MPI Research: Bill Harrison, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

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There was a time when most pharmaceutical companies did all of their own research in-house. Maintaining laboratories for drug development is expensive, however, and in efforts to reduce cost and grow more efficient, today pre-clinical research is more often being farmed out to independent laboratories.

MPI Research is a full-service, pre-clinical research organization. It is a privately held company that serves the research needs of various industries including prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, veterinary products, industrial and agriculture chemicals, bio-pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Laboratory Growth

The company’s primary location is Mattawan, Michigan, with secondary facilities in State College, Pennsylvania, and Shanghai, China. MPI currently has more than 1,500 employees. They recently acquired 500,000 square feet of space in Kalamazoo, Michigan where they plan to expand and headquarter their discovery services. Down the road, the company is also looking to develop a physical presence in Europe.

Growth hasn’t exactly met expectations, however. In mid-2008, Wall Street analysts were still predicting a growth rate in the mid-teens for the pre-clinical sector. With the economic downturn, the reality was that the industry experienced about a 10% decrease in growth. Predictions for the coming year are that the industry might see an increase in the high single digits to low teens.

“We’re certainly weathering this change economically and the effect it has had on the pharmaceutical and the small biotech companies,” says Bill Harrison, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

Responsive to Customer Needs

“We’re a nimble lab,” says Harrison. “We’ll do what it takes to get a research project done on time.”

MPI takes a collaborative approach to performing their services. They act as the team’s consultant rather than just being there to fill an order. “We want to add value,” says Harrison. “The worse thing that can happen is to conduct a study that is designed by the sponsor and have the study rejected because of insufficient animals, or insufficient end points.”

Therefore, the researchers take time to review the proposed approach and make sure that the study design is what is best for the customer and that it makes the most efficient use of resources. Communication is priority. MPI believes in keeping the client advised and informed from project beginning to end. “We want to be viewed as the lab down the hall for our clients,” says Harrison.  “We often hear that our clients feel as if they are our number one client,” he says. “Our client is our paycheck. Our clients come first.”

For larger clients, a single point of contact is assigned as a program manager. If the client has complex research programs that stretch across multiple service lines, the program manager is their point of contact, the person whom they know will act on their behalf.

The company devotes significant resources to HR selection processes and training programs to make sure that employees are confident and able to fulfill their job duties to the highest degree. “There is a long training period required of people working in this industry,” says Harrison. The company has about 15 individuals whose job focus is dedicated to training and continuing education of employees.

Capital and Industry Positioning

“This business is one where you need to keep the resources around and be ready to redeploy them in other areas so that you are ready to seize the opportunity for growth,” says Harrison. “I think we are positioning ourselves very well for when the industry starts growing again. We’ll capture more than our fair share of it.”

“Our goal remains the same: We want to have the best comprehensive preclinical and early clinical research and development services in the industry. We don’t want to be the biggest, we want to be the best.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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