contracts, managers should understand the specific terms and conditions related to relocating equipment. This forethought enables proper coordination with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and independent service providers (ISPs). Failure to comply with contractual terms and conditions can lead to unexpected consequences, up to possible cancellations of these agreements, as well as extra costs associated with services no longer covered. Requirements to maintain agreements are often complicated, and lead times for scheduling services can be lengthy. A relocation service provider with proven experience can provide valuable support in coordinating with OEMs and ISPs.
Another benefit of a relocation service provider is the guidance they provide on how to manage hazardous materials, stored samples, and items for disposal. Accurately forecasting the costs of relocating volatile materials is a crucial component of deciding between moving versus replacing these items. To avoid unnecessary costs, open containers of solvents and hazardous materials should be used completely before the relocation, if possible, then ordered new to the destination site.
Some sensitive supplies are deemed irreplaceable and need to be moved despite the higher costs and extra efforts needed to mitigate potential hazards. The moving of frozen laboratory samples can quickly increase the cost of a project due to specialty transportation arrangements. Planning for the added costs and the critical timelines required to relocate sensitive supplies is essential to the success of the project. Finally, the disposal of items not designated for relocation is often over- looked. The last thing any project needs is lost time from the unplanned handling of waste materials.
With a better sense of the scope of the relocation, it is time to bring in reinforcements and clean up the details. Moving forward, leaders who clearly and proactively communicate with the supporting team set up their move best.
Rallying the team
If they have not already been pulled into the pre-planning process, a diverse set of key stakeholders and vendors need to be rallied together to kick off the moving process. By involving the larger team—end users, management, and contractors—specific plans, accurate timing, and better cost estimates are created.
Communicate core objectives that define the success or failure of relocation, then avoid undue stressors by clearly disseminating responsibilities and connecting stakeholders accordingly. Consider this: if a project requires equipment to be operable as soon as it is placed in the new space, preparation requires more than one stakeholder. Readying utilities could include professionals in HVAC, electrical, compressed gases, IT, and networking. Additionally, equipment placement plans ensure utilities are accounted for from a facility perspective when relocation professionals move heavy and/or fragile instruments. Placement plans also make certain the allotted space is the correct size to avoid errors and late-stage adjustments.
Internal quality assurance stakeholders are key partners to provide critical input early on about the required regulatory protocols. Their insight helps to verify the data collected is properly protected from criticism before shutting down an instrument. Additionally, change control requirements can vary between internal departmental lab spaces. For example, quality control could be held to certain requirements that a research and development lab may bypass.
Contractors are central to most relocations, particularly when installing new lab furniture or instruments. Furthermore, they often aim to align with relocation schedules to work in tandem or tag team whenever possible. OEMs and ISPs also impact timeline conversations in that service contracts and warranties may require their involvement, thus flexing the timeline to their availability to some degree. Likewise, property managers provide valuable input to the timeline and process. Their influence spans accessibility, timeline, and insurance issues.
Coordinating this wide range of stakeholders is no small feat. Handing off the primary responsibility to a lab relocation service provider can eliminate a huge stressor during these major transitions and allow leaders to focus on higher-level tasks.
Partnering with lab relocation service providers leverages best practices to protect equipment investments every step of the way. Their knowledge of properly packing and moving a wide variety of instrumentation differentiates them from most other moving companies. Some relocation service providers can even help re-establish the lab’s credentials at the new location, including IQ /OQ /PQ to cleanroom certifications to annual instrument maintenance contracts moving forward from the completion of the project.
Lab relocations are a detail-oriented and collaborative process. Planning a relocation project well in advance multiplies the chances of it being a success for the organization. A strong project plan should account for a few weeks or even a couple of months for lab relocation crew lead times, especially in non-metropolitan areas. A generous span of time before the first day of executing the relocation is well worth the wait to ensure proper coordination of transportation, logistics, and subcontracted services.
From relocations within the same building to moving across the country, each project is unique in scale and intricacy.
Wrapping up the old and making way for the new puts a lab manager’s most fundamental assets at risk, but there are teams with decades of knowledge to avoid common pitfalls.
Lab relocation providers offer support at every point in the moving process, so managers never need to feel alone in this venture. With enough time, planning, and support, any lab manager is capable of facilitating a successful move.
