More recently, AMRI made cutbacks in response to changing customer needs and the economic environment. “This means investing in areas that are doing well and refocusing areas that have experienced decreasing demand,” D’Ambra says. Among its steps, AMRI is ceasing all internal R&D programs, except for generic drugs, and trimming its U.S. contract drug discovery staff.
“During the last couple of years, we have seen steep declines in demand for U.S. discovery offerings, with concomitant growth to AMRI’s Asian locations,” he explains. “As we are cutting back our U.S. assets, we are continuing to invest in the growth of our Singaporean and Indian facilities and capabilities.” The company also may restructure its European contract research operations, including possibly closing its site in Hungary.
On the manufacturing side of its business, AMRI’s U.S. API plant had a record year in 2011. “Many projects we have been involved with during the last several years are going commercial or are approaching the filing stage,” D’Ambra says. This progress has compensated for slower movement in earlier stage projects, he adds, where customers have taken longer to make decisions, leaving the company with a record backlog of outstanding bids.
Despite the delays, D’Ambra is optimistic about the future and foresees a strong year in 2012. Although 2011 was a year of significant disruption for big pharma customers and financially tough for many small and start-up companies, the trend could be positive for outsourcing, he explains. “The tough environment will force some companies to operate more virtually than they might have wanted to in the past.”I'm sure that there was a section about how badly Dr. D'Ambra felt about the fact that there were "steep declines" in demand for US contract researchers -- it just didn't make the editor's cut. Sigh.
(Incidentally, do Thomas D'Ambra and John Lechleiter give the lie to the thought that "we just need to get a chemist into management instead of those mean MBAs" stereotype?)