Goodwill can be contagious

2014
Dr Robert Wenslow, VP Business Development & Alex Chen, Chief Executive Officer, Crystal Pharmatech

Inspired by an interview shared on LinkedIn in August 2013 with an Abbvie scientist working pro bono with MMV, Dr Robert Wenslow, VP Business Development at Crystal Pharmatech, a Contract Research Organisation based in China, got in touch with Dr Cristina Donini, Director, Translational Medicine at MMV. Bob wanted to offer MMV his organisation’s pre-formulation expertise at a “not-for-profit” price.

Since that first contact, MMV and Crystal Pharmatech have worked together on several projects progressing through MMV’s project portfolio. The collaboration is more than a typical provider–client relationship.

“There’s a partnership there,” said Cristina. “Crystal Pharmatech works hard and is successful in being more than just a service provider. You give them a problem, there is a discussion and they go the extra mile. So not only are they high quality, they are also cost-effective – a combination that’s hard to come by,” Cristina continued.

Here Crystal Pharmatech’s Dr Robert Wenslow, VP Business Development, and Alex Chen, Chief Executive Officer, explain why they work with MMV and what they have to offer.

1. What motivates you to work with MMV on a “not-for-profit” basis?

Dr Robert Wenslow: MMV’s mission is really aligned with why I got into the pharmaceutical industry to begin with: to help provide medicines for people in need. Before we started working with MMV, we weren’t sure how PDPs actually worked. Over the last year or so, it has been really exciting to get an insider’s view and contribute to the work of a non-profit research foundation that provides medicines for people in impoverished areas.

2. What skills do you bring to drug discovery and development projects?

Dr Robert Wenslow: With our expertise in pre-formulation studies, we can efficiently select the best oral compounds, progressing quickly from discovery to first in humans. Basically, when a molecule is chosen at the lead compound stage, there are a lot of different avenues to get that compound into humans. That’s preclinical development. Based on our years of experience in this field, we have developed an efficient preclinical development process. The compound progresses through an appropriate decision tree, ensuring it will not fail owing to solubility and exposure reasons. The process ensures that you will get your compound to first-in-humans stage quickly and with the exposure that will make the drug work.  

3. MMV has a compound in the late lead stage of development that we would like to profile against a more advanced compound in our portfolio. How could you help do so?

Alex Chen: We’d start by understanding the new molecule’s properties such as solubility pharmacokinetic (PK)1 profile, physical form and stability compared to the front-runner. 

Essentially, we’d want to make sure that all the issues with the properties of the compound are understood before moving into toxicology studies. This will ensure that your exposure data is reproducible and reliable and allow a direct comparison between compounds.

Once we have identified the most suitable form to be progressed, we will scale it up and ensure it remains stable under storage conditions. If not, it may affect the dissolution rate of the final product and its overall PK performance. To ensure that the release of drug from the final product is reproducible, we must understand its solid-state properties.

4. What do you enjoy most about working with MMV?

Dr Robert Wenslow: Scientifically, MMV is very strong. They understand drug development and the importance of efficiency. The conversations we have with the team are incredibly valuable. It’s a great learning experience for us.


1. Pharmacokinetics: the study of what the body does to a drug, determining where and when the drug will have its effect, for how long and at what level of intensity.