Marketing Your Lab’s Services
The fundamentals of promoting your lab’s skills and expertise
Lab managers are responsible for their organization’s success in advancing business priorities. Developing capabilities and strengths aligned with your internal or external customers’ needs is key to your success and theirs. Effective marketing of those capabilities ensures the role your team can play in their success is understood. Further, marketing provides an avenue for feedback useful in refining your organization’s direction. Too often, scientists feel that capabilities speak for themselves, but customers value proactive partners who are one step ahead.
So, how can you start the process of promoting your lab? Understand your customers, overlay your organizational strategy, then develop a marketing campaign that best reaches your target customer base.
Understanding customer needs
Smart allocation of your marketing dollars is built on a clear definition of your target audience. Customers can be individual scientists, engineers, business managers, regulatory coordinators, product developers, and others. Do not assume they are experts in your offerings and remember that priorities can change based on their capability, capacity, personnel moves, or experience level. Their industry, role, and budget will shape behaviors and needs. These can vary from narrowly focused (such as routine testing) to collaborative partnerships. Customer relationships are like any other; trusted partnerships are not created overnight, but require repeated touchpoints to cultivate. It is also important to develop a relationship with final decision-makers who hold the budgetary purse strings. This will help you target a service level that is the best balance between the decision maker and the direct customer.
With a clear picture of your customers and their needs, map your offerings to specifically address gaps or industry drivers. As you assemble key messages to include in your marketing campaign, ensure you are speaking your customer’s language.
Consider both technical level and industry jargon. Being able to speak your customer’s language and deliver it at an appropriate level will build trust that you understand their chemistry, gaps, and industrially-relevant priorities. Realize that your target customer base might encompass a range of expertise and content reflecting this breadth of technical depth might be needed.
How to promote your lab
Audience and message defined, the next step is to select channels to promote your organization’s services and populate your marketing plan. Pick those that reflect the industry and reinforce your brand. Consider whether your customer base is internal or external. Many of these avenues can be readily adapted to either scenario.
E-mail news blasts: Share news of new team members, capabilities, or offerings presented in terms of the impact on the customer’s business or efforts. Make them short and to the point and include a link to a more detailed brochure, white paper, or article for those wanting more content.
Seminars and webinars: These events can be in-person or online, pre-recorded or live. The world has adapted to on-demand viewing, so recording the seminar or webinar and including a link in an e-mail blast can expand the audience, giving viewers the chance to share with others or keep a copy for future reference. In the presentation itself, include a slide with contact details for follow-up. If you have identified a target customer group, such as a business team or R&D organization, offer to give a re-presentation. This will allow for more audience participation and an even greater opportunity for you to tailor it to their chemistry and expertise level. Ensure you insert questions for your audience to spur the conversation and obtain feedback to help refine your message.
Conferences and trade shows: Giving presentations and posters, and participating in panel discussions are great opportunities to showcase the organization’s expertise. These direct interactions leave a quick impression and can build credibility by reflecting your knowledge of the industry.
Many team members attend solely to absorb new knowledge; however, train them to recognize that each touchpoint is an opportunity to make an impression or to gather feedback.
Couple your team’s involvement in these venues with an e-mail news blast. Before the event, encourage your customers’ attendance and after the event, market your participation to reinforce your technical and industrial expertise. Finally, organize a debrief session immediately following the event to gather action items and industry trends.
Social media: The success of social media is based on the development of your network and savvy use of hashtags and other tricks to get your content broadly distributed. Encourage your entire team to grow their network of business contacts to complement their more common friend/colleague groups, then promote content typically used for an e-mail channel. This can broaden your network as your content permeates through many layers of connections.
Paid digital and print editorial content: To complement technical journals, there is a wide range of digital and print editorial avenues to leverage. From unpaid thought leadership articles to paid advertisements, expert interviews, or webinars, these can help expand your customer base within targeted industries or interest groups. In addition, these allow you to leverage experienced marketing staff to help you better frame your message.
Customer discussions: Sometimes, the best marketing comes from your ability to listen to your customers and offer solutions with a deep understanding of their needs. Customer interactions are a key part of a contract R&D or testing organization but are no less important for an internal organization in a corporate environment. These can come in the form of informal one-on-one meetings, program update meetings, and open-door discussion sessions. Bring the same philosophy about talking your customer’s language and framing your solutions based on an understanding of their service level expectations. Don’t offer a multi-month, multi-person project when a two-week customer target looms ahead.
