Impact Of COVID-19 On Winning New Business - Contract Pharma

Contract Pharma (CP): How is COVID-19 impacting the way you meet and exchange ideas with potential clients?
 
David Ng, vice president, biometrics, Wuxi Clinical (DN): The biggest impact is in terms of situations where we’d make a larger effort to make a face-to-face visit, i.e. a bid defense meeting. Plus, of course, there is the cancellation of most conferences, so ultimately, it has forced us to re-think how we deliver messages to existing customers and potential new clients.
 
CP: There are a huge number of products in the discovery pipeline. Are you discussing delaying the start of new trials?
 
DN: Yes, it’s a big factor. Each trial has its own unique challenges based on indication, but all now have to consider potential delays due to the industry’s and FDA’s focus on COVID-19. Enrollment challenges are a particular delay consideration, as well as looking at the site themselves in terms of participation in COVID trials and treating COVID patients. Understanding the quickly changing landscape is key to ensuring quick start-up for any new trial.
 
CP: Has it increased the importance of good case study materials and PowerPoint credentials?
 
DN: Yes, because this is such a new and dynamically changing obstacle. The key will be to not only understand the challenges we face in getting messages out, but also the challenges faced on the client end—are they working from home, how split are their teams, can they access all the resources they need to make decisions—so we also are looking at ways to combat these challenges.
 
CP: Has it increased the importance of different channels e.g. the press?
 
DN: In the context of marketing, yes. We need to be more active and quickly address the rapidly changing landscape. It could be very easy to go quiet and give off the impression of reduced output. But in reality that is not the case. All our trials have to continue running and the same applies to our customers—so we must show that we are resilient and able to continue the full functioning of the business. I actually think the resilience shown across the industry is a testament to the years of planning we have put in place. The press have also played a crucial role in spreading ideas and news even more so than usual—and the impact of this applies both to COVID projects which have been rapidly launched, but also the vast swath of non-COVID projects underway and it’s helping the industry adapt. Pharma is often denounced as being a ‘mature industry’ but the current crisis has clearly shown the strength of the collective infrastructure available from communications channels to logistics.
 
CP: What lessons can be learned from your experience of running many virtual bid defenses with China-based customers?
 
DN: It’s another example of how being a global industry has prepared us, so we have been doing these types of remote meetings for many years now – almost as soon as the technology has been available. The only difference is, we are now doing more of them.
 
CP: Longer term, will this help prove the strengths and/or weaknesses of conferences and events?
 
DN: I think that conference attendance will go down in the long-term when people realize they can connect with people without travelling. I believe the paradigm will change, and we will see some kind of new approach where we meet maybe less often or in smaller more relevant teams.
 
CP: Do you think the pandemic will support greater investments into pharma—bringing in more external interest, money and development in new areas?
 
DN: Yes, for COVID-19 and perhaps COVID type indications. Pharma seemed to be pretty well funded already, but the focus of that funding will likely shift. Anything related to defeating this virus or curing people more quickly will get funding and new backers.
 
CP: Can virtual bid defenses enable deeper discussions and focusing-in on any area the client wants to look at?
 
DN: Absolutely, instead of long three and four hour bid defenses, there can be a shorter, general initial session then multiple, shorter operationally focused sessions that can have specific individuals to make the best use of everyone else’s time.
 
CP: How are you planning for the second half of the year in terms of meeting with customers, assuming travel restrictions are lifted?
 
DN: We need to be respectful of the apprehensions people may have despite lifting restrictions and travel in general—this is as much a personal thing as government and company policy-based. So, we will request face to face meetings, while being very mindful of going to/coming from historical hot spots. However, I believe that there will be a rush from CROs to reconnect personally with their contacts whenever they can—there is a depth of relationship and idea exchange that connecting in person brings over and above anything else.
 
CP: Similarly, will we see significant reforms to running clinical trials, e.g. will they become much faster? 
 
DN: Currently COVID studies are faster because of the urgency, and we of course look for any ways to further expedite them—as we do for all trials in fact. We will also definitely see more virtual trials with less patient visits to the sites and less monitoring visits. But overall there won’t be significant reforms, it’s a well-regulated machine.

David Ng
David Ng is vice president of biometrics at Wuxi Clinical. He has over 25 years of biostatistics, data management, and strategic management experience. David’s clinical development experience has spanned drugs, biologics and devices in many therapeutic areas including oncology, cardiology, CNS, immunology, and infectious diseases. David has successfully designed proof-of-concept endpoints and studies, resulting in FDA submission and approval of several products. David has worked to establish Data Management operations in Asia, and has been involved in the development of data management systems and processes for over 25 years, including working with many of the EDC and ePRO systems since the early stages of the EDC market.

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