Connecting Expertise to Accelerate Lab Testing Innovations at Labcorp Central Laboratory Services

31 January 2022

To help our clients shape the future of healthcare, Central Laboratory Services (CLS) at Labcorp Drug Development is continuously exploring new ways to enhance scientific expertise and anticipate lab testing needs.

We recently spoke with Sian Estdale, PhD, Head of Scientific Affairs, Clinical Trial Testing Solutions at Labcorp, to hear her perspectives on how her team impacts the customer experience and helps drive scientific innovation across our global organization.

Improving delivery and impacting the client experience

In her 19 years at Labcorp Drug Development (formerly Covance), Sian has worked with many different subject matter experts across the company to help enable more efficient drug development.

Sian explained that scientific specialists typically have deep expertise in one key area, but as they gain a wider perspective of drug development challenges and expand their knowledge during conversations with their colleagues, many new initiatives and innovations can come to light.

She shared a few of the recent projects where enhanced scientific leadership is impacting the customer experience and helping advance drug development:

  • Incorporating biomarkers: A client had asked for a particular biomarker because they had seen it on the Labcorp Diagnostics website. Based on this request, the Labcorp Drug Development team evaluated whether this biomarker could also support drug development to advance patient stratification in the client’s clinical trials. The team can also explore different applications of biomarkers and companion diagnostics based on client requests to enable patient stratification.
  • Enhancing data management: Labcorp is exploring new ways to manage data, which will have a huge impact on drug development as the field is incorporating artificial intelligence approaches. Some teams have developed novel algorithms to interpret and correlate results across multiple formats as they continue to evaluate the optimal structure and architecture to enable a data-driven drug development process. 
  • Extending anatomic pathology: Thinking beyond the preclinical requirements, the team’s early development work has involved developing immunohistochemistry stains for certain biomarkers that may eventually transfer into the clinical space.
  • Innovating in Asia Pacific: The team has been engaging with the government in Singapore to drive early drug development innovation in that country. They are also advance immuno-oncology treatments with cell therapies in China.
  • Exploring disease-specific improvements: In specific disease areas, teams are focusing on multiple myeloma to describe minimal residual disease (MRD)with biomarkers and also exploring biomarkers in NASH to avoid invasive liver biopsies and improve patient classification.

Responding to evolving needs in drug development

“Whether we are supporting central labs, early development, CMC or bioanalysis, when we get together and talk about our experiences, that’s where real lightbulb moments take place,”  Sian said.

These important conversations between diverse scientific teams have made an impact on drug development advances and improved the customer experience in several different forms.

“By sharing knowledge, we better understand what is important for our customers and can impact the entire drug development spectrum—whether it is our standard methodologies in central lab testing or their development challenges,” explained Sian.

With this understanding, Sian’s scientific affairs team can then examine new approaches by uniting scientists and operational specialists, setting up interest groups and even funding research work.

Proactively addressing common pain points in drug development

Sian recognizes that many customers may face similar challenges in their drug development programs. Her team aims to find answers for these problems to help customers—before they experience issues.

“We have very forward-looking groups that try to stay ahead of the latest developments. Our scientific connections across our drug development and diagnostic teams are uniting people from diverse backgrounds to expose them to different ways of thinking, look at problems from different angles and create solutions that haven’t been considered before,” she said.

“It’s important to promote scientific curiosity and put the time and energy into potential solutions so we can introduce new formats, find new ways to apply technology or research novel applications, which can all make a huge impact on drug development.”

Addressing clients’ challenges from multiple perspectives

The integration of Labcorp Drug Development and Labcorp Diagnostics started in 2015, but there are still numerous opportunities to leverage the combined organization, support customer-driven improvements and make a bigger impact on patients’ lives.

“To be more than a partner, we try to anticipate the changing environment for the biotech and pharmaceutical industry,” said Sian. “Our scientific insights across drug development and diagnostics are driving interconnectivity so we can approach our client’s challenges from several different perspectives. This allows us to be more client-driven and deliver what our clients need to achieve success in their programs.”