Magazine Article | June 12, 2011

Ask The Board June 2011

Source: Life Science Leader

Q: Where do you see the combination device (i.e. collaboration between medical device/biotech/pharma companies) market going and why?
I see two major areas of potential collaboration with companies like ours and device companies. One is in the arena of inserted catheters and/or foreign bodies (e.g. orthopedic or heart valve replacements). The hope would be to develop a device that contained an anti-infective chemical that would prevent bacterial attachments, biofilm production, and subsequent infection. Attempts of such have been made, though none to my knowledge has been of great commercial success. The second area of potential collaboration would be with a diagnostic company working on rapid tests for life-threatening bacterial infection. Since such infections require rapid, appropriate antibacterial therapy, the present state of medical care is either to provide very broad spectrum coverage or to use multiple agents together. A rapid test would enable the use of a single narrower spectrum agent rather than the “empirical treatment,” thus, decreasing the risk of subsequent emergence of antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Barry Eisenstein is senior VP of scientific affairs at Cubist Pharmaceuticals and editor of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

Q: When a high-visibility project is not going according to plan, how do you get leaders to talk about it?
The secret is amazingly simple: Be candid. Get the stakeholders together, and lead an honest discussion of the circumstances. Sometimes it helps to have each stakeholder take a quiet moment before the discussion begins to write a brief description of the problem along with an assessment of exactly what they could do to make a contribution to the issue. Then have each person sequentially read their comments out loud for the group. It is important for the facilitator of this kind of meeting to call this “tactical” session as early as possible, make sure that all stakeholders are in attendance, and then keep the discussion moving. It is also important in critical situations to avoid blaming and to seek constructive solutions. Many times the simple act of articulating the problem can quickly lead to a solution. In real-life situations, long delays, avoidance, and interpersonal triangulation are the poison trilogy for problem solving.

Dr. David Frew is a visiting professor at Mercyhurst College in the Graduate Organizational Leadership (MSOL) Program. He has served as a consultant to GE Crotonville, NASA, and dozens of other regional, national, and international clients.

Q: Has anyone had any misgivings regarding outsourcing hurting the national interest, even though it helps the corporate bottom line?
Globalization already exists in the United States, so movement of the pharma industry in this direction may have been inevitable. However, in the current economic conditions, it is difficult to watch companies shut down certain types of operations and outsource those activities to countries such as China, India, and Singapore. Companies are not only outsourcing, but setting up their own facilities in these countries. Indeed, one of the biggest criticisms is that drugs are too expensive. And, the main reason pharma is outsourcing is to cut costs. The questions that remain are: Will this cost savings be reinvested in the United States? Will it result in lower cost drugs? Will pharma expand into other niche areas outside the capacity of overseas CROs, resulting in more (but different) high-paying jobs? Will pharma invest the savings in R&D at small biotech and academic labs here in the United States? Globalization is definitely challenging the ideal of capitalism that our country was built on.

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

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