Q&A with Drug Discovery Alliances CEO Deborah Minor reflecting on pharmaceutical industry trends and how to resolve challenges across the R&D continuum


Drug Discovery Alliances (DDA) is a world-class global sourcing and procurement partner to leading life sciences firms and biotech start-ups around the world. It offers the full continuum of services needed to support clients’ drug discovery, development, and commercialization projects. DDA leverages its global portfolio of trusted suppliers and consultants, vetted for compliance and quality, to source pharmaceutical R&D, drug products, APIs, and raw materials for clients. It also offers related business development services, such as FDA advisory services and funding/investor consulting.

About Deborah Minor

Deborah has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. In her 20+ years at DDA, she has assembled a first-class network of experts in every aspect of drug development, manufacturing and commercialization. She has overseen hundreds of projects across the life sciences and biotech spectrum, assembling expert teams tailored to each project’s needs. With a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and decades of experience, she has broad technical, business and management experience in pharmaceutical development, manufacturing, and commercial operations.

Why did you start DDA?

The need in the pharmaceutical industry was immense, and the opportunity irresistible, for both business and personal reasons.

Having worked in the industry first as an organic chemist at Rhone Poulenc, then at Accelyrs and subsequently at MDL, marketing molecular modeling technologies and databases including Beilstein, Crossfire to the industry, it was evident that what was badly needed was a seamless and integrated approach to drug discovery, development, and commercialization. Drug developers and manufacturers were reaching out here, there and everywhere in an attempt to find the right solutions to the many and varied challenges encountered along the bumpy road from drug discovery to commercial product. I am privileged to have worked with, and met, many of the best and brightest people within the industry. I know their strong points. I know their problem-solving skills and reliability. So why not provide a one-stop shop where companies in need, anywhere along the R&D continuum and anywhere in the world, could access all the expertise they need with just one phone call?

Personally, although I travel a great deal, I enjoy life in rural North Carolina and that location works to our clients’ advantage too by providing two things. One, the diversity of working with a minority woman-owned business, and two, tax breaks for working with a HubZone business. It’s a win-win.

What changes have occurred in the industry in the past 10 years, and what do you see as the greatest challenges today?

Let’s begin with some constants in the industry that never change. There’s always the need to source high quality partners for materials, drug product manufacturing, licensing and other services.

What has changed, particularly in the last few years, is the trend toward onshoring drug development. China has been the source of numerous raw materials and APIs, but as distrust and concerns about the reliability of supply chains has increased, Western governments are seeking to protect their citizenry by assuring a supply of essential medications produced within their own borders. In many cases that requires drug and device developers to create whole new supply chains, assure the quality of materials, invest in equipment and hire qualified staff. Bringing GMP manufacturing back to the West is no easy task.

These are uncertain times for biotech and the pharmaceutical industry, which is also challenging. The political winds continue to shift, making decision-making difficult. The industry falls in and out of favor. Will the U.S. Congress allow Medicare to negotiate prices, potentially reducing ROI? Will the price of pharmaceuticals be pegged to prescription prices paid in other countries? Will enough students take the more difficult science courses, assuring a steady and reliable workforce into the future? What happened to the halo effect created by the unprecedented development of a Covid vaccine in just 11 months? It seems to have faded away just as quickly. These are among the concerns weighing on the industry.

We at DDA are not lobbyists. Rather, we can step in as needed as an extension of your team, helping pharmas and biotechs strategize and develop therapeutics as quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

What makes Drug Discovery Alliances unique?  

DDA brings unrivaled experience and connections to each project. DDA’s bespoke project teams are responsive and know your business, understand your pain points, and become your go-to problem solvers.

The unique combination of expertise, industry insight and empathy, bolstered by our tremendous network of resources, allows DDA to serve as a trusted guide. We help our clients navigate the treacherous and challenging journey from discovery to commercialization while expertly sidestepping the many pitfalls and dead ends that can derail projects. 

What should companies expect when they call DDA?  

Whether you’re a pharmaceutical giant or a biotech startup, expect rapid access to global, world-class CROs, CMOs, experts, and other partners. In other words, DDA provides all the necessary additional resources you need to reduce risk, solve problems, and help see your project to successful completion–from discovery, formulation, and development through to funding and commercialization.

What are the 5 top reasons large pharma firms work with DDA?

Our large clients have cited these benefits:

  1. Instant access to a wide network of vetted sourcing and procurement partners to accelerate successful project timelines
  2. A sourcing partner to help address project roadblocks such as supply chain disruption
  3. A partner to help bring pharma manufacturing back on-shore
  4. A woman-owned business that helps meet DEI goals and optimize tax credits
  5. As a certified HubZone company, DDA helps support business growth within an economically depressed region

They have mentioned the last two as meaningful to their workforce, aiding in recruitment and retention.

What are the top 5 reasons smaller biotech start-ups should work with DDA?

This is what smaller pharma companies and startups biotechs have told us: 

  1. DDA has the networking clout to help smaller projects get the attention of world-class providers for materials sourcing and manufacturing capabilities
  2. DDA helps avoid costs brought on by project delays or failures caused by a lack of adequate resources
  3. In uncertain times, adds expertise and experience without the risk of additional headcount
  4. Shares best practices gained through years of experience to help us reach successful product commercialization
  5. DDA can help secure project funding

Despite industry headwinds, opportunities for developing tomorrow’s better, safer therapeutics are tremendous. I am proud to say that DDA has helped many companies thrive and fulfill their mission of improving the lives of patients.

Deborah Minor