In the realm of drug development, effective leadership Iis paramount to driving innovation, streamlining processes and ultimately making a positive impact on patient outcomes. One individual who exemplifies exceptional leadership in this field is Marie-Hélène Raigneau, Co-Chief Operating Officer at Altasciences, a full-service CRO/CDMO with nine facilities across Canada and the U.S., and an office in the UK.
With a keen eye for innovation and a commitment to enhancing the drug development process, Raigneau joined Altasciences driven by the potential to help create a transformative organization. Recognizing the significance of customer experience and service integration in accelerating drug development, she saw a shared set of values and approaches among the leaders at Altasciences, which made it an ideal environment for her to make a meaningful impact.
Collaborating closely with Altasciences’ other Co-Chief Operating Officer, Steve Mason, Raigneau ensures the seamless coordination of scientific operations across multiple early drug development phases. Together, they guide Altasciences’ scientific and operational teams to work in harmony, providing clients with a cohesive outsourcing experience.
In an interview with Insights Care, Raigneau expresses her dedication to moving in unison and exemplifies the organization’s commitment to excellence and its impact on improving the lives of patients worldwide.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
Shed some light on your journey towards becoming a part of Altasciences.
I joined Altasciences in 2012 as Executive Director of Business Development and Marketing at a time when we were just starting to devise the long-term strategy for the organization and transform it from a CRO focused mainly on clinical research for generic drugs, to a full-service CRO offering end-to-end early phase drug development solutions, from discovery to clinical proof of concept, and beyond.
I moved into the General Manager role for our Montréal and Laval sites in 2015. And then in 2018, I became Vice President of Research Support Services. I’ve assumed my current role of Co-Chief Operating Officer since 2020 and oversee our clinical, bioanalytical, research support services, and contract manufacturing and development teams.
I chose to join Altasciences because of the potential I saw in creating a CRO/CDMO that could accelerate drug development by focusing on customer experience and the integration of services. There were several leaders at the organization that shared the same values and approach to the business as I did. I knew this would allow for a dynamic environment where I could make an impact. Given where we were when I joined (two sites in Canada and roughly 200 employees) and how far we’ve come (now nine sites in Canada and the U.S., plus an office in the UK), it’s clearly been a winning strategy, and I am grateful to be leading a team of skilled and passionate drug development experts, and making an impact on the lives of patients worldwide.
What roles do you play at Altasciences daily?
I oversee all of Altasciences’ clinical, bioanalytical, and CDMO teams, the latter of which includes drug formulation, development, and manufacturing capabilities. I also oversee all the research support services that Altasciences offers, such as data management, biostatistics, project and program management, medical writing, and regulatory affairs. That being said, a major part of my role is identifying pathways for further growth whether organic or through acquisitions, and in turn, developing the strategies to execute those growth plans.
Tell us about the variety of services and products that you are part of, at Altasciences.
Given our end-to-end early drug development offering, my team plays a key role in all that Altasciences has to offer. As a team, we simplify and streamline solutions to provide an integrated approach to CRO and CDMO services, from lead candidate selection to clinical proof of concept, and beyond. Altasciences combines bioanalytical assay development and validation, preclinical safety evaluation, formulation development, clinic-ready manufacturing, on-demand clinical pharmacy, and clinical testing to proof of concept.
In what way do you consider technological advances to be a pathway in conducting your operations?
One of the technological advances at Altasciences that has made a significant impact on our ability to accelerate drug development is comprised of two pieces: Ask Albert and a centralized scheduling system. Ask Albert is a proprietary communication tool we built to facilitate efficient, timely, information transfer between internal teams at Altasciences, no matter the research phase, location, or department. As a client’s molecule advances from one milestone to the next, their information moves as well, thereby eliminating the need to repeat themselves which naturally reduces the chances of communication errors.
Our exclusive centralized scheduling systems allow for all Altasciences’ projects—again, regardless of phase or location—to be scheduled using a single software. This gives anyone at Altasciences, and more importantly, our project and program managers, full visibility, allowing them to actively manage client timelines and when the unexpected happens, find ways to optimize delivery through parallel scheduling.
What endeavors are you currently pursuing to improve service measures at Altasciences?
We like to stay ahead of the game. As a result, we always have many process improvement projects in the works, as well as software implementations and automation initiatives across Altasciences. We want to continuously enhance the quality of our outputs to accelerate timelines or simply improve the experience from both an employee and client perspective.
We feel that the future growth for Altasciences can be enhanced by connecting with our clients earlier in the development cycle, before regulatory studies, to partner with them throughout their early development.
What are some of the challenges you face when conducting operations and how do you turn them into opportunities for growth?
In our industry, there is no shortage of challenges, but they certainly provide valuable opportunities for differentiation. Focusing on finding innovative solutions to challenges is how we’ve built Altasciences, as well as our client base.
Our guiding mission is safely getting therapies to the people who need them, faster. For us, that means finding ways to conduct very complex work while providing the highest quality outputs and doing it safely and in the shortest time possible. With that in mind, on any given day across our organization, we are looking at different ways to automate our operations or innovate how we design studies to mitigate risks, accelerate schedules, and reduce handoffs for our clients.
How do you envision scaling your services and operations in 2023 and beyond?
Over the last five years, Altasciences has continued to increase capacity and expand our comprehensive service offering through both acquisitions and organic growth. Our growth is based on client feedback; what they wanted and needed from us.
From 2020 to 2022, we added four locations: a CDMO facility in Philadelphia, a third clinical unit in Los Angeles, and two more preclinical facilities in Scranton and Columbia. We also expanded many of our facilities, which will continue to happen as we grow. My team and I are always looking for ways to further increase our capacity and services. We pride ourselves on offering multiple points of entry with complete flexibility, according to where our clients are in their drug development program.
As for the future, we will continue to deepen our partnerships with clients. By which I mean, offering more services and accelerating more end-to-end programs. This is where clients can experience the greatest benefits of partnering with a single CRO/CDMO like Altasciences.