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Chris Perkin: Leading the Way in Drug Development

Chris Perkin | CEO | Altasciences
Chris Perkin | CEO | Altasciences

Successful leaders are defined by their drive to solve problems and their commitment to action. Shaping an organization and advancing an industry demands a clear vision and relentless dedication. One name that shines brightly, symbolic of forward-thinking leadership in the healthcare landscape is Chris Perkin, the CEO of Altasciences. He embodies a visionary spirit forged through almost five decades of dedicated service. His journey began humbly as a preclinical study director in 1975 in England, with a commitment to excellence that eventually drew him to the heart of the biopharmaceutical sector.

Chris’ ascent through the industry has been an extraordinary journey, with roles evolving from Study Director to Director of Toxicology and onward to General Manager. These experiences culminated in his role as Senior Corporate Vice President at a Contract Research Organization (CRO), where he oversaw preclinical sites across North America and China. Since 2010, as Chief Executive Office, his leadership has steered Altasciences to new horizons.

Embedded within Chris’ transformative vision are the moments that have punctuated his career. These experiences prompted him to question the conventional approach to drug development outsourcing, leading to a visionary concept: a unified CRO/CDMO capable of guiding a drug through its early developmental phases in a simple and integrated one-stop solution. With Altasciences, he has manifested this vision, revolutionizing the drug development paradigm. His dedication is now reshaping the future of the industry, leaving an enduring mark on healthcare innovation in Canada and across the world.

The following highlights from our interaction with Chris will guide you through his inspiring journey.

A Visionary CEO’s Journey

Chris had never aspired to be a CEO. Throughout his career, he had noticed an opportunity to revolutionize the logistics around the research and development of new drugs, with the ultimate goal of more swiftly delivering these potentially life-changing therapies to those in need.

Upon assuming the role of CEO at Altasciences in 2010, Chris was driven by this mission. His objective was to establish a new outsourcing paradigm that would enable a single organization to shepherd a drug through all early developmental stages, streamlining the process for sponsors. He brought together a team who shared this vision for the industry, and together, they set out to craft the plan and take the necessary steps to achieve their goal.

At the outset, Altasciences (Algorithme Pharma at the time) was a clinical research organization solely focused on generic drug development, operating from a single site in Montréal, Canada. The company has since evolved, under Chris’ leadership, into a comprehensive preclinical to clinical service provider including bioanalysis and manufacturing services, with a primary emphasis on innovative drug development. It now boasts nine locations across North America, along with an office in the UK, and is still headquartered in Laval, Québec.

Revolutionizing Early-Phase Drug Development with Proactive Solutions

Altasciences is a CRO/CDMO guided by a mission to present biotech and biopharmaceutical companies, regardless of their size, with a straightforward, all-encompassing outsourcing solution. This solution negates the necessity for multiple providers in the early phases of drug development, ensuring a seamless experience. The company helps its clients attain crucial decision-making milestones at an accelerated pace, enhancing both speed and convenience without compromising on safety.

The company has seamlessly integrated preclinical research, clinical research, bioanalysis, manufacturing, and all requisite research support services, including regulatory guidance. This integration has forged a distinct alternative to the conventional approach of outsourcing early-phase drug development. Altasciences has effectively eradicated the communication gaps that typically exist between various development stages, sites, and departments; facilitated the contracting and billing component of outsourcing; all while safely accelerating timelines by conducting the work in parallel whenever scientifically feasible. They have implemented complimentary program management, with centralized scheduling and finance systems, as well as proprietary communication tools to bolster this effort.

Navigating Challenges

Chris was driven by the idea of addressing sponsors’ pain points in drug development and, as CEO of Altasciences, he knew he could implement his vision of a full-service, integrated early drug development solution company. The challenge was obtaining buy-in on this unique concept. To do so, Chris had to clearly and effectively communicate this vision to investors, employees, and potential clients, as well as plan and execute the required changes and expansions. The task also involved team building and keeping clients at the forefront of Altasciences’ priorities within a frequently fluctuating market.

The majority of these challenges were surmounted by establishing a robust internal foundation at Altasciences. This was achieved through consistent, candid, and open communication with all staff members, receptiveness to constructive criticism and novel ideas, implementation of new processes and proprietary software as well as the acknowledgment and celebration of team accomplishments. The principle of integration emerged as the cornerstone of the company’s growth, recognizing that it had been ingrained in their culture from the very beginning and could not be back-engineered.

Streamlining Drug Development through Seamless Integration

The ability to simplify and streamline drug development for sponsors is what makes Altasciences different. On a basic level, it offers the ability for sponsors to partner with one organization to accomplish all their early-phase drug development, thereby eliminating the need to contract and manage multiple vendors to get the work done. What sets it apart is the seamless integration of its services, teams, and sites, providing a synchronized and uninterrupted development pathway.

Through this integration, Altasciences effectively eradicates delays and addresses any gaps that may arise between different stages of development in real-time. Inclusive program management consolidates scheduling, financial matters, and overall communication for clients, alleviating administrative burdens on their end. This integrated and full-service approach allows for a more dynamic and adaptable process, not constrained by a linear, task-oriented methodology. For instance, Altasciences can update the Investigational Brochure concurrently with ongoing IND-enabling studies, all while preparing protocols for the first-in-human clinical trial.

Collaborative Leadership Approach

Chris embodies a collaborative leadership style. He actively cultivates an environment where every individual, regardless of their position, feels empowered and comfortable voicing their ideas. This approach extends even to the leadership team, who remain hands-on in their roles. Chris ensures accessibility not only to all teams within Altasciences but also to clients, readily joining calls to address queries and provide support. His primary focus lies in offering solutions rather than dwelling on problems, guiding the teams towards the achievement of their objectives. Embracing change and innovation, Chris welcomes all ideas. He recognizes the importance of attentive listening, allocating time, and fulfilling commitments consistently.

An Advancing Vision

With passion, Chris asserts, “Our vision will not change — we will continue to be the one-stop solution for early-phase drug development.” He anticipates even more sponsors opting to partner with Altasciences for end-to-end programs. This, he believes, is where they will reap the greatest rewards from choosing Altasciences as their partner. To accomplish this, the company will adhere to its established practices. This involves nurturing relationships, forming strategic alliances, and meeting sponsors at their current stage in the journey. Altasciences will continue to attentively heed clients’ needs and desires, seeking ways to expand capacity and services for a more comprehensive and robust solution, guided by their input.

Insights on Leading Change

Drawing from his wealth of experience, Chris imparts a few words of wisdom, saying, “Don’t be afraid to question the status quo — to innovate, to take chances, to choose a different path.” He recognizes that change often unfolds at a leisurely pace in our industry, and conventional practices tend to take precedence over innovative thinking. He goes on to emphasize, “When I started on my vision for Altasciences, many were skeptical because it had never been done before. But, through passion, determination, and teamwork, we were able to prove that there is another way to outsource research; we don’t have to settle for the status quo.” Chris underscores that perseverance and a good plan will always attract others who are like-minded and that will become your foundation.

Accolades of Excellence

  • In 2019, Chris Perkin received the Red Jacket Award from PharmaVoice, a lifetime award honour after having been named a PharmaVoice 100 Most Inspiring Leaders in the Life Sciences Industry for four consecutive years.
  • Since 2014, Altasciences has been recognized by CRO Leadership Awards in multiple categories. Most recently, they were recognized as a 2023 CRO Leadership Award Champion in the Capabilities category, as voted by clients in ISR’s annual CRO Quality Benchmarking survey.
  • In September, Altasciences was announced as a finalist at the Scrip Awards 2023 for Best Contract Research Organization – Full-Service Providers.



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