Two of the most gratifying things I’ve experienced in my two decades of running a CDMO have been the loyalty of my staff, and the collaborative, often lasting relationships we have built with sponsors.
Internally, the majority of Seqens CDMO NA’s (formerly Seqens) scientists, project managers and support personnel have stayed with us for many years. That’s not only because we pay them well. It’s primarily due to the freedom to explore innovative API development and manufacturing solutions. As well, ours is a fast-paced environment in which meeting the challenges of new chemistry is inspiring and rewarding. There’s never a dull moment. What’s more, in our highly collaborative work environment, we all learn new things every day. We take pride in the fact that our staff finds in Seqens CDMO NA a place to grow and thrive, personally and professionally.
This article will focus on our external relationships and the five best ways we have found to incorporate our sponsors into this richly collaborative environment.
- Make the sponsor a member of the problem-solving team
We’ve all been there. A sponsor chooses your CDMO based on your extensive experience developing and manufacturing APIs but differs on the approach. It’s been our experience that it’s important at this juncture to stress the shared interest in the project’s success and to incorporate the customer into the problem-solving team. If challenges materialize as the project progresses, give consideration to the sponsor’s point of view on how to proceed. If you’re certain there’s a more efficient way to get from step A to step B, offer it as an option with a full explanation of your reasoning. Satisfied customers are those that are involved in the solution – and learn something valuable in the process just as we do when tackling new chemistry.
- Insist on frequent interaction
We prefer frequent face to face meetings. There’s no question that fewer face to face interactions create more opportunities for miscommunication, doubt, and misunderstandings, impeding the overall collaborative effort we make every effort to foster. However, in-person meetings are currently severely restricted due to the need to keep everyone safe from Covid-19 infection. In circumstances when on-site meetings are not possible, don’t default to using the phone. Rather, continue and even increase meeting frequency and employ video technology. With the many meeting tools we have at our disposal today – Zoom, Skype, Teams, FaceTime and others that are easy to set up and participate in, make the extra effort to maintain face-to-face interactions While it’s not the same as working side by side at the plant, it helps keep the teams connected and the relationship on track.
- Prioritize long-time, returning customers
Business should be on a first come, first-served basis. Sometimes a busy CDMO wins a shiny new piece of business and decides to give the new project priority, potentially pushing out timelines for customers whose projects were under way. While it’s sometimes necessary to reprioritize when circumstances warrant, it’s important to stand by your commitments to existing customers. Do your best with the resources you have to keep everyone happy but prioritize long time, loyal customers. In this competitive environment finding innovative ways to juggle when necessary is key to attaining long-term business goals. Keeping existing customers of the right size and fit is often more cost-effective than seeking new ones. Besides, you don’t know if a new customer will be a returning customer.
- Make sure project objectives are being met
Making sure the project objectives are being met is one of the most important things you can do. Best practices demand it. If things slip or there are surprises, your relationship with the client will become difficult. To stay on top of project objectives at all times, you need to pay close attention to the details. That pertains to the chemistry, to the raw materials, to the analytics and to documentation. We all know the devil is in the details, and if you don’t stay current on those it can ruin you. Your reputation for reliability, for meeting timelines and staying on budget whenever possible is among your most valuable assets.
We have time and again stressed the importance of communicating often and with full transparency. If something unanticipated occurs during a project, as it frequently does with new chemistry, it should not come as a surprise to the sponsor. As business travel remains limited, forcing a greater reliance on technology for meetings, the need for both sponsor and CDMO teams to assure they are communicating effectively is greater than ever. Therefore, overcommunicate to assure the sponsor is aware of and engaged with every project detail, problem, and problem solution. Repetition helps here. Summarize what you’ve discussed and confirm next steps at the end of the meeting.
Also make note of who attends the meetings. If the person who made the deal with the CDMO is not on the calls, consider it a red flag. You may want to place a call to assure they remain engaged.
The projects CDMOs undertake are technically and logistically complex. There are many people involved and it is nearly impossible for everything to go right 100 percent of the time, although technical development is generally a relatively smooth process. To build and maintain rewarding, long-lasting client-sponsor relationships keep in mind the tips above. Take steps to assure the sponsor is committed to the collaboration, maintain open dialogue throughout, and together assure the project’s success.
We’ve written a lot about collaboration. Check out other insights: “When Does it Makes Sense for CDMOs to Collaborate? Indiana Jones had it relatively easy compared to a drug candidate’s journey,” “The Surge in Chinese Biotech Requires Collaboration and Cooperation on a Global Level,” and “Manufacturing APIs for Clinical Trials: How complexity impacts the timeline: How complexity impacts the timeline, process and cost of turning a molecule into a drug for clinical trials.” Or email us at email@example.com.