Running a Tight Request for Proposal Process; Part 1
With the continued trend of increased outsourcing in the biopharma industry, a significant level of importance is being placed on the Request for Proposal (RFP) process. This makes sense – without a systematic approach to developing the RFP, soliciting bids from service providers, and then normalizing the bid information into a comprehensive package, it is possible to get muddled during contract award. Over the years, Bio-Processing Alliance has run more than 40 RFP processes, amounting to more than $40 million dollars in awarded contracts through our pharmaceutical outsourcing service.
Through this extensive experience, we have created an outsourcing selection system that is suitable for the solicitation of proposals for contracts ranging in services from limited biologics process development, through to full programs requiring technology transfer, process and analytical development, cell banking, scale-up and GMP biologics manufacturing, including process validation in preparation for commercial launch.
So, what has our experience taught us over the years? Well, first and foremost, it is critical to do your research on what service providers out there can provide the solution you’re looking for. This can be a tedious part of the process if you have not run RFP processes previously, but for BPAI it is a matter of accessing our extensive database from years of pharmaceutical outsourcing experience. Once you have collected an assemblage of possible service providers, the ‘contact us’ stage of the process begins where initial contact is made and progress towards signing Confidentiality Agreements (CDA) occurs. As an aside, our Bioprocess Consultants would always recommend that as part of any RFP process there are CDAs executed prior to publishing the RFP. This is to protect the rights of the sponsor and the intellectual property in play.
Once the CDA is in place, you’re ready to publish the RFP. A question we’re often asked is how detailed does the RFP need to be, which is a great question! In BPAI’s experience, the more technical details that can be shared in the RFP, the more accurate and representative the proposals will be. After all, the reason a CDA is established ahead of publishing the RFP is to allow for a free exchange of information between the sponsor and the service provider, with the aim of tightening up the proposals to prevent incorrect costing or scope creep later in the process. Additionally, the RFP is such a critical document in the overall process that we recommend starting its creation very early in the RFP process, well ahead of making the first contact with the service providers.
When the RFP is finally published to all your service providers, you can sit back and take it easy, right? Not! It is always beneficial in the RFP to allow for the service providers to get in touch with you during their proposal generation phase regarding any questions they may have. Our Bioprocess Consultants at BPAI are typically very busy during this phase of the RFP process, fielding email questions and arranging conference calls to ensure that each of the service providers clearly understand the scope which they are bidding on, as well as the current state of the program. As a common theme in the RFP process, the more information and collaboration on information between the service provider and sponsor, the more accurate you can expect the proposal.
Another critical element in managing the overall pharmaceutical outsourcing process through the RFP is to establish very clear deadlines by which all service providers must have their proposals submitted. In our RFP templates, we usually have a section dedicated to the anticipated timeline of the overall RFP process, clearly delineating dates when the RFP will be published, when we will be fielding requests for further information, when the proposals are due, and when we approximately think the top candidates will be short-listed for further discussion. Obviously, there will always be situations requiring extensions and other requests, but the goal of the deadlines is to try to corral as many of the proposals as possible in hand at a specific date.
In our next blog, I will be discussing how to review and normalize all the information that comes in from the proposals, the short-listing process and how to communicate successful (or not so successful) short-listing decisions to the service providers, as well as the qualification process leading to the selection of a single service provider for more in-depth discussions.
In the meanwhile, if you or your company are being challenged with managing a complicated RFP process, I would highly encourage you to contact BPAI to speak with one of our Bioprocess Consultants, who are experts in pharmaceutical outsourcing. This is a mainstay of our business and we know it well. We can help provide you with a path towards selecting the ideal service provider, clarify the process, and provide guidance to ensure that you are evaluating leaders in the biologics manufacturing field.
Until next time…..happy outsourcing!
Bio-Processing Alliance, Inc.