...Relying on foreign contractors is part and parcel of the business model of many of the “virtual” pharmaceutical research companies that have emerged in the past decade or so in the U.S., Europe, and other parts of the world. Jay Wu, president and CEO of VM Discovery, in Fremont, Calif., says that not having labs helps to secure a more stable career path for his research managers.
“Being a lab researcher in California can be very depressing,” Wu says. Owing to their limited venture capital funding, most small biotech companies in California work on only one compound, and if that candidate fails to advance to clinical trials, as is usually the case, then everyone at the company is laid off. But if the compound beats the odds and succeeds in progressing to the clinical trial stage, the entire early discovery lab is laid off anyway. “Either way, most scientists are looking for work every three to five years,” he says.
By contrast, VM’s small overhead—largely the result of not needing to maintain lab space—enables the company to pursue at least five projects simultaneously. Compared with betting on a single candidate, the pursuit of multiple projects at once offers a much better chance of success, and that means everyone in the company—10 people or so, at the moment—can keep their jobs, Wu says. Currently, he notes, the company has a few candidates undergoing Phase II trials. VM develops oral drug candidates to treat central nervous system disorders, cancers, and other diseases. The firm relies on Chinese contractors to not only conduct laboratory work but also to manufacture small batches of its drug candidates for U.S. trials...I don't work in the virtual space enough to understand how well this works out for companies; I guess it's about embracing the instability, sigh.