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AstraZeneca launches virtual research laboratory

Published on 31/07/12 at 01:26pm
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AstraZeneca and partner Assay Depot have launched a virtual research laboratory aimed at helping its scientists create R&D collaborations.

The virtual laboratory uses a vendor relationship management (VRM) system that gives researchers access to thousands of research service providers located both inside and outside AZ.

Assay Depot, a San Diego web systems developer has created this VRM system, which allows AZ scientists to ‘shop’ for services from contract research groups, akin to a costumer browsing Amazon for products.

“We brought together features of today’s favourite consumer websites to create a virtual laboratory that empowers scientists,” said Kevin Lustig, Assay Depot’s chief executive.

“A small group of talented scientists can now run an entire drug discovery programme, from concept to clinic, from a laptop computer,” he added.

AZ has had a tough 18 months after just recently losing its chief executive and posting a string of poor financial results.

The firm is now very much looking for partners in order to shore up its relatively weak pipeline. It will hope that the virtual lab will nurture more R&D collaborations - and more quickly - in order to help the firm bounce back from its current position.

‘Virtual drug discovery has arrived’

The private virtual laboratory (or ‘Research Exchange’) enables scientists to search for research services and vendors, communicate with experts, purchase services, and rate and review services.

This allows researchers to identify experts, initiate research collaborations, and track entire projects to completion.

Researchers can access the virtual laboratory from anywhere they access the internet, including tablets and mobile devices. They can also view their colleagues’ ratings and reviews, view past transactions and determine which vendors have current legal agreements.

“The virtual drug discovery era has arrived,” said Chris Petersen, Assay Depot’s CIO. “Enabling research scientists to access any service and any expert in just a few mouse clicks can dramatically improve productivity, reduce costs and promote innovation.”

Reducing costs is also a primary objective for AZ - the firm announced its virtual intentions earlier this year when it cut around 2,200 R&D jobs, with much of these coming from its neuroscience operations.

The ‘virtual laboratory’ is simply another way of outsourcing, and it will hope to create new partnerships with CROs and other organisations at a fraction of the cost it was paying for internal R&D staff.

Mike Snowden, vice president of discovery sciences at AstraZeneca, said: “By connecting our internal and external science, the virtual laboratory platform is creating a new approach for our scientists to run experiments with an optimal balance of speed, quality, and cost.

“We look forward to assessing how the virtual laboratory platform impacts and accelerates productivity in the R&D pipeline.”

Ben Adams is the reporter for Pharmafocus and and author of the DigiBlog site. He can be contacted via: email or Twitter.

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