White Coats & Suit Jackets: A Coming-of-Age Story - Pharmaceutical Executive


White Coats & Suit Jackets: A Coming-of-Age Story

Pharmaceutical Executive

2. Respect Deadlines

"Industry has timelines and they mean something," says Larry Suva, the Carl L. Nelson Endowed Chair in Orthopaedic Creativity and director of the Center for Orthopaedic Research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine in Little Rock. "In academia you don't necessarily have to hit all the deadlines that you set. June could be August to them, and that's just not acceptable," Suva says. "When you work with industry, those deadlines are not set to be not met."

Suva, a bone expert who led a drug discovery program at SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) for three years before leaving for Arkansas, said academic scientists must agree to realistic goals for getting work done. Don't overpromise; stick to the schedule. "You have to make sure that the timeline you tell them is something you're going to hold to," he says.

3. Be Productive

So Close, Yet Still Far Enough
Just as it is crucial to meet deadlines and milestones, it's also imperative that research sites make meaningful progress, particularly with a molecule in the later stages of development. "You really want the best researcher that you can find, but you want to make sure that it doesn't take this researcher 14 years and millions and millions of dollars to get the patients you need," says Theodore Stanley, co-founder of Zars—whose primary focus is on local anesthetics—and the company's non-executive chairman. "What Zars needs is someone who can do a study well, in a way that's going to be accepted by the FDA, who can do it efficiently, expeditiously, rapidly, who has patients, who has a team, and who can get it through the IRB [institutional review board]. And," he adds, "to do it all as inexpensively as possible."

Stanley, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Utah, invented the fentanyl lollipop. Cephalon, which markets the product as Actiq, has sold more than $3 billion worth of the drug, he says. Stanley's colleague Marriott agrees that a head-down attitude is a strong selling point for companies looking for research partners in academia (or in practice). "I like to see people who are pragmatic and understand the development process so that they really recognize how much risk the potential partner is being asked to assume," Marriott says.

4. The Soft Sell

For executives like Marriott, who spends much of his time scouting research sites, sales pitches are a constant—and often frustrating—part of the job. "For me one of the big turnoffs is to find a group that only thinks in PowerPoint," Marriott says. "They think that a flashy presentation is the be-all and end-all, but I really want to see more detail. I want them to tell me, 'This is the experiment I plan, this is how I plan to do it, these are the raw data. I need to have some good idea of what their work actually is and how they're accomplishing it."

While a professional attitude from a lab is essential, Marriott would rather not feel like he's trapped in an elevator with a recently minted MBA. "From my perspective, I think they'd probably be surprised at how little I value sales pitches. It really is the data that's important. I want to know what they're doing right now and what's the likelihood that it's going to be successful."

Marriott wants to know, in other words, whether the lab's staff is well-trained and that they know what they're doing. And if a lab has 10 members, will they be working on 10 different projects or concentrating solely on the project he's considering funding?


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