AstraZeneca is streamlining its research outsourcing processes by setting up a ‘virtual laboratory’ with Assay Depot, the self-styled “world's largest online marketplace” for pharmaceutical research services.

Launched in September 2008, Assay Depot sees itself as an equivalent to for industry and academic drug researchers looking to tap into research services from drug discovery through to clinical trials.

It offers a single, secure, cloud-based location where researchers can compare service descriptions, view customer reviews, request quotes, place orders, track service progress and retrieve data reports.

The private virtual research laboratory developed by Assay Depot in partnership with AstraZeneca is effectively a vendor relationship-management system with easy access to a network of “thousands” of research-service providers both inside and outside the company, Assay Depot explained.

“A small group of talented scientists can now run an entire drug discovery programme, from concept to clinic, from a laptop computer,” said the company’s chief executive officer, Kevin Lustig.

Assay Deport already has partnerships with companies and organisations such as Pfizer, Genspace and Collaborative Drug Discovery.

Easy access

AZ researchers will be able to access the virtual laboratory from any location where they have access to the Internet, including tablets and mobile devices. They can view colleagues’ ratings and reviews, check past transactions and determine at a glance which vendors have current legal agreements.

As Assay Deport pointed out, a private virtual laboratory allows for complete transparency across global research operations while retaining local control over sourcing decisions.

It simplifies legal and compliance verification, standardises sourcing governance and “serves as a versatile all-in-one platform that benefits the entire chain of pharmaceutical stakeholders, including discovery research, supply chain and consumer health”, the company added.

By linking up AstraZeneca’s internal and external science resources, the virtual laboratory platform creates “a new approach for our scientists to run experiments with an optimal balance of speed, quality, and cost”, commented Mike Snowden, the drug company’s vice president of discovery sciences.