When biotech becomes “big pharma”

Big_Pharma_(Jacky_Law_book)POST SUMMARY: The easiest way to make a small biotech company less competitive is to transform the organization yo big pharma with recycled pharma people and a culture of meetings to spread decision making to employees whose self interests outweigh patients’ needs.

This weekend I had a couple of beers with some people from a biotech company located in Cambridge and much to my surprise most were complaining that their beloved company had gone from a great biotech firm to a model of big pharma after bringing in a lot of recycled people from big pharma companies.  While there are a lot of very good people working within the industry, there are also way too many who bring a culture of meetings and analysis paralysis to nimble biotech firms.


The recruiters who work within the healthcare industry are holding it back.  Too often they assume that people who currently work in big pharma are the answer to open positions but this is a pure canard.  The lack of talent within the industry is one of the reasons that current DTC marketing, for the most part, stinks.  As a consultant, I have worked with people who have very little knowledge about digital marketing or even a basic understanding of how patients are making health care decisions.  It has been, to say the least, frustrating to have to continually educate clients on basic digital marketing strategies like the change in Google’s organic search.  But they manage to stay within the industry and change titles from DTC managers to “patient insights manager” or “patient experience Director”.


If it seems that I have been on a rant about the lack of talent, it’s because I love this industry too much to see it dragged down by incompetence and political standing within the company.  Out on the West coast Amgen, once a great innovative biotech company, is laying off people while hiring former BMS and J&J people.  The CEO, who has a financial background, is taking in millions of dollars while the company culture has gone down the toilet.  My prediction is that Amgen will cease to exist in the near future after a merger or acquisition.

I can understand why so many talented people are leaving the industry; what I can’t understand is why pharma allows this to happen.



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