The creation of marketing might be intimidating to a lab manager. Engage the support of an internal marketing communications professional or model communications you have received. The key is to make them simple—leave your audience wanting more.
Address the challenges upfront
Realize that market forces or regulatory drivers can dictate timing as a critical factor in your marketing plan. You don’t want to miss the boat if you advertise too late. As you build your proposal, include a timed layering of marketing tools, leveraging content created through multiple channels to get to the broadest audience possible. Use brief case studies, detailed white papers, interview format blogs, and more to reflect your expertise and understanding to different levels for different audiences. In essence, pick a more targeted topic and associated industry and populate your plan with tools and timing to entice your target audience. This will help build your broader organizational brand.
Marketing does not come without barriers, regardless of whether you are targeting customers external or internal to your company. They can be in the form of cost, time, and behavior. Financial constraints will impact your choice of paid advertising or trade show attendance. Depending on the industry, some trade shows or conferences can be “must attend” to be recognized as a player in that industry.
Time can pose a significant hurdle when faced with content creation for marketing. As a lab manager, it will be important to help your team balance content level with its impact. Weigh the value of a one-on-one conversation with one of your experts versus creating a reviewed technical manuscript and technical content needed for its population. Consider what your key customers will need for trust and confidence building. This transition can pose a challenge for some senior technologists as their view of publication was built on an academic model. Help your team explore a broader world of advertisement and marketing to develop an overarching brand. Transitioning your team to an application-focused, industry-knowledgeable organization will result in them feeling included, valued, and rewarded.
Creating a brand and executing a supporting marketing plan can help a leader achieve organizational alignment and success. The adage of everyone rowing in the same direction is an important image as you focus your team’s ideation space on an area reflective of industry needs and organizational strengths. Successful implementation of this process will result in recognized value by your customers, an engaged team, and a profitable and growing organization.
Remote monitoring and continuous validation for any controlled temperature unit
Imagine having the ability to monitor your lab’s regulated storage spaces and check environmental reports from any mobile device or desktop. That’s the reality with Full Spectrum Group’s remote laboratory monitoring system. Check temperature, pressure, humidity, CO2 levels, and O2 concentration from your mobile device. Keep your lab compliant with 24/7 access to reports—know when deviations occur, receive alerts, and other critical data.
The concept and philosophy of Pharma 4.0 propels us forward; our remote monitoring and temperature mapping solutions are one result of that momentum. This technology gives our customers true peace of mind with real-time reports, compliant data storage, customized system alerts, and more. Not only is our system easy to install and simple to operate, but the system can scale to monitor any amount of regulated space. Contact the monitoring team at Full Spectrum Group today for more information.
How to Choose a Contract Laboratory
Key issues lab managers should consider when selecting the right contract lab partner
No lab can fulfill all business needs all of the time. When those needs outside of the lab’s capabilities arise, the lab man- ager needs to secure the services of a contract lab to fill those gaps. Choosing the right lab can be a daunting task, particularly when time and, usually, money is short. This article provides some guidance on the key issues the lab manager needs to think through when choosing the right contract lab partner.
The most critical part of this process is to think through in-depth what problem you are trying to solve when you need to reach outside your organization for support. Spending time upfront to articulate what your needs truly are can make all the difference in both choosing the right contract lab and setting the relationship up for success. Defining your needs is also critical to managing expectations inside your organization. Key items to consider include:
Will this need be ongoing for a period of time or is this a one-off request? For an ongoing need, more time needs to be invested to create the right partnership with the contract lab. Elements of this partnership will be discussed below. For a one-off request, the lab manager can focus on finding a lab with the specific skills and experience to address this one problem. The greatest attention will be needed on the output expected.
Will this need supplement internal capability or provide a skill the lab cannot deliver with existing personnel or equipment? If you are supplementing existing capability, you have the luxury of transferring methods and expertise, balanced by the need to assure consistency with internally generated data. If the contract lab is providing a skill not existent in your lab, you have the challenge of verifying the quality of the work.
