Life Science Leader Blogs

  1. Is Attending BIO CEO A Waste Of Your Time?

    Sometimes it is worthwhile to stop and consider the value of your time, not from a financial perspective, but rather how much you’ve used and how much you have left. If you did, you might be much more discriminating in where you would choose to spend it. Consider this: the average U.S. male’s life expectancy is 76. This means that in less than 14,600 hours my time fuel tank will be exactly one-third full, or depending on your disposition, two-thirds empty. Knowing that time is our most precious, limited, and nonrenewable resource, when it comes to picking which biopharmaceutical industry conferences to attend, I have always tried to be highly selective. To those who perceive the annual BIO CEO Investor Conference as a poor man’s J.P. Morgan, they most likely have not been there — at least not lately.

  2. What Does It Take To Be The World’s Top Performing CEO?

    In November 2015, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) announced the top 100 CEOs in the world. Though the list included household names like Starbucks (12), Nike (21), and Amazon (87), what is even more interesting than the fact that Novo Nordisk’s Lars Rebien Sørensen was ranked number one, was the healthcare industry as a whole had 13 CEOs in the top 100 — tying it for first with financial service (see Table 1). But if you dig even deeper, prepare for another surprise.  

  3. What Is The Solution To “High-Price” Drug Sticker Shock?

    Last November, lawmakers and the Obama administration began ratcheting up efforts targeted at pharmaceutical company’s “high-priced drugs.” Some view this as a sign that legislators are trying to bridge the political divide to tackle a key driver of rising healthcare costs. But are high-priced drugs and biopharmaceutical companies the most important driver to target? After all, research has shown that hospitals and physicians are much bigger contributors to overall U.S. healthcare spend. Further, when compared to the rest of the word, U.S. citizens are the top consumers of expensive sophisticated diagnostic imaging technologies, pay nearly twice as much as other countries for hospital and physician procedures and services, yet have the worst health outcomes compared to their international peers. In fact, if we look at the nine drivers behind high U.S. healthcare costs, there seems to be numerous opportunities for improvement — in addition to trying to reduce the price we pay for medicines. So why then is it Americans heap a disproportionate amount of the blame for staggering healthcare costs on the biopharmaceutical industry? Could it be drug-price sticker shock? Let’s explore.

  4. What Surprised Me — And Didn’t — At J.P. Morgan 2016

    Unfortunately, a minor mechanical issue involving one of my flights caused me to arrive a day late for the 34th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (JPM) in San Francisco (January 11-14). While missing Monday at one of biopharma’s biggest annual events (Twitter hashtag #JPM16) translates to a huge lost opportunity (i.e., not being able to attend 16 of 108 scheduled presentations/breakout sessions), when it comes to JPM, one day does not a conference make. Despite having one less day to work with, and splitting time between JPM, the 2016 Biotech Showcase (BTS), and the Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) conference, San Francisco + JPM in January always seems to provide for a few surprises.

  5. What Is Going To Be The Next Big Thing For Biopharma In 2016?

    There are plenty of industry insights available, such as Life Science Leader’s comprehensive December 2015 Outlook issue for 2016 or our four-part trendsetter series. And while these provide a wealth of insight, I felt compelled to put together one last blog to prevent you from being blindsided by the “Next Big Thing” in biopharma in 2016.

  6. Write Thinking — Biopharma At the Turn of the Year

    Writing is reinforced thinking. It is a stronger, more constructive way of moving through the thought world. Because I am a trade journalist covering the life science industry, all of those things tend to appear to me in industry terms. Take the drug-pricing debate, for example. 


  7. What Guides Your Company?

    If you have ever seen an employee of Johnson and Johnson speak, you probably recall that at some point during their presentation they probably made reference to “Our Credo” — a J&J document that describes the values used to guide employee decision making. “Put simply, Our Credo challenges us to put the needs and well-being of the people we serve first.” Written in 1943 by Robert Wood Johnson, former chairman and a member of the company’s founding family, it remains one of the earliest statements of corporate social responsibility. While some have called the J&J credo a model for corporate America, others have suggested that current CEO Alex Gorsky consider taking a sledgehammer to the credo that is “emblazoned on an imposing stone structure at the entrance to its headquarters.” But before anyone considers destroying it, I think everyone should take the time to read and compare it to the philosophy being used to shepherd your organization.

  8. The Folly Of Burying Great Insight

    Last week I posted “Why The Wall Street Journal’s U.S. Drug Price Comparison Misses The Mark,” a criticism of health and science deputy bureau chief Jeanne Whalen’s Dec. 1, 2015 article titled, “U.S. Drug Prices Dwarf Other Nations.” What bothered me about this article was that I felt it skewed the facts, sensationalized the issue, and seemed intent on stirring up controversy.

  9. FDA/CMS Summit Demonstrates Need For Innovative Hiring Solutions

    When Janet Woodcock, M.D., kicked of this year’s FDA/CMS Summit for biopharmaceutical executives, the FDA’s director for the Center for Drug Evaluation & Research (CDER) did so by recapping what was achieved in 2015, as well as sharing her lengthy list of priorities for the coming year. According to Woodcock, the challenge to successful implementation of various priorities is analogous to keeping an airplane flying while at the same time trying to fix or improve whatever isn’t working. And though she and her team have done admirably in piloting the organization for the past several years, I wonder how long they can continue to do so. For despite CDER’s significant accomplishments last year (e.g., first biosimilar approval), one priority that hasn’t moved — at all — is the organization’s glaring need for staffing. From a PowerPoint released at the conclusion of last year’s summit, at the bottom of slide four you see a 2015 front burner priority listing of “Improve staffing” that notes over 600 vacancies at CDER.. One year later, Woodcock stated that CDER still has 600 vacancies – (see slide 10 of this year’s presentation)! Now, one could argue that CDER, like most organizations, probably had its share of routine turnover. Perhaps the agency hired more than 600 people last year. But at an organization that employs approximately 3,200 civilians, 600 vacancies represents trying to fly and fix the CDER plane with about 20 percent less staff than you need. Constant pressure in other industries to do more with less has been shown to increase employee burnout. If the CDER employee hiring needle hasn’t moved at all in 12 months (probably longer), perhaps it is time to start asking about what needs to change, because the current approach isn’t working, and employee burnout could further exacerbate the problem.

  10. Why The Wall Street Journal’s U.S. Drug Price Comparison Misses The Mark

    In the December 1, 2015 edition of the Wall Street Journal there is an article titled, “U.S. Drug Prices Dwarf Other Nations.” The author, health and science deputy bureau chief Jeanne Whalen, begins by pointing out that Norway, an oil producer with one of the richest economies in the world, is an expensive place to live. To support her claim she highlights Norway’s cost of a Big Mac ($5.65) and a gallon of gasoline ($6). But she also notes that prescription drugs are far cheaper in Norway than in the U.S. According to Whalen, The Wall Street Journal did a comparison of the drug pricing for Medicare Part B versus the health systems of Norway, England, and Ontario. Her conclusion, “Throughout the developed world, branded prescription drugs are generally cheaper than in the U.S.” While she may be right in her assessment, I still find it wrong what she and the Journal are doing, and here’s why.