For Andy Brown, Vice President of Commercial Operations at Sinclair Research, working in pharmaceutical research has always been more of a personal mission than a career goal. When Brown was a teen and just beginning to consider his college and career options, his family members received back-to-back diagnoses of lupus and Parkinson’s disease. Watching the impact on their quality of life, it didn’t take long for him to decide he wanted to find a way to help.
From the start, Brown was attracted to the pharmaceutical industry, largely because of what he perceived as a lack of treatment options for people like his family members. “I saw this deterioration of life in the people I loved the most and there weren’t treatments that were going to cure them,” Brown recalls. “They may make it more manageable, but there weren’t really things you could do other than take care of yourself and sort of manage through the disease. And I never wanted to – ” he briefly pauses – “I just never accepted that.”
Brown knew he was more suited for commerce than science, so he decided he would pursue a business degree, but always with the idea that he would use what he learned to help further the life sciences. “I knew I would either be working to commercialize products that would help patients improve their quality of life, or I’d end up in R&D and that side of it,” he says.
Brown took a marketing internship with a local group of regulatory compliance consultants and discovered the world of preclinical drug research. Excited by the opportunity to help the scientists who work to make drugs better and safer for patients, he began applying for jobs at Contract Research Organizations (CROs) shortly before graduation.
To Brown, the idea of working in a Contract Research Organization was very engaging. “You’re on the front lines supporting cutting edge researchers who are working to demonstrate efficacy and ultimately safety for novel products that, you know, fingers crossed, make it to the clinic and then get approved, there’s no better feeling for me.”
Brown joined Harlan Laboratories (now part of Envigo), a CRO predominantly known for supplying laboratory animal models for scientific research. In just five years with the company, he rose from an entry-level marketing intern to senior management, overseeing account managers in both the U.S. and Europe.
Management, Brown says, is where he really found his calling. “I loved it,” he says. “It really tapped into an area and a passion that I didn’t know I had, which was just the cultivation of people, and developing people, and feeling the reward of their success.”
Harlan was ultimately acquired by Huntingdon Life Sciences and the combined company rebranded itself as Envigo. Brown was soon promoted to Vice President of Global Strategic Accounts, supervising sales and marketing personnel across geographies and disciplines including crop protection, chemical, pharmaceutical, and animal supply before receiving the offer from Guy Bouchard, CEO of Sinclair Research, to lead his company’s commercial team. “I didn’t know much about Sinclair,” Brown says. “Sinclair did not have a sales and marketing presence, so the awareness that I had prior to working there was probably the same awareness that a lot of our clients have, where they just don’t know what you’re good at, they don’t know what you do.”
But when Brown arrived on site, any reservations he might have had about the company were quickly put to rest. “As soon as I visited the site, I was completely blown away,” he recalls. “I toured the facility, I saw they had critical mass, they had 600 acres of land they own, they had large research facilities, they had recruited some really good scientific talent from Covance, from MPI, from Ricerca – they were already there. The research and operational teams were already there, the new leadership was there … they just didn’t have the market awareness of their capabilities yet.”
Brown saw immediately that a good commercial team could take the company to the next level. “All the bones were there. You’ve got to have enough capacity to be relevant in a consolidated CRO market, you’ve got to have enough diversification of service offerings to minimize the volatility that exists in our industry, and Sinclair had everything. I could not find one thing about the company that gave me cold feet at all.”
Brown also liked the opportunities he identified for Sinclair to expand its offerings, improve its already-good customer service, and raise its public profile. Since joining, Brown has overseen the company’s commercial operations as it has entered a period of steady expansion and growth into new areas of contract research and new facilities. Brown says his goal is to help “take this company from where it was to where we know it can be and reaching its full potential.”
Brown says that one of the most rewarding parts of the job is reaching out and identifying clients “who really jive with who we are as the up and coming mid-sized CRO” and who want to come along for the ride as Sinclair ascends to new heights. “First of all, we need to be focused on what we can already do really, really well, what we can deliver on. And while we’re doing that, garner the support from our clients, both current and prospective, as well as consultants, and bring them into the plan. Tell them what we’re building.”
With fewer and fewer full-service IND-enabling toxicology labs in the market, Brown says sponsors and consultants alike are looking for a reliable alternative. “Many sponsors and consultants are looking for a mid-sized lab that does really good work, provides the services they need to support their program and prioritizes their client relationship—they’re looking for a lab where everybody knows their name.” Brown says the response from clients and observers alike has been overwhelmingly positive. “People are rooting for Sinclair.”