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- 11/22/2017

5 minutes interview with…AMRI

Pharma Horizon

Five minutes at CPhI worldwide with …  

Christopher Conway

Christopher M. Conway Senior Vice President Drug Discovery, Chemical Development and Analytical Services

CO/PH: What are some of your drug discovery technologies?

Christopher M. Conway: AMRI is a contract research/contract development and manufacturing organization that was founded 26 years ago by medicinal chemist Thomas D’Ambra, Ph.D., who patented the production process for fexofenadine (Allegra).  Dr. D’Ambra retired four years ago as President and Chief Executive Officer and was succeeded by William (Bill) S. Marth.  Over the years, AMRI has grown from a discovery medicinal chemistry services organization to a fully integrated CRO/CDMO with an extensive portfolio of APIs, and a host of niche platform technologies to support the research, development and manufacturing of complex drug substances and formulated drug products. AMRI’s commitment to continued investment and growth in innovative drug discovery capabilities such as:  Bruker PharmaPulse MassSpec-based high throughput screening, high content imaging, flow chemistry, protein therapeutics discovery, complex bioanalytical services, HPAPI, steroids, hormones and controlled substance research and manufacturing provides our clients access to key methodologies to accelerate their pipeline towards the development of much needed medicines for patients.   

CO/PH : Do you apply computational chemistry techniques?
CMC: Computational chemistry is a key component of AMRI’s molecular design and medicinal chemistry offerings.  Our Computer Aided Drug Design (CADD) group supports analysis of compound-target interactions for SAR campaigns, de novo custom library synthesis and homology modelling, as examples. Additionally, the CADD team was an important component in the development of AMRI’s strategic Compound Library Consortium (CLC), a semi-exclusive, custom, lead-like library of 70,000 small molecules designed from AMRI unique scaffolds & templates.

CO/PH Is there still a lot of untapped chemical space in drug discovery?

CMC: AMRI continues to develop and enhance small molecule libraries for high throughput screening, hit to lead and lead optimization campaigns.  Application of novel library design principles and synthetic chemistries to expand ”lead-like” chemical space for quality and diverse screening libraries is the basis of the Compound Library Consortium.

Within this collection there are many novel scaffolds and only a limited number of compounds per scaffold, providing significant diversity. I believe there is still a lot of chemical space to explore which is why it is so exciting to have AMRI and the three CLC partners working together to think outside the box to identify new chemical matter for development. Many of these scaffolds have already produce hits.

CO/PH : Especially in neurodegeneration there is more and more effort and investment in drug discovery but often with decreasing successes. What should the industry do, in your opinion?

CMC: AMRI is fortunate to partner with several institutions working in the area of neurodegeneration including NINDS and CHDI Foundation as well as other organizations focused on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.  We need fresh points of view on the approach to disease research in order to identify new chemical entities. Academics, non-profits, governments and other industry organizations need to work together to arrive at innovative, viable solutions for the patients. There are still technology gaps among all these parties and we aim to bridge that gap. Our integrated drug discovery site in Buffalo, N.Y., is a great example. We are building this as a Center of Excellence to do just that; to unite with our partners in the industry to solve complex drug discovery problems..

CO/PH : What brings customers to AMRI and what demands you see from CRO?

CMC: My perspective is that we are witnessing an exodus from contracting work to Asia. Many things are working well there, but the perception appears to be that complex services, such as complex chemistry, complex biology and integration with biotechnology companies is lacking there. So the pendulum has swung back and we see clients returning to the United States for integrated services again. With all of our aforementioned discovery services under one roof, we have the integration, the scientists, the expertise and the requisite partnerships to solve the most complex problems. For clients still engaged in outsourcing to Asia, , we have demonstrated the cost and time savings along with enhanced productivity that results from working with our integrated US discovery team.

CO/PH Is it true that there is a trend towards integration in CMO/CDMO?

CMC: AMRI offers the benefit of end to end services for seamless transition of programs.  Our customers can come to AMRI however, for support at any point throughout the drug discovery and development continuum  ̶  from early research to commercial manufacturing. Our strategic focus is not to offer everything to everybody, but to bring deep expertise and technology to solve difficult problems.

CO/PH : Do you also work with biologicals?

CMC: Currently, we have existing discovery research and production analytical services, as well as formulation and drug product capabilities for biologics. We are actively pursuing enhanced development and manufacturing capabilities for biologics.

CO/PH : What can we expect from AMRI in the next year?

CMC: We just went private and we are planning to continue to growboth organically and inorganically based on identification of the gaps in our portfolio of offerings so that we become even better at what customers are asking of us. 2018 will be a quite busy year, as we keep a consistent focus on quality and operational excellence, and as we work to deliver on our promise to our customers and their patients.

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