Q: What was your most interesting experience as a CEO, and why?
I was in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1997 talking to front-line executives as the new CEO of Pharmacia and Upjohn. I was surprised to learn that a new product launch opportunity, Detrol, had been compromised to Forest Labs by a relatively junior person in the previously “decentralized” Pharmacia. This resulted in arbitration hearings. Our strategy required unfettered rights to Detrol. I had known Forest CEO, Howard Solomon, for a long time. We had developed mutual respect and trust. I played my trust card with Howard, enabling us to strike a $25 million deal for the unfettered rights to Detrol prior to the arbitration decision. What I learned, first, was to not delegate strategic asset decisions to managers who are beyond your line of sight. Second, always be respectful and kind to people. You never know when someone may be across the table from you.
Fred Hassan is the chairman of Bausch + Lomb and senior advisor with the private equity firm Warburg Pincus. In addition, he serves on the boards of Avon and Time-Warner.
Q: How can a small start-up biotech get help?
Nearly all states have one or more industry-driven organizations focused on supporting life sciences companies. These groups can be excellent resources for advice, mentorship, and introductions, as well as cost-saving purchasing groups, educational resources, and information about government programs and regulations. BIO’s page for the Council of State Bioscience Associations provides a listing of most state biotech associations. Another effective avenue for connecting with state assistance is speaking with your elected officials. Few things excite legislators as much as helping companies grow and create well-paying jobs in their districts. Legislators have direct connections with their capitals, state agencies, and economic development programs, and often know where the best assistance is hiding. Government resources may seem unintelligible but can be worth the effort.
Heather Erickson is president & CEO of the Life Sciences Foundation, the independent steward of biotech heritage. Previously, she was founding president of MedTech Association, serving New York’s bioscience community.
Q: What are the challenges and opportunities around Big Data?
Some include managing data at massive scale, integrating very diverse data sets, accessing distributed data across the globe, machine learning and mining techniques to identify patterns, and decision support environments which translate data into effective and timely decisions. These challenges have found their way into the umbrella term “Big Data” and are real challenges that appear in multiple phases of the pipeline — the complexity of phenotypic screening, the volume of next-gen sequencing data, the diverse data brought together in composite biomarkers, or classes of real-world evidence for on-market products. Big Data is not a silver bullet. Avoid the temptation to assemble Big Data platforms in the hope of self-emergent insight. In my experience, Big Data yields the most value when the system’s design and development are driven by well-constructed scientific hypotheses.
John Reynders is the CIO for Moderna Therapeutics. He has held senior R&D and technology leadership positions at AZ, J&J, Lilly, Celera Genomics, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.