Helping others is more than a job to us—it’s our passion. It’s critical to improve lives by bringing new treatments to market, but it’s just as critical to create a healthier, more proactive world.
At PRA Health Sciences, we never miss an opportunity to help people proactively prevent or manage illness in order to lead fulfilling, uncompromising lives. This is how we can do our part to leave the world better than we found it.
Passion is our third HI*PRA value that guides us in the pursuit of our commitment. It exemplifies how we achieve success—by energizing and inspiring those around us while holding one another accountable. The key to a successful and passionate sponsor partnership is this shared sense of ingenuity and accountability. Today, we’re sharing a story that truly embodies the spirit of HI*PRA Passion. This story comes to us from Peter Ketelaar, VP, Global Bioanalytical Services, and Andre Pantophlet, Project Manager – PRA Assen Lab.
Last November, Peter and Andre were approached by a trusted contact from a sponsor. The contact requested sample analysis for an experimental study drug under a Compassionate Use (expanded access) study.
The request was for a 10-year-old boy with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) complicated by a multi-drug resistant invasive fungal infection. The boy wasn’t eligible for any of the sponsor’s study protocols due to his age. The sponsor had never studied the drug in children, but they were prepared to grant a special request in order to save the boy’s life.
In an effort to dose the drug safely, the sponsor planned to monitor the drug levels over the first two weeks of the patient’s treatment. Plasma samples taken during this two-week period would require urgent analysis at PRA’s Assen, Netherlands lab.
Peter says, “Our mission statement reads: ‘We believe that behind every sample waiting to be analyzed there is a patient waiting to be treated,’ so of course we agreed to treat this patient.”
“I’ve known this sponsor contact for over 12 years,” he continues. “I helped them when they worked for a previous sponsor. A few years ago, they moved to their current sponsor and immediately reached out to us to award Phase I studies. They know they can count on us and ask us anything. That helped establish our current relationship with this sponsor.”
PRA doesn’t receive requests like these often—in Peter’s 15 years at PRA, he’s only seen a handful of special circumstances. Andre adds that it’s rare for a Compassionate Use experimental drug to be given to a child when it was previously only tested in adults. This was the first urgent request they received for just one child with a rare disease.
The lab in itself may not always be a very inspirational environment. Analysts do often receive a message from a sponsor about what was achieved with drugs they developed. Messages like these help turn the lab into an inspirational place. What we accomplish makes all the difference.
Peter Ketelaar, VP, Global Bioanalytical Services
When the Assen lab analyzes samples for one Compassionate Use patient, that takes approximately the same amount of time as completing a typical run of 120 samples. The Assen lab needs a half day to prepare the laboratory documentation, process the samples and execute the analytical run. The next day, the run is processed, checked and QCed, and a report is generated and QCed. It takes one or two days to turn over results.
“We made the decision to analyze this single patient’s samples not because we wanted to make money, but to do something for the greater good,” Peter says. The sponsor was not charged for this service.
Receiving these requests and taking on these challenges are not unique tasks to PRA. Many competitors do the same. The difference lies in the relationships fostered with sponsors. Peter calls it “customer intimacy.” He says, “The sponsor won’t forget about our best work. On their next project, the first lab the sponsor will think of is PRA. It’s not only important to deliver on time, but to go the extra mile.”
When PRA goes the extra mile with sponsors, they feel comfortable enough to update us on how a study is going. Peter and Andre both agree that hearing from sponsors helps inspire them to do their best and also go the extra mile.
The sponsor contact provided multiple updates on the patient’s condition to Peter and Andre. The most recent update indicated that since starting the experimental sponsor study drug, the patient has improved clinically with no evidence of active fungal disease. He is continuing his chemotherapy treatment, which may provide a cure to his underlying ALL. He and his mother have noted an increase in energy, and according to his treating physician, an improvement in overall quality of life.
Andre says that in these special cases, Assen lab analysts are always well aware of who and what they’re analyzing samples for. They’re extra inspired because they know that their work is going to someone with a life-threatening disease. But when they hear good news from a sponsor, it makes their work even more rewarding. “You don’t get updates like this from sponsors unless you have a years-long, mutual trust relationship,” Andre says.
Peter adds, “The lab in itself may not always be a very inspirational environment. Analysts do often receive a message from a sponsor about what was achieved with drugs they developed. Messages like these help turn the lab into an inspirational place. What we accomplish makes all the difference.”
PRA’s trusted relationship with the sponsor, along with the Assen Lab’s willingness to help a child in need, illustrate the passion that drives PRA and our sponsors to improve lives.