My first significant role in a disease area group was as Chemistry Lead in a disease area in a large pharmaceutical company. I had a direct partner from the Biology group and together we were responsible – and accountable – for the delivery from the multidisciplinary team. This all took place more years ago than I care to remember, but it was still a great time and is still a great memory for me.
Like most things that were both great fun and a great experience, I learned a great deal at that time…learning that I still remember and still use today. My biology counterpart, in particular, was a source of great ideas and also great inspiration.
Our responsibility at that time was development candidates – CANs for short. We had to nominate CANs as potential new therapies for the treatment of diseases prevalent in our Therapeutic Area. We chose the Diseases based on market data; the mechanism based on biology data; and the compounds based on chemistry combined with drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics. It was team work, good work and hard work.
Our output – the CAN – was in effect an internal notification that we had a project ready to start regulatory, pre-clinical development. On average our CANs were some eight to fourteen months away from a first dose in humans. My Biology partner coined the concept that CANs were our ‘currency’. CANs were how we were assessed…they were an indication of our value. The number, quality, timing, survival of our CANs and those from all other equivalent groups was the basis of most conversations. CANs were the currency of the organisation.
Over time the currency changed – arguably the currency increased in value. Currency moved from CANs, to IND (regulatory submission for FIH – First in Human), to FIHs themselves, to Proof of Concept (POCs) in patients. But the first – my first organisational currency – was CANs. I have since realised of course that all companies have a ‘currency’ – the deliverable, the product, the output that is both highly valued in an organisation, and that is the basis of so many conversations within an organisation.
In some companies the ’currency’ is indeed money – revenue or profit. In others it is sales. Or New Drug Approvals (NDAs). In others it is people, or culture, or recruitment. Every company has its own unique currency.
“You are only as good as your last CAN”…was a very common expression in that company at that time. A philosophy consistent with the currency of CANs…and their high value. But my Biology counterpart had his own – more accurate and insightful – version. “You are only as good as your next CAN”…
And he was right. The successful delivery was always met with great celebration, praise and kudos. But it only ever seemed like moments before the inevitable questions would come forward. “How far away is your next CAN?” “How much better will your next CAN be?”
We realised we were only ever as good as our next project. And we still are. We all are. Praise and recognition from our last successful achievement – whatever its currency – is always genuine and always important. But the success of any organisation is only ever going to be based on what we do next…next day, next month, next year…
We are always delighted, but never satisfied. We always celebrate but never relax. We always praise, but always encourage. We always learn and always apply.
At times it can feel like an addiction. That search for more or better. We can be driven by it and strive for it. Individually, collectively, organisationally.
But we are everything because of it. It is our nature…