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New Contract Research Firm Sees Business Returning To The U.S.

by Michael McCoy
December 8, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 49

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Credit: Pacific World Discovery
Park (left) and Mohammadi gave up jobs at much bigger companies to launch a CRO.
Credit: Pacific World Discovery
Park (left) and Mohammadi gave up jobs at much bigger companies to launch a CRO.

In addition to their ample supply of big pharma refugees as potential employees, executives at contract research organizations (CROs) seem blessed on the demand side of the business ledger as well. They say the tide that sent a lot of pharmaceutical chemistry outsourcing overseas is starting to come back in again.

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New Contract Research Firm Sees Business Returning To The U.S.

Pacific World Discovery, a San Diego-based CRO, was conceived with the premise that U.S. drug companies still need onshore research partners. Cofounder Mark Emtiaz left Pfizer in 2004, but his experience with China in his subsequent work led him to look back on his pharmaceutical days and conclude that the offshoring trend had gone too far. The pendulum, he decided, was about to swing back.

Emtiaz started talking to Gregory W. Park, a former Pfizer colleague, and Farah Mohammadi, an Albany Molecular Research Inc. chemist Emtiaz knew from his Pfizer days, about striking out on their own. Together with another AMRI chemist, they launched Pacific World in 2007.

With only six chemists, the company is young, but it is already attracting customers, Park says, and not just little biotech firms either. Some, he says, are stock-market-listed drugmakers, and all are becoming repeat customers.

Park and Emtiaz think the time is right for a U.S.-based CRO. "A couple of years ago it wouldn't have been because people were so enamored of going overseas," Park observes. But he says research managers have been burned enough by poor quality and slow response from Asia that they are looking for local chemistry assistance, if only for their most critical projects.

Word of the new CRO has been spreading in the San Diego biotech community, the founders say. They want to expand further and have a goal of being 25-strong within the next several years. Given downsizing at local research labs run by well-known firms, finding experienced chemists to fill those slots should not be a problem.

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