Monthly Archives August 2012

A Beacon of Innovation: Tysabri Label Change Identifies Patients at Risk for PML

The life sciences industry is certainly experiencing stormy seas. However, today, the industry can celebrate a victory in the battle for innovation. Biogen’s approved label change for Tysabri will make it easier for physicians to identify patients at highest and lowest risk of developing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a deadly brain infection linked to the drug. It’s estimated that this change could add $1B in sales by 2016. Now that is creating shareholder value! We need more of this kind of innovation in the life science industry!

In this age of heightened regulatory and payer scrutiny, Biogen accepted the challenge with courage and stayed focused on gaining a better understanding of the benefit:risk profile for Tysabri. Now, there is a better understanding of patients at greatest risk for developing PML and a diagnostic test to help determine a patient’s risk.

Life science companies can learn a lot from how Biogen handled this situation, and here are three key learning’s…

  • Face your challenges head on and with courage. Be committed to searching for answers. Consider hiring a management consulting firm to help you ask questions and develop an action plan.
  • Work with strategic partners that have expertise you lack. In challenging times surround yourself with others that are more knowledgeable about a specific area than you.
  • Communicate your actions and outcomes. The lives of patients are at stake. Proactively communicate with regulatory officials, physicians, patient advocacy groups, and patients and caregivers.

The need for innovation is everywhere. Whether it’s finding new uses for existing products, determining how to overcome barriers to market acceptance, or strategic pipeline planning innovation is a common theme. At Snowfish we combine our unique and highly effective methodologies with disease-state understanding, sophisticated software, and analytic capabilities to provide actionable insights into your most pressing product development challenges. Our website has more information on our services, and a section on the white papers we’ve published.

Give me a call at 703.759.6100 to discuss your challenges and how we can help.

Posted by Dave Fishman  |  1 Comment  |  in Management Consulting

10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Hiring a Consulting Firm for the Life Sciences Industry

The life science industry is facing tremendous challenges, and you don’t need to face them alone. There are numerous management consulting firms that will help you tackle your most pressing challenges. Management consulting firms can provide deep insights and analytical abilities, unique processes for overcoming challenges, and needed resources to solve pressing business issues. Hiring a management consulting firm is a large and expensive decision, so you want to make sure you’ve hired the right partner.

In my more than 20 years in senior-level positions in business consulting and pharmaceutical companies I have faced numerous challenges. I have been fortunate to work with and for some great management consulting firms, and I have learned a lot about hiring the right partner. Below are my 10 key questions to ask when hiring a firm. 

1. Have they worked in the life sciences industry and is that the primary focus of the firm? Many nuances exist within this very specialized industry and these can unfortunately be missed if the expertise is not there.

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2. I see they offer multiple services. Can they show me a related white paper or detailed example? Let’s face it, a company can list any service on their website regardless if they have experience with it or not. By providing a white paper, a firm demonstrates that they have significant insight into a particular area along with a certain level of commitment to it.

3. Are the people I’m meeting really those who will perform the work on my account?
Often, clients are introduced to a team of very experienced professionals at the initial meeting and assume that these individuals will be performing the work. They then come find out once the contract has been signed that they are really the firm’s executives who will “be consulting on the project” and a far less experienced team will be assigned to the day-to-day activities.

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4. How old are the examples and were they completed by the team working on my account? It is not uncommon to be provided with project examples that look great at face value but in fact they were completed for a product that has been off-patent for 10 years and by a team that no longer works at the company.

5. Do they offshore to lower wage workers?
While offshoring may make a project less expensive, the trade-offs may include loss of insight and quality as well as risks to your intellectual property.

6. Am I getting the right level of expertise?
Hiring a strategic firm to put out a simple survey is unnecessary and a waste of resources. This is analogous to hiring Pablo Picasso to paint your bathroom. Alternatively, only experienced strategy firms should be charged with addressing complex strategic questions.

7. Should I be looking beyond my company’s preferred vendor list?
Realize that there are multiple insights and often exclusivity breeds complacency. You owe it to yourself to see what other firms are doing good work in the area you need.

8. Am I really getting such a bargain?
A low-ball offer followed by multiple scope changes accompanied by additional fees often is more expensive in the end.

9. Do they have references readily available?
A company that has expertly delivered multiple times for their clients will have a list of references readily available and may even have testimonials on their website. Once you get the references on the phone, always ask them “who actually did the work.”

10. Is the proposal I’m reading clear, well-organized, and customized to my needs?
The proposal you receive is an excellent indication of the type of work that the firm will deliver. For example, if it provides specific details about the product and disease state as well as the issues to be addressed by the project, the firm has already been listening and understands your needs and will continue to do so once they are awarded the work.

These are challenging times and a management consulting firm can be an invaluable resource for new ideas, expert analytics, and proven outcomes. I hope these 10 questions will help you find the right firm to partner with. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post—is it helpful or not? Also, if you have additional questions to consider, please share them.

At Snowfish, we provide actionable insights for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. We have worked with many leading companies in the life science industry for nearly a decade. Our website provides detailed information on our services and expertise, as well as many White Papers on our services and processes.

Click here for a list of free relevant White Papers.

