CROs carry R&D load

Joshua Boger

In a recent interview with Joshua Boger, the biotech industry bigwig laid out how much outsourcing partners had improved since he founded Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX) in 1989. Yet he sprinkled his compliment of third-party contractors with several caveats, as he and other biotech industry pros discourage blindly throwing programs over the wall to outsourcers. 

At Alkeus Pharmaceuticals, a 2012 Fierce 15 company, Boger, who is executive chairman of the startup, and CEO Leonide Saad have advanced a potential drug against childhood blindness with a skeleton crew that as of Sept. 19 counted Saad as the only full-time employee. Obviously, Saad and Boger have enlisted the aid of non-staff third parties to push the program toward initial human studies, which are slated to start next year.

"I thought it was an interesting spin on trying to [develop] a drug and see how few people we could do it with," Boger, a former CEO and board member at Vertex, said of his efforts at Boston's Alkeus.

"Especially if you're moving forward one product, it's very inefficient to build capability yourself compared with the very highest quality of third-party providers," he said. "So if you know how to manage that process, and you know what you're looking for, and you're a smart buyer, and you have the strategic leadership in the company, then getting a drug developed largely with third-party labor is a new way of getting a drug developed."

CROs carry R&D load