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What makes Biosciences executives different from other economy segments? It is commonly argued that it is a different industry with a certain endogamy seen in their companies and some functions. Apart from the unpredictability associated with basic research, a basic difference is that Biosciences project a global approach from the very moment that a molecule is identified. Here are three others:
* Permanent Innovation. With a clear science-and-research culture, innovation is embedding in this sector DNA. The most successful corporations are the ones with a clear commitment to R&D. An average R&D investment of 15%, that may go as high as 20% is difficult to beat for most industries, except sometimes IT or Telecom. Successful executives must get used to project management and drug development in many innovative disciplines such as Molecular Biology, Genetics, Nanotechnology, Proteomics, etc. Any professional headhunter knows that Biosciences CEO’s and VP’s must not be sought from mature or “comfortable” sectors .
* Regulatory Affairs. A challenge for executives coming from other sectors is market access. Price is not free in most countries, packaging cannot be changed without notifying the health authorities, distribution channels are well established with the role of Hospitals and Pharmacies also regulated. Moreover, promotional claims or DTC advertising must pass previous approval in almost every country, particularly for reimbursed products. Business Development deals require a quick adapting to new segments with a strong focus on health economics, outcomes and reimbursement.
* The role of prescription. When the ultimate customer, the patient, is often remote and not in direct contact with the innovator, a pharmaceutical o biomedical product requires the professional advice of a prescriber. This works in cascades: international opinion leaders(OL’s), national OL’s and local OL’s. Nowadays, specialists -in a clear shift from primary care- again prescribe the most innovative and attractive products. And the number of stakeholders has grown in recent times, including now clinical boards assessing new drugs, patients associations, medical societies and -in countries like Spain- autonomous communities authorities, etc.
The advent of personalized medicine will mean more specialist drugs for smaller groups of patients and a shift back to science vs. marketing, -that was so effective in the me-too and blockbuster era-. Executives used to work with that type of products need to reset to the new targeted-only business model and the recruiters involved in these types of searches must have the “helicopter view” necessary to differentiate segments and cultures, on top of speaking the language of the industry.