Magazine Article | June 12, 2012

Ask The Board July 2012

Source: Life Science Leader

Q: What are the most important things to consider when developing/redesigning a company’s leadership/mentoring program?

Leadership and mentoring are two different but related things. A good mentoring program requires training for its participants so there is a shared understanding of who mentors are and who their protégés might be. Most of the literature on mentoring cautions against using persons in the direct reporting line as mentors as there is often conflict between the role of mentoring and supervising. With the anticipated onslaught of about-to-retire baby boomers, some progressive companies are beginning to develop mentoring programs for their retiring talent. Rather than letting them disappear, they are asking them to stay on as part-time consultants and often using their experience to mentor the next wave of replacements. The connection to leadership can be made in the selection of the best about-to-retire persons to serve as mentors.

Dr. David Frew is a visiting professor at Mercyhurst College in the Graduate Organizational Leadership Program. He is also professor emeritus at Gannon University. He has served as a consultant to dozens of regional, national, and international clients.

Q: How will the new reauthorization act impact VC funding in life sciences?

As part of the reauthorization act (H.R.1540), small businesses that are majority-owned by VC firms are now allowed to compete for small business innovation research (SBIR) funds. Participation in the program assumes that VCs will be on board with the full disclosure of ownership information, the effort to meet the eligibility criteria, and the alignment of the VC’s goals with those of the SBIR agency. The initial effects may be positive: VCs can now invest in SBIR-backed companies in initial rounds without affecting the company’s momentum in the program. Additionally, VCs will certainly push their portfolio companies to obtain nondilutive SBIR dollars, which would generate data that could decrease risk and increase the probability of success. But this may trigger an overall decrease in VC funding in subsequent rounds, as the VCs may expect the government to take more of the risk.

Dr. Laura Hales has more than a decade of experience in biologics discovery research and is currently a founder of Extend Biosciences and The Isis Group.

Q: Why aren’t Big Pharma companies striving to rediscover manufacturing as a competitive advantage instead of just outsourcing?

Pharma manufacturing efficiency might not yet have reached optimum levels, but the considerable efforts of Big Pharma in this area should not be underplayed. For example, the partnership between MIT and Novartis to develop continuous manufacturing strategies points to ambitious long-term aspirations, while in the United Kingdom, the recent announcement of substantial investment in the GSK manufacturing site at Ulverston underlines ongoing commitment to in-house production.

In the area of powder processing, QbD (quality by design) and PAT (process analytical technology) have helped focus attention on manufacturing, stimulating interest in instruments and technologies that accelerate and optimize successful process development. It seems Big Pharma plans to play a vital role in transforming production, both with in-house action and through collaboration with trusted partners. 

Tim Freeman is the managing director of powder characterization company Freeman Technology.  He has 10 years’ experience in understanding and characterizing powder behavior and works closely with the pharma and powder processing industries.