While online procurement marketplaces have been a game changer for industry and academic researchers, there are still areas where their model falls short. Read on to find out why Fiona Nielsen, Repositive's CEO, thinks sourcing your next translational cancer model via a procurement service could be a mistake.
Amazon, ASOS, Ocado… we’re all used to quickly and easily shopping online for everyday groceries and items. Who doesn’t love the convenience and ease of comparisons between providers to help you sniff out the best deal? Using online marketplaces to shop for lab equipment and reagents has also exploded in pharma and biotech research, as lab managers and researchers take advantage of the ability to compare prices between multiple providers across the globe. The value of Science Exchange, Science Warehouse and Scientist.com at smoothing the procurement process for thousands of industry and academic researchers cannot be understated.
For those who haven’t yet experienced online procurement marketplaces, the standard process is straightforward:
- You describe what you want in terms of product and quantity
- The procurement platform sends out a request for proposal (RFP) to relevant providers
- Once quotes are received by the platform, the priced proposals are shared with you, so you can use this information to choose a provider
If you are looking for a standard product or service that can be provided by a number of different companies, for example, buffer solution for the entire lab or primer synthesis, you are likely to choose the provider based largely on the price they quote in their proposal. In these scenarios, being able to quickly see the cheapest or fastest options available for equipment and services helps thousands of researchers to make the most of lab budgets and achieve results.
However, when you are looking for a vendor to test your drug candidate in a translational cancer model, your main criteria is not the price, but finding and using the right cancer model that will increase your chances of gathering robust evidence for your drug candidate and be predictive of clinical outcomes. Your requirements will depend on which specific cancer you want to target and the mechanism of action of your drug, so you will be looking for a very specific preclinical cancer model and a contract research organisation with specific expertise to suit your needs.
If you are seeking a translational cancer model, for example, to test your drug candidate efficacy for a specific cancer type, the request for proposal process used by common lab procurement platforms becomes significantly less efficient at supporting your desired outcomes, and might even prevent you from finding the perfect model for your research.
So, why does the standard procurement approach not work for cancer models?
1. RFPs don’t let you take advantage of outsourced expertise
When putting together an RFP, you’ll need to plan your entire experimental setup and model platform before contacting a contract research organisation, meaning you need to be confident in your requirements before opening up the project to external proposals, or risk having to wade through irrelevant or vague submissions. So, do the procurement platforms offer guidance on how to plan out your model requirements and the supporting data needed?
Additionally, cancer as a therapeutic field has exploded over the past decade and the world of preclinical testing is catching up. While PDX mouse models remain the gold standard for most preclinical cancer therapy testing, there are a growing number of formats such as orthotopic PDX models which offer improved recapitulation of the human disease. Outside of PDX, new model systems such as patient-derived organoids, 3D tissue models or use of tumour specimens could all offer unique insights into your therapy’s efficacy, but when did you last have time to review a case study with these systems or even plan a project centred on them?
In order to effectively generate robust data from novel platforms you need to be able to discuss your aims and needs with subject matter experts. RFP systems intentionally limit your ability to discuss these types of requirements directly with contract research organisations, meaning you miss out on input from highly experienced researchers during the planning phase. Entering into these talks earlier in the process helps to ensure you are developing the best approach to make informed decisions about your therapy’s future development pathway. Essentially, there needs to be a balance between spending too much effort on discussions which won’t lead to projects, and leveraging the experience and expertise of outside researchers to turbocharge the success of your study.
2. Traditional platforms do not query the inventory of vendors
Selection of relevant vendors to reach out to is impossible without knowing (i) which vendors have the right model in their inventory and (ii) which have the right expertise to run the experimental setup that matches your requirements. Exploring which vendors have the right model requires the ability to query every vendor for both their model types and the molecular characteristics of their models.
However, if you search on Science Exchange or Scientist.com, all you’ll see is the availability of general categories such as “Animal Models & Studies” or “Tumour Models” before being directed to submit an RFP. While this level of detail might be fine for pipettes or cell assays, for translational models researchers will typically need significantly more details, such as growth rates, passage numbers or prior treatment information alongside molecular data. Without access to this data upfront, researchers cannot discern which contract research organisations are worth initiating discussions with, which can lead to delays and wasted time on both sides.
3. You receive a priced proposal before you can confirm the available model and services are right for your project
Since procurement platforms are not set up to review the model inventory of vendors your RFP is sent to, even receiving a priced proposal does not confirm that the contract research organisation has the model you require. This means that even at the end of the RFP process, you’re not guaranteed to find the model you need from the contract research organisations that have responded, which could result in you having to restart the proposal process.
Since confirmation of the services and models that are available from a contract research organisation doesn’t happen until after the RFP process, the initial price quoted is also at risk of changing significantly, based on the required experimental set up, exact number of models etc.
Ultimately, while RFP procurement systems offer a valuable avenue for responsible outsourcing across the globe, when it comes to the detailed and technical requirements for locating cancer models and initiating translational projects, the system's limitations are clear. The challenges with using this approach for finding cancer models include missing out on the latest experimental techniques, delays in finding the right model from the right contract research organisation, or worse: finding out you have used the wrong model after you have initiated the study!
So, if you cannot find the right cancer model using a procurement platform, how do you maximise your chances of finding the right model?
- Discuss your specific project requirements with experts to make your search as specific or as broad as relevant
- Educate yourself in all the latest model platforms including learning about their pros and cons – e.g. by signing up for relevant news and article alerts
- Search specialist model providers worldwide to find the model that is right for your project – try browsing our online inventory of preclinical cancer models from our global partner network of contract research organisations
All of the above can be extremely time-consuming activities. At Repositive we have a track record of shortening the search for the right cancer model from months and years, down to just days and weeks. Contact us for a free consultation or start browsing our online catalogue of translational cancer models from our network of contract research organisations worldwide.
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