Time Lost Supporting CRO in Asia is Recovered for Research


Decreasing revenues and expiring patents are the blight of any pharmaceutical company that wants to maintain its competitive marketing advantages. To increase productivity while reducing expenses during the early drug discovery process, a prominent Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company decided to outsource the synthesis of select novel small molecules to a contract research organization (CRO) in China, but for the company’s domestic project chemistry leaders, this only caused further complications.

While the cost of labor is less expensive in China, the chemical starting materials for drug candidates are often unavailable or more expensive overseas. As a result, the project chemistry leaders — all Ph.D. chemists — were spending a lot of their time on sourcing and purchasing needed materials for the CRO chemists, and then tracking the chemicals to ensure delivery to China. The company wanted to redirect the Ph.D. chemists’ time spent on supporting the CRO to go instead to vital scientific research and discovery, but how?


The company asked Avantor Services to step in. After interviewing the company’s chemistry leaders and using Lean methodology to assess the current process, a Avantor Services Business Process Consultant determined that the researchers spent 63.25 days per year—the equivalent of 25% of one Ph.D. chemist’s time—on procuring chemicals for the CRO! The consultant mapped the process and found that chemistry leaders were responsible for 24 steps, including chemical sourcing through contacting multiple vendors, ordering the needed chemicals, and tracking the status of the ordered chemicals, at an annual cost of $46,842.

The consultant recommended that the company assign chemical sourcing, ordering, and tracking—all of the responsibilities that had been taxing the project chemistry leaders—to a Avantor Services associate who was already providing onsite laboratory support for the company. As a single point of contact, the associate could preform 21 of the 24 essential tasks associated with procuring chemicals needed by the CRO chemists. The project chemistry leaders’ time could now be refocused on driving scientific discoveries, including assigning the selected small molecules to the CRO chemists and solving synthetic setbacks.


The pharmaceutical company agreed with the recommendation, and following implementation, the company saved $46,842 in process costs and returned 63.25 days back to the project chemistry leaders. This time was redirected to completing core research-related responsibilities and driving project advancement. Meanwhile, the CRO chemists did not experience any negative changes in service levels; in fact, communication of chemical order status increased! The CRO chemists were enabled to plan more effectively and increase their outputs.

Furthermore, during the initial 12 months of service operations, the Avantor Services associate was able to find 3% of the requested chemicals at the company’s local site. These containers were shipped directly to the CRO scientists, resulting in an estimated hard dollar savings of $63,400.