San Diego’s Assay Depot Creates Private e-Commerce Sites for Pfizer, Other Big Pharmas

7/12/11Follow @bvbigelow

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a scientific conference, when a senior Pfizer executive said he wanted the San Diego startup to develop a version of its public marketplace that would just list the lab services Pfizer provides its own scientists. In Lustig’s words, the executive told him, “We offer about 1,000 different services around the world, but our own scientists don’t know what we’ve got. I want you to create a private version just for us.”

Lustig maintains that Assay Depot’s Web 2.0 technology offers a huge cost saving for the pharmaceutical industry by centralizing laboratory research services, empowering rank-and-file scientists, and providing a platform that makes outsourcing more competitive. “Until now, the Big Pharmas were having to go to conferences to find venders” that specialized in certain research areas, Lustig says. “This provides a way for venders to push their information into the system.”

The Pfizer system also will display venders who have registered through Assay Depot’s public marketplace, so the price of services provided by independent CROs outside of Pfizer are displayed along with the same services offered by Pfizer-preferred CROs.

“We believe if a [pharmaceutical] company really embraced this concept that we can take 25 percent off their bottom-line costs,” Lustig says. He also contends that a private marketplace like Pfizer’s can increase the odds a drug-development program will succeed because Assay Depot has added key features inspired by popular consumer sites. A Yelp-like feature, for example, allows Pfizer scientists to use a five-star ranking system to rate CROs and their services. A Facebook-like feature enables scientists to share their experiences concerning different venders and different technologies through a “mini-blog” linked to specific services, such as “antibody-dependant protein conjugation” and “recombinant protein purification.”

“We’ve tried to take all the best features of consumer sites and apply them to the pharmaceutical industry,” Lustig says, “and it’s amazing to us that nobody has done it before.”

Assay Depot pre-qualifies CROs for its website by requiring them to sign a master services agreement, confidentiality forms, and other documents when they register to list their services. That makes it easier for rank-and-file scientists to directly outsource key services, Lustig says. He maintains that getting a master services agreement signed with prospective CROs is “the single biggest bottleneck” in drug development today.

“What our system does is put within the fingertips of any scientist anyplace the ability to do anything, any complex series of services—without getting hung up with a vice president for procurement” Lustig says.

If you are a CRO, Lustig says, you can use Assay Depot as a central source for providing information to scientists throughout the pharmaceutical industry. Assay Depot provides most of its services to CROs at no cost, Lustig says. Pharma customers pay the company a monthly license fee.

“Everybody’s going around saying the business model for biotech and pharma is broken,” Lustig says. “Everybody says the industry needs a new paradigm, and we think we’ve created it.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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