John C Maxwell rightly said, “A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
This quote goes very well for Chris Perkin, the CEO of Altasciences.
Despite being part of a very regulated industry that prefers to stick to the status quo, Chris is a leader focused on innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. Even though faced with a lot of skepticism, he managed to implement a new vision for outsourcing, by creating a unique and truly integrated one-stop drug development solution for biopharmaceutical companies worldwide.
While in a conversation with Insights Care, Chris describes his journey and the flexible solution provided to sponsors by Altasciences.
Below are the interview highlights:
Chris, please give us a brief overview of your journey as the CEO of Altasciences.
I joined Altasciences in 2010. I have been in the CRO industry for almost 50 years, with a quick stop in pharma along the way. I started my career as a Preclinical Study Director in 1975 in England at Huntingdon Research Centre before moving to Bioresearch in Montreal in 1988. From there, I worked my way up to Director of Toxicology and then to General Manager, and then Chief Operating Officer.
When I joined Altasciences, I assembled a team to implement a new vision for outsourcing which was to create a unique paradigm, so that drug development sponsors could partner with ONE truly integrated and full-service CRO/CDMO to move a drug from the preclinical phase to clinical proof of concept, and beyond — seamlessly.
And that’s what we’ve done; we created a truly integrated, end-to-end drug development solution company!
What are the core values upon which Altasciences is built, and what is the mission of the organization?
Our mission is straightforward: we help sponsors reach critical drug development decision-making milestones faster by improving the speed and ease of the overall process. We bring all the traditionally separate early phase drug development steps under one CRO/CDMO — with teams and systems that actually talk to each other, and centrally coordinated operations. Hence, clients never have to repeat themselves as they move their new drug through the development process. This removes the need for multiple service providers and, in turn, helps our clients get better drugs to the people who need them, faster.
At Altasciences, our projects with clients are not just transactions — they are partnerships. We are here to help them bring their drugs to market; their goals are our goals. We believe in communication, transparency, dependability, honesty, and good science. And because we often collaborate with sponsors on more than one phase of a program, we really get to know them and every detail of their projects, and are better positioned to support them through the various stages of early phase drug development. We call this moving in unison to deliver a big impact with a personal touch.
Tell us more about Altasciences, its vision, and how it provides research, manufacturing, and analytical services to biopharmaceutical companies.
We look at drug development as a single continuum instead of a series of steps. And our vision is to be (and, in fact, we are!) the one-stop solution for early phase drug development. We offer the full spectrum of solutions within one CRO/CDMO: preclinical research, clinical research, bioanalysis, drug manufacturing and formulation, medical writing, regulatory guidance, biostatistics, program management, data management, and so much more, all of which are tailored to a client’s specific study requirements.
And we provide these services whether for one study, a suite of services, or an end-to-end program — we offer sponsors complete flexibility. And all these services can be provided to a client with the support and guidance of a single project manager – no handoffs.
Elaborate on the solutions and services that Altasciences has provided under your leadership.
I’ll give you three words: Proactive Drug Development. These words encapsulate our approach and our promise to our partners. We handle all early phase CRO and CDMO activities for sponsors; we synchronize our services for optimal communication and collaboration to mitigate risk, condense timelines, and save our clients’ money.
As part of the Proactive Drug Development solution, activities occur in parallel rather than sequentially, ensuring a smoother and faster transition into the next stages. With the efficiencies produced by using Altasciences for all early phase drug development, we can reduce R&D timelines by up to 40%, without cutting corners. We have built a whole new, seamless, more proactive outsourcing experience for the industry with these three words.
Chris, being an experienced leader, what were the initial challenges that you encountered following the biggest challenges on the way ahead, and what were the ways you opted to overcome these?
Challenges change depending on where you are in your career. As you gain experience, often through the school of hard knocks, you either learn and move on to new challenges or you don’t, which is okay if that’s what you want.
I encountered a lot of resistance to new ideas in the early days of my career, and still do, to a lesser extent, but obviously, the title of CEO helps these days. For me, perseverance and patience were key factors. I have only worked at four companies in over 50 years; I left the first two because I had progressed as far as I could and learned all that I could.
I left the third company because, although I was an executive, the company was pushing me in a direction that I did not feel was where I wanted to go. So, at 59 years of age, I moved to what was to become Altasciences, and we built a whole new approach to drug development. That’s what I mean by persevering and making the right decisions for you to get where you want to be.
At Altasciences, the challenges over the last 12 years have been to instill belief in our managers, staff, and investors that we have truly created a different kind of CRO/CDMO. I overcame that resistance by being the face and voice of the new approach, not just to staff and investors but to anyone who would listen.
It was also by making the plan logical, ensuring everyone, especially those at Altasciences, understood what we were doing and why. Over the past 10 years, I have increasingly used communication in all its forms to change our culture so that everyone, at every level, feels part of the plan and shares in the success.
As an established industry leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the research space?
Don’t be afraid to change things and question the status quo – to innovate, to take chances, to choose your own path. Change is slow in an industry like ours, and the proven, established standard is often preferred over out-of-the-box thinking. When I started on my vision for Altasciences, we received a lot of raised eyebrows, questions, and skepticism because “no one had done it before”, but through passion, determination, and innovation, we were able to prove that there is another way to outsource contract research; we don’t have to settle for the status quo.
How do you envision further strengthening Altasciences’ stronghold in 2022 and beyond?
Altasciences has evolved and will continue to evolve because we are continuously looking for ways to improve the drug development journey for our clients. We’re not afraid to ask what they need from us. With that, we’ve sought to fill gaps in our services and expertise through acquisitions and organic growth.
Since 2010, we’ve built Altasciences into a full-service solution with eight locations, coast to coast. We’ll continue to develop our portfolio in North America and will be building the same model in Europe by acquiring facilities that align with our vision and culture. And we will continue to invest in ourselves with the latest equipment and expansions (like the one we completed at our bioanalytical lab in Laval, Quebec, and at our CDMO site in Philadelphia just last year). And we’ll continue to invest in our team through employee development initiatives; our Altascientists (as we like to call them) are the best in the business, and they truly make all the difference.
Every move we make is a step toward further streamlining the outsourcing paradigm to provide our partners with an even more comprehensive and proactive drug development journey. And as we continue to grow, we will maintain our company culture of collaboration, integration, and customer focus.