I’ve been getting Indian CROs on CRAMbridge over the last couple of weeks and am amazed by the breadth and depth of scientific talent they have in-house. With the right amount of direction from upper management, this can be leveraged to make these guys truly innovative biotech companies.

But there’s one troubling thread that’s common among big CROs that can come in the way of them realizing their full potential: fear of breaking what they have going right now. Resistance can be found from the mundane to the more philosophical. This attitude is shrouded in legalese: company policies, IP, NDA etc. What it really comes down to is this: fear of disclosing anything that may reflect negatively on existing relationships, especially with big pharma and biotech. Even when they understood my point on transparency, no one wanted to be the person who took a decision out-of-the-box.

As anyone who has ever gone to a government office knows, this red-tape is harmful to creativity and growth. Apart from this, big CROs (especially Asian ones) face two unique challenges because of this attitude:

My advice? Sunlight! Be transparent and compete on your strengths – which you have a lot of. Be upfront about what you can, and cannot execute. Share past projects that were successful, but also the ones where things did not go that well. And most importantly, move with the times! Drug design and development is getting democratized whether you like it or not. Do you want to ride the wave of growth or double down on business as usual?

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