Andrew MacGarvey — Quanticate the specialist biometrics company

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Pharmaceutical Technology Europe interviews Andrew MacGarvey, President at Quanticate (MA, USA), a specialist biometrics company.

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe interviews Andrew MacGarvey, President at Quanticate (MA, USA), a specialist biometrics company.

Q1: The CRO market is becoming increasingly competitive. How does Quanticate differentiate itself?
Specialist biometrics companies are usually small, but we have more than 200 staff, which gives us the critical mass to deal with larger programmes of work. We establish relationships with our customers on a consultancy level (perhaps working with them for just a few hours a week) and then scale up as their needs increase. In building our business model, we have always worked towards a ‘plug-and-play’ approach, and our information systems team, project management office and operational teams have developed an infrastructure that allows us to very easily integrate with our customers’ systems, giving them control and transparency around their projects. This approach was adopted after looking at everything from the customer perspective.

Q2: Has business altered in any way because of the global financial crisis?
We have not been hit in the same way as some of the other bigger players because of the nature of our work — we are reporting on studies that may have begun well before the economic downturn and still have to be reported. In fact, as the importance of some of these studies has increased (particularly investment backed trials), we have seen a growing desire for specialist support. Of course we have seen pressure on pricing, but that was well foreseen as the shift to off shoring gathered pace. We monitor the sector very carefully; one result of the downturn and continuing merger and acquisition activity will be a reduction in the R&D pipeline, so we are watching that closely.


Q3: Your company has launched a new Candidate Management Unit (CMU). Can you tell us more about this?
Our CMU is another example of viewing the situation from the customer angle. We considered the perspective of both the sponsor company and the candidates' needs, and the resulting brief was to provide the best level of service for both. The CMU was established as the vehicle to deliver this. We have worked with many of our contractors for many years and, as such, we have built great relationships with them. It takes a lot of effort to build and maintain these relationships, but when filling a role for a sponsor the better we know the candidates the better the fit we will get. The challenge, however, is how do you scale up? The CMU allows that task to be delivered very efficiently by focusing the team on just the candidates while the requirement gathering is left to another specialist team. We have two separate roles and a discrete group of personnel for each of them. We have also extended the services provided by the CMU to include the organization of networking events and specialist training to help the people on our books develop – not just get sent from company to company. All of these benefits are reflected in the service they go on to provide to the sponsor, which results in a happy customer. Everyone wins.

Q4: With such a vast number of CROs offering their services, how can pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies choose the right partner?
Once a sponsor has established a number of vendors that can provide the required technical expertise, the key is to achieve the right ‘fit’ with the chosen provider. For me as the service provider, I want to establish that Quanticate will work as closely with the sponsor as possible. We also do not take every piece of work we are offered — if we believe expectations are unrealistic or that the fit is not right then we say so. A lot of time is spent working with requests for information (and rightly so because it is important), but I feel that more time should be spent thinking about how the teams will collaborate. This is time well spent, particularly if both parties are looking for a long-term relationship.

Q5: Can you tell us about any successful pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical projects that Quanticate has worked on?
One important area we work in is ‘rescue’ studies, where we are able to go in and turn things around successfully when an organization is experiencing difficulties in a certain area. We have completed quite a few of these because of our specialist approach and through word of mouth (once you have done one or two successful projects people talk about it!). However, what tends to be forgotten is that, in addition to the challenges of completing the study with reduced timelines and a potentially smaller budget than originally planned, there are contract and project management issues that need to be resolved. We bring all of that expertise to the table and often, as well as strong biometrics skills, we need good legal knowledge and a high level of diplomacy. I find that these projects bring the best out of Quanticate in terms of our plug-and-play model and customer service ethos.

Q6: The company opened its US operations in June 2008. How have customers responded to this?
The move to the US was driven by our customers as we were already working with customers in the country when we moved. We are seeing a great response now that we have established an operational presence. I spend a great deal of my time talking to both customers and prospects, and I am delighted that they have validated our approach. We did not take for granted that our service offering would necessarily fit the need as well as it does in Europe, but we are finding that it does.

Q7: What differences have you noticed between the European and US markets?
In general, the markets in terms of our services have been similar, but we are coming across one type of company much more in the US than in Europe: the ‘virtual’ company that usually works with a very small portfolio and is VC backed. These companies also exist in Europe, but there seem to be more in the US. Quanticate is seeing a lot of acceptance of virtual organizations in the US and that has fit well with our business model as we can can offer operational teams if needed.

Q8: Does the company have plans to expand into other locations?
Quanticate has expanded from the UK into Poland, South Africa and the US in the last few years. We are watching how the market is developing and although there are no firm plans at the moment, we are doing some initial fact finding about Brazil, Russia, India, China and Japan.