Ask the Experts: Song Li

“I’m Song Li, I’m the founder and CEO of Frontage Laboratories (PA, US). By training, I am an analytical chemist. I have a PhD in analytical chemistry but most of my career has been in pharmaceutical product development. I started Frontage in 2001 in New Jersey with about a $100,000 investment, and grew that business to approximately 600 employees in the US and in China.”

In what areas is the outsourced work you receive from?
We do not really specialize in one area. We focus on product development rather than discovery. We focus on product development, from pre-clinical to phase two, so the whole spectrum of service.

What does your organization believe is important when being selected for outsourcing?
We do almost a one-stop shop. I think what’s really important is your technique, scientific expertise, quality and also the fast turnaround to deliver the high quality results.

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What are the challenges you face when receiving outsourced work?
Most challenges occur when a client gives us the project – the timelines are sometimes very critical. We cannot really work to our time schedule; we have to meet our clients’ needs. We do our best to take care of their project and deliver it on time.

Do you think the amount of outsourcing will change in the future?
Yes I believe it – right now I think a lot of pharmaceutical companies are starting to contract out and outsource their product development and even discovery projects, so they reduce internal resources and head counts, so they will contract more in the future.

What factors do you think will increase outsourcing?
I think mainly the cost. I think the CROs usually have a more efficient operation and we can sometimes do projects for different clients to save the cost. We are more efficient. I think that’s what will drive outsourcing for the pharma and even small start-up companies.

Do you think the relationship between pharma and outsourcing companies will change in the future?
Yes. I think that they would change from ‘fee-for-service’ to ‘partnership’ models. I think right now, more and more pharmaceutical companies are looking for long-term partnerships. It’s not just like ‘oh – you’re the CRO we’re like the pharmaceutical company’. They need to work together as a team.

Usually, even the CROs, bring part of their internal team. What we do for some of our clients, is to set up the lab for their projects and even send people to their lab to take care of their projects.

We call it a partnership.

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