Magazine Article | February 12, 2012

Ask The Board February 2012

Source: Life Science Leader

Q: How do you create and sustain an innovative environment?
Innovation is driven by vision, opportunity, opportuneness, passion, risk, and reward. To create an innovative environment one must encourage visioning — you must see what others don’t — a view of the future and of the underlying market needs. And, one must foster an environment where taking a chance is encouraged as part of the innovation cycle. You must require opportuneness — the willingness to seize on opportunities that might be real. And, you need to create an environment where, while risk is always there, failure is not penalized and rewards are real, often thru equity. Incentives work, and to have successful innovation, economic participation in the rewards are critical. Finally, innovation is driven by passion — passion to create things not previously created, passion to take a chance, passion to work 24/7 to make something happen, passion to excel, and passion for life.

G. Steven Burrill founded Burrill & Company as an extension of his 40-year involvement in the growth and prosperity of the biotechnology industry. He has been an active advisor and catalyst in some of the industry’s most notable companies and transactions.

Q: Is it advantageous first to develop a Six Sigma Green Belt/Black Belt team to diagnose and tackle areas of opportunity, or is it best to focus holistically on continuous improvement and transform the culture?
I have a gut preference for the latter, as I believe it is difficult for even Six Sigma Green/Black Belts to be unbiased, tending to focus on their areas of familiarity or interests of the team leader over other areas where problems should be addressed. Plus, if they are not a permanent function, once they achieve whatever goals are set, problems are allowed to rise to a level that demands their reinstatement. In contrast, a culture where participants have a common language for continuous improvement, have basic problem-solving skills, and are empowered to apply them, can yield significant, ongoing results.

Jerold Martin is senior VP, global scientific affairs for Pall Life Sciences and chairman of the Bio-Process Systems Alliance (BPSA) single-use biomanufacturing trade association. He has more than 32 years experience in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.

Q: How do you measure innovation in your organization?
We look for new ways to do routine tasks that improve a regulated process, so the definition of innovation is in the eye of the beholder. Since drug development is such a tightly regulated industry, there are times when innovation is totally inappropriate. However, I encourage my scientists and developers to think strategically about what we want to accomplish and then plot a course that gets us there with the least time and cost and the most assurance we will achieve our goal. Inevitably, the discussions around time, cost, and goal result in new and novel actions that we might not have thought about had we just followed the paths others forged in our business. But, innovation MUST be underpinned by excellent conceptualization and strong science to make an effective case for doing something different. Otherwise, the innovation will be rejected by the various regulatory groups that provide oversight of our development activities, and rightly so.  

Carol Nacy, CEO of Sequella, Inc., a private company that develops new antiinfective drugs. She was formerly CSO at Anergen and EVP/CSO at EntreMed. Prior to her business experience, Dr. Nacy directed research in tropical infectious diseases at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, D.C.