Pfizer taps online marketplace for outsourcing research

Assay Depot, which has created an Amazon-like service for buying research services, has landed drug giant Pfizer ($PFE) as a new customer. Pfizer has adopted the San Diego-based startup's enterprise software that allows its scientists to peruse the services of thousands of CROs.

Pfizer, which is the world's largest pharmaceutical company, has been seeking ways to streamline internal research as CEO Ian Read pushes for deep cuts in R&D spending. With Assay Depot's software, Pfizer scientists have a platform to outsource more research, particularly preclinical research, which has been the forte of the online marketplace.

"The [Assay Depot] sourcing system fosters transparency across Pfizer's global research operations and external services," said Sylvie Sakata, Pfizer's senior director of external research solutions, in a statement. "It's a new way to empower our scientists and strengthen relationships with our external research partners, promoting innovation across the entire Pfizer research community."

Anyone can browse Assay Depot's website for online listings of research services from a long list of vendors for free. The company has been making money on an enterprise version of the software for pharma companies such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca ($AZN), which tapped the online marketplace last year for its virtual neuroscience group. The NIH's National Cancer Institute is another well-known user of the technology.

When industry commentators talk about pharma R&D in the cloud, Assay Depot has to be counted as one of the prime examples. Its software enables scientists to use their smartphones or tablets to design experiments with vendors and order their services online. To keep quality in check, the system enables users to rate the service providers, and those ratings become visible to other shoppers.

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