Ever since I moved into my role in a different sector of our pharmaceutical industry I am asked about the similarities and differences. Considering how long I have now been in the CRO sector, it is probably not surprising that these questions aren’t as common as they were when I first switched from Big Pharma…but they do still come…from everywhere and anywhere.
And as ever with open questions such as this, my answers tend to vary as my interests and exposure changes. I always start with the similarities. We all have the same desire and intent – we want to advance new therapies to patients. We all have a passion and commitment to the science and to the work that we do. Team work is paramount. Quality. Innovation…the list goes on.
Today my answer to the differences would be commercial. That is partly because I have just come home from our annual global commercial meeting – an opportunity to analyse data and outline plans. To discuss last year’s experiences and highlight new opportunities for this year. We talked partners and partnership, teams and team work, processes and deliverables, science and operations. I met people, I spoke, I listened, I learned, I laughed, and I worked hard to say hydrated and healthy. I came home engaged and inspired (and tired).
The commercial model in a CRO is core to what we do. We sell the work that we do. We do the work that we sell. We get paid to do the work. The work that we do pays our salaries and operating costs. The cycle is short. It is often only weeks or months between when we sell work, win work, start work and finish work. Pharma starts projects knowing that the cycle is long – any successful pharma project is only ever measured in years.
A mantra from last week – we are all in sales! And it is true. In a CRO every one of us is involved to some degree in helping to sell and win (earn the right to) project work. It is challenging and engaging. Exciting and frustrating. Simple and complicated. Rewarding and infuriating. But it is core to what we do and is – in my experience – a dramatic difference between what I do now and what I used to do. I appreciate that roles, responsibilities and opportunities in Pharmaceutical companies have changed significantly since I moved, but commercial is still my ‘difference answer’.
Allegedly there was a time in our industry when there was so much demand for work (relative to supply) that CRO commercial teams would spend most of their time answering increasingly anxious calls from pharma companies desperate for slots to start work. That may or may not be true. But it is not how the model works these days.
Supply and demand is more balanced. Demand has increased…but more so in terms of what is expected – an increased level of partnership, teamwork, science, quality, insight. Supply has also increased – but again more in terms of the investment in people, science and technology necessary to satisfy demand.
To win opportunity to work on a partner’s project is a privilege – irrespective of whether that partner is the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, or the smallest Biotech in Boston.
We have to earn that privilege. And we do. All of us. Every day. And it starts with our sales force. A team of individuals who personify that desire to help our partners advance new therapies to patients. Who exude passion and commitment to our partners and to the work that we do. A team who inspire me…
…a team who I admire incredibly and appreciate immensely.