Feel free to also call me at 866-766-9489.

Posted by Dave Fishman  |  Comments Off on 10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Hiring a Consulting Firm for the Life Sciences Industry  |  in Management Consulting

Successfully Managing Strategic Partnerships for Product Development

I’m a strong proponent of partnerships with life science companies and research institutions. I’m motivated by the inherent synergies of these partnerships, and the opportunities they represent to expedite drug development cycles and lengthen the amount of patent exclusivity once on the market.

The main objective of these partnerships is to spur innovation and ultimately develop a new and valuable treatment for a particular disease-state or condition. While these partnerships offer significant opportunity, it is always a challenge to manage projects conducted through collaboration.

Here are my thoughts on best practices for decreasing the day-to-day challenges encountered when collaborating with strategic partners.

  • Relentlessly pursue alignment on goals and priorities – Make sure both entities are aligned and moving in the same direction. It is both frustrating and time-consuming when the partners are moving in different directions.
  • Document everything – In any group effort it’s imperative that there is clarity around what decisions were made, who agreed to them, and who will implement them. At the end of each meeting verbally summarize the decisions made in that meeting and who will implement them. After the meeting, document these decisions and actions either through summary minutes or partnership reports. Consider instituting a process for approving these documents at the next meeting if necessary.
  • Develop contingencies in advance – Engage the team to think about likely scenarios and develop contingencies in advance. It is imperative to be prepared to take quick action when problems arise. Developing contingencies in advance allows the team to do this in calmer circumstances, and not in the heat of a stressful situation. Also, think about succession planning for the team. Leaders and team members may leave the project for other opportunities or promotions. Losing key team members can be significant challenge. Develop a succession plan and on-boarding process for new team members.
  • Open communication amongst team members – Many times team members don’t want to bring up potentially negative topics with the team. It is better to bring concerns out in the open, as long as it is done constructively and appropriately. Think in advance about the process for bringing forward sensitive topics and resolving conflicts.

As the industry continues to face pressures to identify new revenue opportunities and decrease the amount of time and money spent on development activities these partnerships will be optimized for the future.

I enjoy talking with top pharmaceutical executives about their business. Please call me if you would like to discuss how to improve the way you manage your strategic partnerships for product development. I can be reached at 1-866-766-9489.

I’ve shared my thoughts and recommendations. Now I want to hear from you. Have you considered partnership with research institutions? If so, have you pursued these partnerships? Share what went well and what didn’t with us. If you haven’t pursued these partnerships, why not? What are the hurdles and challenges that are keeping you from trying this? Join the conversation and share your questions, challenges, and best practices.

If you’re interested in more information on unique partnerships for product development, we recently published a White Paper titled “Identifying Strategic Partners for Product Development”. Please click here to download it.d it.

Posted by Dave Fishman  |  Comments Off on Successfully Managing Strategic Partnerships for Product Development  |  in Management Consulting

Strategic Partnerships for Product Development: Identify Ideal Potential Partners

In previous blog posts I made a strong point to look at research institutions as potential partners for product development and encouraged life science companies to “cast a wide net” when evaluating potential partners. Just as important to “casting a wide net” is refining the information once institutions are identified to develop a list of potential partners that merit discussions.

Developing an “ideal partner profile” is critically important to targeting potential partners that will maximize success. Areas to consider when developing such a profile include:

  • Articulating your business goals and objectives
  • Identifying your research priorities
  • Understanding the specific research capabilities you need and are looking for in a partner
  • Evaluating the research institution’s commitment to the target disease-state
  • Identifying relationships with life science companies and therapeutic treatments or modalities that are a conflict of interest

Once this profile has been developed and a short-list of institutions has been determined, the following are critical to ensuring that the first meeting will be both effective and efficient for both parties.

  • Research the process for technology transfers and collaboration. Many institutions will include detailed information on their website. Look at this to understand how the institution wants to interact with potential partners.
  • Identify the ideal entity to initiate contact with. Depending on the institution it might be an investigator or the technology transfer office. Contacting the right entity from the out-set will dramatically expedite the discussions and provide the most accurate information. Don’t waste your time going to the wrong person or department.
  • Once you know the ideal entity, research the individual you will be contacting. Look at their bio on the institution’s website. Also, research them on LinkedIn so you can understand their professional background and experiences. It is important to know if you will be dealing with an individual that has life sciences experiences, or possibly experiences in the disease-state you are interested in. Alternatively, it’s invaluable to know if the point person you’ll be working with has very little life science experience. Understanding the individual’s background will help you prepare the information you should provide and frame your questions.

I often talk with top pharmaceutical executives about these issues. Please call me if you would like to discuss how to improve the way you identify your strategic partners for product development. I can be reached at 1-866-766-9489.

What are your thoughts on these points? Do you have any questions about them? Share with us what you do to evaluate potential product development partners. More importantly, are the outcomes what you want and expect?

If you’re interested in more information on unique partnerships for product development, we’ve recently published a White Paper titled “Identifying Strategic Partners for Product Development”. Please click here to download it.

Posted by Dave Fishman  |  Comments Off on Strategic Partnerships for Product Development: Identify Ideal Potential Partners  |  in Management Consulting