A Look at the Road Ahead - Pharmaceutical Executive

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A Look at the Road Ahead

Pharmaceutical Executive


What does industry need to do to improve its image? There seems to be this sort of proprietary, "let's talk about what's good for my company" as opposed to "what's good for my industry." The industry needs to identify spokespeople who are either current CEOs or up-and-coming leaders who will take public positions on issues and speak beyond their own company's interests. I've seen a bit of that coming from Hank McKinnel at Pfizer and from Fred Hassan at Schering-Plough.

Executives who are up-and-comers include Jim Mullen at Biogen, Myrtle Potter at Genentech, and Christine Poon at Johnson & Johnson. These three could emerge as leaders of the next generation of this industry if they are willing to take public positions and be strong on a variety of issues surrounding this industry and its contribution to public health.

Where are companies using the competitive intelligence function most strategically? The companies are switching over from traditional chemistry to the new biology as the source of innovation. And in that transition, they have to model the business in a different way. It's either going to wind up being focused around specialty care, general practitioners and mass markets, or ultimately focused around the hospital with a specialized market, like Amgen where they think in terms of very specialized kinds of markets with relatively complex products to manufacture. But the business models that people will adopt over the next five years are largely driven by an internal intelligence function supported by outside experts who can advise the company on which of those choices to make.

What is the industry not thinking about? The company that a lot of people have neglected to follow is General Electric (GE). Why? Because their model allows them to be a conglomerate across a variety of businesses. They are slowly moving into healthcare, but have decided to do that somewhat differently from the way traditional pharma companies have done so.

GE's first step was to buy equipment companies and establish a presence in the hospital by producing MRI machines and other sorts of diagnostics machines. The next step, which occurred last year, was to acquire Amersham. That development allows them to get into nuclear medicine and radiopharmaceuticals. I wouldn't be surprised if, in the not-so- distant future, GE will purchase a pharma company so they have fully integrated, start-to-finish, we can test, identify what is wrong, and treat you abilities.

All those components make up the GE Healthcare business, which may become the single biggest healthcare company, which none of us imagined could happen. One of the ways executives might want to think about this is that GE thinks like a Japanese or Swiss company in terms of its long-term strategy. They are not so interested in "Do I have to make my earnings this quarter and hit the numbers with Wall Street?" General Electric is much more interested in initiatives that they can pursue over the next 10, 20, or 30 years.

This might be a blind spot in the eyes of most intelligence experts in the pharmaceutical industry because they are only looking at today's, not tomorrow's, competitors. So keep your eyes open for what GE does next.

Private Eye Clifford Kalb has made quite a name for himself in the world of competitive intelligence. Over the years, he has worked at Marion, Pfizer, and Hoffman La Roche, among other companies, in areas such as sales, licensing, and business development. But perhaps his greatest expertise, and what he’s best known for, is competitive intelligence. Before joining Wood Mackenzie in September as a vice-president in the life sciences group, he was senior director of strategic business analysis at Merck. He has also served as president of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals and the Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence and Research Group, and as chairman of the Conference Board Council on Competitive Analysis.


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