Will the contract lab be performing a standardized activity or performing more investigative work? Accreditations and conformance data can address the former while the latter requires significant engagement from qualified personnel in your organization to have confidence in the investigative techniques and interpretations.
What are your time and budgetary constraints? Know- ing these parameters is critical to negotiations not just with the contract lab but also with stakeholders in your own organization. If the true nature of the need does not match your time and budgetary constraints, either the problem needs to be redefined or the constraints relaxed. Having detailed information on the trade-offs is needed for those negotiations.
Once the lab manager has defined the need, the next step in developing that checklist for conversations with potential contract lab partners is to articulate what kind of relationship is required with the lab. The type of relationship will determine the number of items on that checklist. Some questions to think about regarding that working relationship include:
Is the relationship transactional or a partnership? A transactional relationship involves a one-off need for a standardized test or procedure. A partnership would include any type of ongoing work, whether the request is based on a written standard or not, and any investigative or non-standardized work. A transactional need will generally require less up-front qualification time and cost.
What kind of accreditations/certifications are re- quired? In some cases, ISO 9000 or 14000 accreditation may be enough and, in the case of a transactional need, you may not even need to conduct an audit. In other cases, you may need accreditations for specific tests or procedures and you may need to conduct on-site safety and quality audits.
What are the lab’s processes and commitments around delivery? Consider how your lab would deliver the output you are requesting from a contract lab if you had the equipment and expertise required to deliver. What are the steps you would follow? How do your processes inform what expectations you would place on the contract lab? For example, how do they handle material or sample submissions, including chain-of-custody? What information do they provide to you upfront on delivery commitments and communication with your lab throughout the process? Will they provide a firm turnaround time, or at least a target and process for negotiation/remedy? Will they provide access to raw data?
What are the qualifications of their personnel and what equipment do they have available? For transactional needs, these questions are of less importance. The lab’s accreditations require the right training, expertise, and ability to deliver a quality result based on the definitions in the standardized procedure. For a partnership, particularly around investigative work, knowing the qualifications of the personnel and the equipment that will be used is critical in understanding the lab’s ability to produce the output you need.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it is. As noted, this up-front qualification work is much less for a transactional need. However, if you don’t invest in this up-front thinking for a partnership, you run the risk of a range of problems when the work is being done. You must establish and agree upon the work processes between your organizations and the output before work begins. You also need to agree upon the steps for addressing problems as they arise, particularly if a given problem results in a cost overrun. Having all of these pieces understood before signing a contract not only ensures a smoother project, it provides a detailed understanding for your stakeholders. If a lab is not willing to work with you on providing this information, keep looking.
There are a few more steps to consider to ensure a smooth working relationship with your contract lab partner. A few tips are summarized below.
Establish a point person in your lab to work with the contract lab. That person may end up being you, but there needs to be one person in your organization who has responsibility for this relationship. They will be the primary contact for the contract lab as well as the person within your organization who will always know the status of the work. This person will help resolve any conflicts, address any needs that arise, and ensure the process runs smoothly. This is the person who will get any status up-dates and raise any red flags early.
The 1:4 Rule. A general rule of thumb is to devote one FTE (full-time equivalent) of your personnel to supporting this relationship for every four FTEs that you are out- sourcing. Depending on the size and complexity of your contract, you may need to devote only a fraction of one person’s time or you may need a whole team. Outsourcing does not mean no engagement.
Establish those rules of engagement upfront. Get those deliverables in writing, including a commitment on turnaround time and a conflict resolution process. There is always a risk that the scope of the work will change. You must have a firm agreement before the work starts around how you will handle those unexpected issues. This is critical with your internal stakeholders as well, since you may need to negotiate internally for more money or time. If everyone understands and agrees with these rules of engagement up front, then handling those discontinuities becomes a bit easier.
Contract labs are a necessary part of the lab infrastructure across industries. All lab managers, at some point, will need to identify outsourcing partners to meet some needs. Taking the time upfront to think through your needs and qualify for the right partner will make all the difference in whether or not the relationship is a success.
Trends in Outsourcing Laboratory Services
Lab professionals who outsource and those who provide contract services share recent developments in outsourcing
by Rachel Muenz and Ajay P. Manuel, PhD
Outsourcing is a key tool many laboratories use to meet their stakeholders’ needs. According to leaders in both the laboratory and outsource lab realms, outsourcing is becoming more important as the pandemic continues. Early in the pandemic, with non-essential labs forced to close, many turned to out- source providers to continue serving their customers.
