Growing Your Biopharmaceutical Product Pipeline

BioPharm talks with Tarja Mottram, CEO of Action for Results, about key business considerations when starting out.
Apr 01, 2012
Volume 25, Issue 4

Tarja Mottram
BioPharm International speaks with Tarja Mottram, CEO of Action for Results, regarding some of the deeper business considerations for companies aiming to grow a biopharmaceutical product pipeline. Action for Results is a life sciences-focused consulting company. The company helps to build process capabilities and the practices needed for innovation.

BioPharm: What's your take on the current industry dynamics?

Mottram: R&D productivity, especially in pharma, is way below acceptable. Despite increasing investment, the value generation curves don't seem to be getting much better. We could blame increased complexity—clinical, regulatory, global—or point to advancing technologies, which keep raising the bar. Or, perhaps we need to pause, step back, and look at different ways of working with one another and focus on the industry in a different way.

One thing I'm seeing is a global shift in life sciences from a traditional product development and manufacturing efficiency approach to focusing on evidence-based healthcare outcomes. As a result, the industry is reorganizing itself in the way that it partners with others, and the way that it works with customers and end users. In this time of learning comes opportunity. Some of the old models aren't going to work anymore. New organizations with great collaborative capabilities can really make a difference in this regard.


BioPharm: A lot of industry innovation comes from smaller startups and academic-based companies, and they are looking for ways to move from discovery, through development, and into commercialization. Business models and plans are key to their success. What has been your experience in working with early-stage companies?

Mottram: It's an interesting topic. There are traditional maturity models that many consulting companies are offering to go from maturity level 1 to 2 to 3 and so forth, but I find it difficult to follow a maturity model and say, 'Okay, if you do these three steps, you're going to be golden.' There is wisdom in the maturity models, but it's important to customize the journey.

Take this example, which must be considered from two different dimensions. One dimension is the experience level or the maturity of the company in product delivery. Has the company actually put a product out to the marketplace, or has it already put two or three or four products out to the marketplace? At a personnel level, if the company is about to launch its first product, is there anyone with experience in product delivery leading the group?

The other dimension is the pipeline, that is, the company's volume or capacity to deliver. At the beginning, when there's no product out in the market, the company tends to operate in a free-style entrepreneurial environment. Everybody pulls together to get the funding and other things the company needs, when it needs them.

As the organization becomes successful, the commercial pressure settles in. Often, in that excitement, the smaller companies or the medium-sized companies tend to lose sight of the fact that they have to start building capability—what was easy to do with one or two products has to be repeatable and sustainable over a portfolio of products.

The shift needs to be systemically thought through and put in place. Some companies set a series of milestones and maybe yell a little harder to make sure those milestones are met. The company keeps meeting their milestone miracles, but at some point, the organization reaches its limit, especially if it moves from one site to multiple sites. When complexity increases, the realization sets in that the basic capabilities—the real foundation for growth—may be missing.

Small companies can learn a lot from others who've already been there. This knowledge exchange can create a better balance from the start as the company maps out what it needs to do to get ready for growth.

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