The C-Suite is Evolving in Modern Biotech: What This Means for Executive Search
The C-Suite is evolving in modern biotech. Executive biotech leaders must move out of fixed hierarchical roles, be more agile, and consider the interests of a broader set of stakeholders to achieve growth amidst the challenges of establishing a new business (De Yonge, 2019).
Executives must possess experience in areas that were previously not expected of them. Additional competencies in biotech often include data science, digitization of systems, inclusive and collaborative approaches for maximal innovation, and business/negotiation skills regardless of specialty.
For biotech companies in the early days, the benchmark for success in a new company was getting a biological discovery made in the lab through to market approval (Winter, n.d.).
Among the choices that biotech executive leaders at life sciences companies often faced was whether to enter into long-term joint partnerships with big pharmas, or pursue becoming a fully integrated pharmaceutical company (Winter, n.d.).
Whereas drug discovery was the focus a few decades ago, today an emerging biotech is often trying to improve on existing therapeutic candidates or drug delivery mechanisms, and be the best at it. This comes down to biotech executive leaders firstly discerning which projects are worth pursuing, as many investors have become less inclined to throw money at companies as a whole, and more likely to invest in particularly promising projects. Leaders must also possess competence at getting investors on board, make strategic partnerships, and knowing how to cost-effectively manage a project – from investor interest, to considering demand for cost effectiveness in healthcare and drug delivery to patients.
These factors demonstrate how the C-suite is evolving in modern biotech to demand greater agility and dynamism amongst executive leaders. Duties and proficiencies of C-level executives often overlap, and collaboration is essential. Especially in smaller companies with limited resources, top quality management is imperative for success.
One example that takes into account all of these dynamics is the role of chief science officer (CSO). Most will have past experience with academic research, scientific publications, and getting into the core science involved in designated projects. However a primary concern of a young biotech company is translating research results into revenue (Foller, 2002). Therefore a CSO will need to also have excellent interpersonal skills, business acumen, strategic operational experience, and foresight to what challenges lie ahead on the road to drug development (Foller, 2002).
Comparatively, one can consider the role of the chief business officer/chief innovation officer (CBO/CIO). This role is primarily responsible for deal-making and business strategy. Yet in a small biotech company the CBO/CIO needs to understand how deal-making will best fulfill the company’s scientific or technological mission; and so needs thorough understanding of the science and data, which will require collaboration with the rest of the leadership team as well as allow for shrewdness when negotiating best partnerships.
Lastly, a chief medical officer (CMO) will of course need to understand the science and mechanism of action driving the therapeutic. But the role also requires that he, she, or they understand the data in clinical trials and be able to sell it in a compelling way to investors. Industry networking, and the ability to pitch to stakeholders are crucial.
For life executive search consultants, it is imperative to have a deep understanding of the way the C-suite is evolving in modern biotech. This allows for best ability to anticipate what the needs are for a company, and be able to sort through broad talents pools with efficiency. It is worth the best executive search consultants’ time to learn attributes that distinguish average candidates from top talent, which will often involve the candidate’s cultural fit and interpersonal skills, success at turning research into viable product, and experience in all stages of drug discovery and development.
If you’re interested in learning more about G&E Partners’ Talent Management approach to executive search, please reach out to one of our expert life sciences consultants.
De Yonge, J. (24 September 2019). Has your C-suite changed to reflect the changing times? EYQ. https://www.ey.com/en_us/growth/has-your-c-suite-changed-to-reflect-the-changing-times
Foller, A. (2002). Leadership management needs evolving in biotech companies. Nature Biotechnology, 20, BE64-BE66. https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0602supp-BE64
Winter, P. (n.d.). Five strategies for success: Brave new biotech world. Biotechnology Innovation Organization. https://archive.bio.org/articles/five-strategies-success-brave-new-biotech-world