This resulted in a growth of the market for outsource providers, especially on the problem-solving side, who in addition to serving several sectors, such as medical device and pharmaceutical industries, were essential and able to stay open throughout the pandemic to support labs required to close down. Once things began to open up again, outsource providers began helping labs to deal with the backlog of work they faced upon their return.
Leaders of labs utilizing outsourcing services agree that the need to outsource is growing with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing challenges to both the pharma industry and the contract labs that support it, mainly on the clinical side with difficulties enrolling patients for clinical trials. Some companies are also seeing an increased need to outsource services they traditionally wouldn’t as the pandemic means less downtime in the need to meet increased safety protocols.
Consequently, experts argue that this has forced lab managers to re-think to approach to getting work completed and identify better and more creative solutions as opposed to prior traditional approaches. Outsourcing laboratory operations that were not outsourced is one such solution allowing scientists to focus on higher-value tasks. This could include activities such as the onboarding of new employees, training, outsourcing analyses to handle backlogs, instrument troubleshooting, and preventive maintenance.
While outsource providers support traditional laboratory needs, these trends have also led to larger vendors transforming into “one-stop shops” for non-traditional needs such as those mentioned above, as well as recruiting, software development customization, optimizing workflows and asset utilization, and consulting. Moving forward, experts believe there will be a continued increase in outsourcing even after the pandemic, and will become the new normal. However, labs will be less likely to do full lab outsourcing contracts, instead opting to outsource on an as-needed basis—a trend that existed even before the pandemic.
Meeting pandemic challenges
Other recent changes in outsourcing have increased the importance of clear, concise communication between labs and outsource service providers. As with almost every industry, travel and in-person meetings between outsource providers and their clients have largely been replaced by virtual options. This will likely continue to be common practice post-pandemic. Communication is critical to meet the needs of clients and setting clear expectations for the labs they serve. The use of virtual environments will assist in reducing the need to have multiple conversations on a single topic.
Further, regular communication allows problems to be caught early on in the cycle, thus ensuring clients can avoid escalation, missed timelines, and delayed delivery dates.
The limited number of volunteers and staff willing and able to travel to a site for clinical trials due to COVID-19 safety concerns and protocols has affected the ability of both pharmaceutical labs and their contract partners to meet deadlines. Virtual tools have been essential in overcoming these challenges. Data sharing and other virtual options are also now being used to conduct clinical trials virtually—known as decentralized clinical studies—so patients don’t need to physically go to a site to participate.
In general, selecting the right outsource provider and product can be difficult. Carefully examining all the options and networking with other laboratory managers to get their feedback on outsourcing is essential to making the best choice. By focusing on outsourcing routine work, staff can focus on higher-value tasks, such as solving complex R&D challenges.
On the pharmaceutical lab side, Xu says most companies have limited resources and it’s important to prioritize them. Most pharma companies focus their resources on the early development and discovery stage and rely on outsourcing to support routine operations, but there is now a growing trend to outsource even early research and development work.
The companies doing this sort of outsourcing are known as virtual companies.
“That virtual company is made up of a small number of senior level scientists—they understand the biology, understand the drug development process very well, but yet, they have very little [and] in some cases, virtually no laboratory capability or capacity,” Xu explains.
Chapman sees such virtual or small pharma outsourcing increasing on his side as well, where researchers will contract out almost all aspects of the laboratory work, meaning huge cost savings from not having to own and operate a lab themselves, as even a basic small lab can mean $5-10 million of investment.
“You’re better to use a contract lab that already has the people, expertise, and hardware to deliver those services,” he says.
Outsourcing in the future
Going forward, there is a high chance that outsourcing will likely increase. For many companies, finding qualified staff has become more difficult, so they’ve been turning to recruitment services more often. Outsourcing will also be crucial for industries related to drug discovery, especially in the later stages, where the capacity the outsource lab provides, such as integrated services, discovery to site operation to logistics, and regulatory expertise, becomes important. While the technologies and services contract labs offer will likely change going forward, the need to outsource will not.
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