I sat down with Greg Ambra (GA), VP of Clinical Operations at DZS Clinical Services, and Joe Guariglia (JG), Partner and Founder of Prism Partners International, to discuss trends and expectations for the Biopharma Industry.  DZS Clinical Services is a full-service Contract Research Organization and Clinical Software provider focused on small to mid-size biopharma.  DZS is currently celebrating its 30th year in business.   Prism Partners is a unique human capital advisory firm, which employs proprietary tools, and extensive experience, to groom firms for significant growth.  I asked both of them to think back over 2013, and discuss their experience and expectations for the upcoming year.  Highlights of this engaging conversation are described, below:

 

What do you see as significant trends for the Biopharma industry in 2014?

GA           I think we’ll see large Biopharm companies continue to find themselves under increased pressure to produce growth.  With more drugs coming off patent and a shrinking pipeline for many companies, the search for new targets through acquisition and/or partnerships will continue to increase.

As we’re already seeing, these trends will push smaller biotechs and academic research centers to increase productivity and execution, which should result in high growth and an increase in outsourcing.  Small, focused CROs like ours are ideally engineered to cater to that segment.

JG             Much of the growth that we are seeing is a result of more readily available capital.  Companies have a lot of cash on their balance sheets and they are starting to put this cash to work with strategic investments.  Banks are also lending again.  This cash infusion is giving companies the fuel that they need to ignite their growth aspirations.

Further to that, allocations from investors, to private equity-type investments are increasing again, with a recent return of capital to investors from this asset class.  Inevitably, the Pharma sector will benefit from this increasing private equity capital.

These new financial realities all lead to increases in funding for Pharma opportunities.

 

Looking at these trends and expectations, how do you see these key challenges impacting early stage Pharma companies?

JG             One shortsighted mistake common to a start-up company is the tendency to simply ‘plug-and-play’ resources – thinking all great talent can do any job.  Long-term success requires that an appropriate investment is made in people, to ensure that the right people are in the right role, at the right time.  As a company grows, different strategic and technical skills are needed to meet the demands of the organizations and those invested in that growth.

GA           I agree; the key test for emerging biopharm companies will be developing the critical skills required to manage tasks that are essential to drug development.  Absent such internal development, these start-ups will need to identify highly competent and flexible external partners to manage the functional areas where they lack expertise or capacity.  DZS has extensive experience with such partnering, putting us in a great place to extend the capabilities of Pharma companies of any size.

 

As experts in your field, can you please provide some examples of how your organizations are built to address some of these issues?

GA           With DZS, it is primarily the flexibility with which we manage our partner projects, coupled to a competitive cost structure.  Our philosophy is to develop long-term, efficient, yet cost-effective partnerships with our clients.

Further to that, unlike many of the larger, traditionally designed, full-service organizations, DZS’ organizational structure is relatively flat.  This efficiency allows us to maintain a very high level of expertise on our projects, without needing to carry a heavy management team.

Even greater efficiencies can be obtained by employing the right technologies.  DZS’ software division purpose-built our own clinical trial support software (ClinPlus).  ClinPlus gives us the tools that are needed to remain up front technologically, without being saddled by expensive licensing fees for external software solutions.

JG             At Prism Partners International, our value proposition is found in the careful, yet comprehensive, alignment of an organization’s human capital to their strategy and culture, ensuring that the entire organization is working towards the same strategic goals.  As we work to confirm that everyone is united in their aspirations, we assess the roles, competencies and personnel required to move the organization from a start-up to a pure play growth-oriented organization.  Our assessment gives executive management a key snapshot of what resources they have, and what resources they need, to meet their strategic objectives.  The key to this is a proactive approach to the development of human capital.

 

Thank you gentlemen, for your thoughtful and insightful comments.  This is exactly the sort of advice than any Pharma company interested in expanding their scale needs to know.  The key message that I am hearing, is that you need to proactively manage your growth, ensuring you have the right people in the right roles and the right partners best-suited to your strategic goals.

To the extent that you would like to further discuss the value of proposition of DZS and/or Prism Partners Internation, Please contact:

Greg Ambra, gambra@dzs.com, 732.764.6969

Joe Guariglia, jguariglia@prismpartnersintl.com, 917.318.3709