I attended the Society of Chemical Industry‘s one day conference on the bang-up-to-date topic of Drug Discovery Outsourcing. The organisers had arranged a great programme of speakers from big pharma to virtual R&D companies, service providers and CROs.
Dr Alan Moodie, GSK – Drug Discovery outsourcing – a strategic choice
A good talk to start the day, setting the scene for how large pharma view the outsourcing situation with an emphasis on the GSK strategic (i.e. not tactical) approach to outsourcing. The emergence of new CROs in Asia and Eastern Europe providing high quality, low cost services and how GSK will harness these services, focussing on the discovery of new medicines.
Dr Luigi La Vecchia, Novartis – Discovery chemistry outsourcing: optimising the process
A detailed and comprehensive study on how Novartis established a small global network of preferred external suppliers for preparative scale synthesis with emphasis on the human element and how the experience has helped both Novartis and the CROs.
Dr Andy Morley, AstraZeneca – Lead identification – integrated outsourcing
Description of how AZ has outsourced work with several CROs for chemical design, synthesis and physiochemical/assay/DMPK screening. Key findings including the issues of IT information flow & security between AZ and CROs.
Dr Stephen Shuttleworth, Karus Therapeutics – Small molecule lead discovery, optimization and development in a semi-virtual R&D environment
Fascinating presentation on the activities of Karus Therapeutics and how, by adopting a semi-virtual model of drugs dicovery and development, the company has HDAC and PI3K inhibitors in a unique NCE pipeline from which the best will enter Phase I studies in 2010/11.
Mr Sunil Shah, O2h – Setting up a chemistry services business in India from scratch – the entrepeneur’s view
Exciting presentation describing the 5 year story of the set up of a chemistry CRO and the building of state-of-the-art 300 fume-hood facilities in Ahmedabad, Northern India. Focus on the vision of the founders, how the business has grown and the culture within the company and its employees.
Dr Jon Wright, BioDuro – From western pharma to Asian CRO – lessons learned during three years of establishing drug discovery in China
Comprehensive presentation around the relationships between western pharma and Asian CROs and how this has developed over the last decade. Contracts have moved from limited work with reference compounds to complex risk-sharing collaborations encompassing all aspects of drug discovery and development.
Dr Jeremy Billson, Argenta – Discovery outsourcing in the UK
View from a successful CRO; how Argenta have grown from contract compound supplier, tapping into the growing experience of their staff, to a high quality drug discovery outsourcing option.
Mr Stuart Travers, Sentinel Oncology Ltd – Drug discovery virtualisation: an attractive prospect
Description of how Sentinel are making use of efficiencies in the virtualisation of pharma R&D to enable the aggressive development of multiple R&D programmes. Exploitation of the virtual R&D model is shown in programmes involving DNA inhibitors and cell signalling amongst others.
Dr Andrew McElroy, Pfizer – The evolving scientific services marketplace: new ways of operating / changing cost structure / outsourcing internally
A tour around marketplace websites (some listed below) who aim to match up service providers with customers. Services include molecular profiling, assays, assay development, compound synthesis, analysis, DMPK, toxicology, etc. A view into the future when the internal and external marketplace for services could be viewed and selected under the same portal.
- Many thanks to the organisers for putting together a great programme and line up of speakers.
I was looking for a mature, stable, easy to use, intuitive to learn, good value package. The table shows a very quick comparison of functions and prices. Below the table is a brief description of each followed by my overall verdict. Please feel free to comment and add your opinions. I gave myself around an hour for each package and would love to know if I’ve missed anything.
|Platform||Mac OS X||Mac OS X||Windows|
|RRP||$149.95||$210 Eu145||£519.99 (Project2007 price)|
|Trial terms||2 weeks free||Free up to 40 activities||2010beta free until Oct 2010|
|Import file as||MPX, MPP, XML||MPX, MPP, XML||MPX, MPP, XML|
|Export files as||MPX, XML, HTML, iCal, CSV||MPX, XML, HTML, iCal, CSV||MPX, MPP, XML, CSV|
|Export also as||Images (eg PDF, JPEG)||Images (eg PDF, JPEG)||Images (eg PDF, JPEG)|
|other||Meriln Web version available (Eu95)||Sharing via Sharepoint, server options|
|Resourcing||via inspect tool||‘drag-drop’ resources||via Resource tab|
|Levelling||Y – limited options||Y – a few options||Y – many options|
|Finance||Basic cost assignments||Basic cost assignments and reporting||Budget costs, Earned Value etc., etc.|
The Omnigroup, founded in Seattle in 1993 offer several products including Omnigraffle, chart drawing software for the Mac. Omniplan downloaded and installed without problems. First impressions are of a very crisp, clean interface.
