Full and open communication between companies working in partnership is important in all business sectors, however, I would argue that it is absolutely crucial in Life Sciences and can indeed make or break a project.
A good example of this is when I worked previously for a UK CRO that was working with a European biotech company. The project involved my company adding known amounts of viruses to a down-scaled, laboratory version of the biotech company’s product purification process. We then measured the amount of virus that appeared after each purification step. The aim was to, hopefully, demonstrate complete viral clearance thus indicating that even if there was a catastrophic introduction of virus derived from human or animal starting materials (eg. blood) then all of the virus would be removed by the processing steps – thus adding confidence in the purity of the final product.
If nothing is observed in the final product, we can maximise the viral clearance figures, and thus the scope of confidence, by looking at ever greater volumes of product (obviously if we find no virus after looking at 100ml of product this is better than finding none after only looking at 1ml of product). Of course, this approach of looking at greater volumes of product is more expensive.
In my example, the biotech company asked for the least expensive option and made it clear that price was the deciding factor in placing the business. Although my CRO discussed the larger volume option verbally with the client, we did not think it wise to quote for it and only quoted for the basic approach. We also asked for a face to face meeting with the biotech but, due to their belief that their English was not good, they said that they preferred to plan the study by Email only.
The study went ahead and demonstrated complete viral clearance. However, as we did not examine larger volumes of product, we could not show the high levels of viral clearance that the biotech wanted. The biotech company was very disappointed and, tragically, both parties ended up in court. Ultimately the judge determined that both sides were at fault and decided that the biotech should still pay for the study but that they should pay 50% of agreed costs.
Both sides lost. The biotech did not get the results they could have. Our CRO lost money and the goodwill of the biotech company.
Lessons were learned. As a CRO, from that point onwards, we determined to always discuss all options even if this might mean we lost business through our proposal being seen as too expensive. Also, we would always push strongly for a physical meeting and if verbal communication was seen as a barrier then we would offer face to face interpreters. The above became standard policy.
Life Science projects are complex and expensive and both teams need to know exactly what is expected of them! Thorough and full communication is fundamental to this.
Dr Kevin Duff has spent 32 years working as a scientist in the Life Sciences industry. He has worked for several CRO’s organising both preclinical and clinical studies, managed cell culture and viral vaccine production and has worked extensively in the project management of multinational clinical trials. Kevin is keen to make Global Voices the first choice as the Language Service Provider for Life Science companies – Follow Kevin Duff on Google+