How to Avoid Becoming a Biotech Zombie Part 1 - Applying Proven Industry Business Principles - BioPharm International


How to Avoid Becoming a Biotech Zombie Part 1
Applying Proven Industry Business Principles

BioPharm International
Volume 21, Issue 1


To stay on course you must also ensure that the cumulative impact of daily decisions at all levels in your company supports the company's overall strategic plan. Who gets hired, who gets fired, how resources are allocated, and how success is defined are just some of the decisions that should be tightly aligned with the overall strategy. However, it is not uncommon to observe a disconnect between day-to-day decisions and the over-arching strategic plan. Such disconnects can add up, resulting in a company that looks nothing like the original vision.

This is not to say that every decision should be preceded by strategic analysis. There are many critical decisions that do require such analysis, however, including risk assessment. Failure to undertake the relevant analysis can significantly alter the direction of a company.

Understanding and adhering to the overall strategic vision is especially challenging for a biotech because all of the relevant expertise does not reside in any one part of the organization. Different disciplines play crucial and different roles in the commercialization process and the long-term success of the firm. How likely is it that decisions arising from senior management in product development will align with decisions coming from business development? Many of these units work in isolation, yet all are crucial to the success of the firm. Just as you must align the business plan with the drug development plan, you must effectively integrate the various and often conflicting perspectives of differing disciplines in order to align day-to-day choices with the company's strategic vision.

You should, therefore, develop a decision-making process that can accommodate the need to align the decisions and perspectives of the various disciplines with the company's strategic direction. Incorporating decision analysis and risk assessment provides a mechanism that can elicit input from all pertinent units, enabling managers from different departments and levels in the company to achieve consensus in the face of alternatives, and to individually and collectively move the company efficiently toward its goals. Most importantly, the decision-making process must take a top-down, leadership-driven approach where coherent direction is constantly provided to ensure that departmental objectives do not conflict with the overall strategic vision.

As these observations suggest, the way to avoid becoming a biotech zombie is—somewhat paradoxically—not to engage in a fevered, fast-paced race to the finish line or to constantly strike out in new directions. Instead, you should firmly maintain a steady strategic course, guided by a tightly integrated business and development plan and not be ruled by the vicissitudes of finance, but by the principles of sound biotech business practice.

Carmen Medina, M.P.H., was a principal at Tunnell Consulting at the time this article was written and Joseph J. Villafranca, PhD, is the senior vice president of operations at Tunnell Consulting, King of Prussia, PA, 610.337.0820,


1. Pollack A. Feb. 11, 2007.

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