Getting Access to new Technologies How chemical synthesis outsourcing can tweak the process of drug discovery


*Corresponding author
Autodisplay Biotech GmbH, Lifescience Center, Merowinger Platz 1a, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany 


Outsourcing has traditionally been thought of as a short-term strategy in order to cut back expenses or to provide a company with additional capacities. This understanding has changed throughout the last few years. Today, outsourcing is seen as a method to increase performance in pharmaceutical R&D via leveraging of core competencies. Service providers are able to provide timely and efficient solutions to any given problem along the whole value chain of pharmaceutical R&D. Outsourcing enables pharmaceutical companies to gain access to new technologies such as biocatalytical reactions. Therefore, three very distinct co-operation models have been established.


In order to improve their competitive position, pharmaceutical companies permanently reassess their mode of R&D operations, including outsourcing activities (1, 2). These activities are very common along the whole value chain of pharmaceutical R&D (Figure 1). Traditionally believed to be a short-term strategy to cut down expenses or to provide additional capacities, outsourcing today is being considered to enhance performance of pharmaceutical R&D through leveraging of core competencies (3).
In the field of pharmaceutical R&D, one of the fastest growing segments for outsourcing activities is chemical synthesis. There, outsourcing can be used in the discovery phase (discovery chemistry to synthesise and optimise lead compounds) and the development phase (development chemistry to provide chemicals substances for clinical trials). In 2008, the worldwide market volume of chemical synthesis services was US$2 billion, growing at a strong rate of 10% per year (4). In total, all external service providers in pharmaceutical R&D had a turnover of around US$ 30 billion in 2008.
A pharmaceutical industry’s shiftin ...