My .mpp file was opened and appearance is good, if minimal. It is possible to add tasks, assign resources and do some basic resource levelling though it doesn’t appear possible to set user-defined parameters for levelling. The critical path can be easily highlighted using a button on the top menu bar. Budget information is limited to tracking if your project and tasks are on budget or not. Reporting tools are not included and multiple project use is not yet supported.
The cheapest of the three, at £100ish, is a neat starter package for minimal cost. It seems great for home use or for single projects in small scale organisations. Keep an eye on the Omniplan forum for future developments but for more ambitious PMs, it is probably worthwhile looking at other options.
Merlin, foundered in 2001/2 and are based in Germany. They produce two products, the single use product tested here and a web server version for collaboration and sharing across multiple projects and users.
First impressions of Merlin are a very attractive UI; it is easy to add in tasks and sub-tasks. Resourcing is handled in the Resources view – this is then replicated in the bottom right of the screen.
A particularly pleasing aspect is the ability to drag and drop a resource onto a task on the Gantt chart. Drag and drop is also possible with dependencies (e.g task ‘obtain hardware’ must precede ‘install hardware’). The useful report option can be used to generate Milestone/deadline reports and basic financial reports (but not Earned Value as far as I could work out – please correct me if I‘m wrong).
At around £150ish, this package is very good value and ideal where the use of MS software is not essential. It replicates all of the most useful parts of MS Project at a fraction of the price.
Microsoft have brought Project 2010 into line with the rest of the Office family incorporating the ‘love it–hate it’ ribbon task bar.
Tasks can be added in the normal way or a copied bullet point (eg from an e-mail) can be pasted into the task list retaining the formatting and hierarchy of the bulleted tasks. Scheduling can now be both manually controlled or left to the software to automatically schedule for you. A useful Timeline function is included which can be used to produce a graphical report on project progress. Collaboration is performed via the ‘backstage’ allowing sharing, collaboration and synchronising across multiple projects and users.
The price is likely to be around the £5-600 mark (and more for the ‘pro’ version). If you use all of the features then it’s probably worth it – you have to decide at what level you wish to manage your project(s)!
The first time I saw Puppy Linux Operating System (OS) fire up I was impressed – an old pentium laptop, which had been confined to the loft and was taking around 10-15 mins to start up Windows XP, fired up Puppy’s latest OS from CD in less than a minute and shut down in around 20 seconds.
3 big reasons to have a back up OS start up disk:
1.) Its free.
2.) If your Windows OS breaks, you’ll have a chance of recovering the files on your hard disk quickly (of course, you should be backing up anyway….)
3.) Rejuvenate an old PC which you thought was beyond hope – an extra PC for another member of the family and reduce landfill.
Other reasons which make it ‘nice’:
1.) Puppy Linux comes complete with a word processor, calculator (a la Excel), web browser and other basic apps, all on your CD (or DVD) as a file <100MB.
2.) The OS can also be fired up direct from a USB drive should you find it unwieldy to carry a CD around.
3.) You can save your session and files onto the USB drive or disk you’re using (need a CD-RW of course) and restart your ‘session’ on any PC.
4.) The OS runs from RAM meaning it is much faster than a crunching hard-drive.
5.) You CAN load the OS onto the hard drive if you wish but it really isn’t necessary.
So here’s how to do it -
1.) Go to the Puppy Linux Community website.
2.) Follow the instructions in the Download tab.
3.) IMPORTANT – once you’ve downloaded the latest file, you must write the .iso file to your CD as an image – I used the tiny app recommended – BurnCDCC and it worked perfectly. If you save the .iso file to a CD as a straightforward file it won’t work!
4.) Reset your BIOS boot order to ensure that it looks to the CD (or USB drive) first before the hard drive. A good guide to this is here.
5.) Pop in your CD/DVD /USB, reboot your computer and off you go. The first boot up usually takes a little longer and you’ll have a few questions to answer about your keyboard, mouse and monitor. On your first shut-down you’ll also have a few options for saving these options to your CD/DVD/USB or as a tiny file to the hard drive (NB in this case it is the settings only that are saved to the hard drive, the OS remains on your disk. And that’s it!
Many thanks to Chris McKernan for the lead into this.