When people consider partnering with Sinclair Research Center for their pre-clinical testing, one of the first people they speak to is usually Dr. Alex Wakefield. As Vice President of Pharmacology and Veterinary Services, Wakefield is responsible for answering prospective clients’ questions, gathering information about their projects, and writing the proposals that become the backbone of the studies Sinclair carries out on their clients’ behalf.
Wakefield joined Sinclair in 2017 after more than thirty years working across multiple areas of the drug development process, including more than a decade each at Eli Lilly and Covance. His broad expertise and extensive experience makes him the go-to person for prospective clients who have questions about the preclinical process and what it’s like to work with Sinclair as a company. It also gives him a unique perspective on the benefits of working with Sinclair as opposed to other Contract Research Organizations (CROs).
Wakefield says the best part of working with Sinclair is the highly personalized attention the company is able to devote to its clients and their research.
“Developing drugs is a complicated endeavor, and it’s not the same for everybody, everybody has different goals,” Wakefield says. “Some people, they’re in large pharma and they’re trying to get drugs onto market. But if you’re in a small biotech company, you may just be trying to develop a drug to a milestone that will be interesting for an investor to come in and look at, or you may be trying to get together a grant proposal, or just any number of things.”
With its medium size and experienced scientific staff, Sinclair occupies a sweet spot in terms of being able to offer both high-quality research and customized service to its clients, according to Wakefield. By talking to clients one-on-one, he says, “I’m able to get a sense of their goals, what they’re after, and then help them design a realistic animal study that will provide the answers that they need.” He adds: “There’s no one way to do the work that we do, so I try my best to give them options. I think people appreciate that.”
Wakefield believes Sinclair’s medium size gives clients an advantage when it comes to being able to control and understand their studies. He says that back in his days working for a large drug company, scientists and the studies they performed were largely in-house, proprietary ventures. Now, most of that work has been outsourced to large, networked CROs that struggle to offer the same level of service to their many clients as their previous dedicated in-house research staff did.
“At a large CRO I worked for, we’d have ‘client visits’ where we’d trot out all our top management and scientists and we could sit around and have these deep fantastic discussions about drug development issues, especially the hard ones. But then when [the clients] left and signed up for a study, it was just them and a study director, and they never chatted with that group again,” Wakefield says.
“In a medium-sized CRO, it’s easier to have access, it’s easier for us to pull everyone in on a project and bring all the combined experience we have to bear on a project or a client. I think that’s a great thing.”
But Wakefield is quick to note that smaller doesn’t mean less able. “Sinclair is smaller than the big CROs … but it has unique capabilities,” he says. “It has some unique scientific models that nobody else in the world does or does as well as we do. It’s been great fun to come in and get associated with those models.”
As a particular example, Wakefield cites Sinclair’s Diabetic Swine Model. “I’ve worked in the diabetes field for years, across all species [of lab animals], but I’ve never had the Diabetic Swine Model that Sinclair developed years ago and manages so well,” he says. “That’s allowed me … to talk to many, many clients and design many studies that are unique for them, that are beyond what they could do anywhere else.”
In fact, Wakefield notes that his work with the company’s Diabetic Swine Model was a key reason he was recently asked to join a national think tank on the future of Type 1 Diabetes research, an opportunity he credits largely to Sinclair.
When asked what inspires him to do his best work every day, Wakefield is quick and decisive with his answer.
“We’re all here to improve medicine, to find drugs to help people across a wide variety of disease states,” Wakefield says. “Drug development is a fascinating science, particularly working in a pharmaceutical research company where you [can] see the medicines that you contributed to get to the market and impact people’s lives – that’s really what inspires me.”
“I’ve worked across every pretty much every therapeutic area in human medicine, most therapeutic areas in veterinary medicine, and now more into the device arena,” adds Wakefield. “To put my scientific expertise toward solving medical needs, improving the lives of people and animals who need either drugs or devices – that’s what gets me up every day, that’s what keeps me connected.”