By Christopher Malineaux
Leaders in the life sciences industry often speak of the “rapidly changing” nature of our industry and how “with change comes opportunity.” These expressions — almost trite at this point — have been used to justify cost-saving measures, reorganizations, and, in increasing numbers, layoffs. But today we face a “new reality” (another overused expression) in which change and opportunity confront thousands of our industry colleagues, many of whom are highly talented scientists.
We are witnessing an evolution of the life sciences industry from the large pharma model of vast numbers of employees in every discipline, corporate superstructures, and capital-intensive facilities, to a variety of smaller, more nimble enterprises. Due in large part to the contraction within the pharmaceutical industry, displaced scientists with some entrepreneurial energy have been given the opportunity to take that idea that they have been thinking about and spin it out into a company. This creates the opportunity to run a start-up, pursue a scientific idea, develop a treatment, and, potentially, help improve a patient’s life.
We should be careful not to spend energy looking back to try to save the old model, as it has fundamentally changed. Nonstrategic support functions, such as human resources and IT, are now being outsourced, and this trend will continue. As leaders in the industry, we must support the emergence of new companies by assisting our displaced colleagues in identifying scientific programs, funding, and physical resources to advance the development of new technologies.
Many of us are aware of promising therapeutic programs, technologies, and assets that are currently sitting idle in our large pharmaceutical companies and universities, often representing years of discovery work and, in some cases, efforts in clinical development. These are small- and large-molecule compounds, research platforms, and potential devices that haven’t made the “cut” in annual planning and budget discussions due to the tremendous costs associated with developing a drug, a device, or a diagnostic and getting it to market. So, they sit on the proverbial shelf in a company or research institution. If only one was successful — and the odds are long — it could mean a treatment for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. But, it requires connecting scientific know-how with these assets, with funding, and with business management expertise.
The Importance Of Being An Industry Advocate
As leaders and advocates of the life sciences industry, we have a responsibility to look ahead, to create ways to support existing enterprises, and to spawn the next generation of companies. It is our role to help facilitate strategic connections within the industry — to link entrepreneurs with funding, to connect scientists with projects sitting on shelves, and to facilitate collaborations between large and small companies. We must also be advocates for policies that will grow and sustain the innovation infrastructure — including building the workforce of the future, providing support for emerging companies, and creating a positive business climate.
The United States is the global leader in the life sciences. However, we will only maintain our lead position by helping our companies understand the new reality and by assisting displaced workers when they take the leap to start a new venture.
The trend is clear: The model for our industry has changed and we must all fulfill the increasingly important role of providing advocacy support and strategic connections to companies to help them along their path to success. The rewards will be great for those companies that are successful, not only financially, but also by knowing that they are developing the cures and treatments for future generations.
As president of Pennsylvania Bio, Christopher Molineaux serves as the chief advocate and spokesman for Pennsylvania’s life sciences industry. Molineaux oversees the strategic direction for the association, assuring that Pennsylvania Bio is the catalyst that makes Pennsylvania the top location for life sciences companies.