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The New Talent Trajectory


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-04-01-2018
Volume 38
Issue 4

Pharma's evolving landscape in recent years has created the need to recruit experts from outside of industry-and establish new pathways for traditional executive roles in the life sciences.

If you have ever driven on the back roads of Lancaster, PA, you’ll see deep ruts on the edge of the roadway caused from the horse-pulled carriages led by the Amish. The ruts have worn the pavement over time. Same principle with the neural pathways in our brain. We do something the same way over and over, and it becomes routine, almost without thought. To create new pathways, you need to change things up and do things

Lisa Henderson

differently, which can be easier said than done. This also applies to careers, which used to be long-standing in one company. Now, the average person changes jobs 12 times in their career. In the pharma industry, as noted in the first article of our talent section the month, companies tended to only hire people that were from other pharmas. 

But that has changed within the past five to six years. Now, executives are seeing an evolving landscape that is creating a need to hire experts from outside of pharma, as well as create new pathways for traditional roles, or roads to another arm of life sciences.

In a recent webcast, the topic was CRO consolidation, and it covered a lot of ground; suffice to say that issues of venture capital, M&As, and outsourcing were all in the mix. During the Q&A, the question was asked,  “When we discuss the increase of expertise and skills in the new ‘mega’ CROs, does this subtly imply that the pharma sponsors run the risk of losing those skills and expertise as they shift more of their workflow to CROs?” 

Jeffrey Kasher, president, Patients Can’t Wait, and previous to that a 28-year veteran of Eli Lilly, responded, “That’s already happened. It started in the preclinical and toxicology space, when all big pharma outsourced those packages. What they’ve seen over time is they lose that expertise inside and all of a sudden they don’t know what good looks like.” 

He continued, “You lose capabilities, number one, and, number two, you lose your traditional pipeline of developing people. So, I think what you’re going to end up seeing is instead of people going from pharma to CROs, you’re going to see more of a cycle where people come in and learn at CROs and go work for pharma companies and go back. … It’s not going to be a one-way street anymore.”

And it’s not only CROs that are gaining more from pharma outsourcing, though development has more penetration at 70%. But with the addition of the “mega” CROs, like the newly renamed Syneos Health and IQVIA, who have added commercial outsourcing capabilities to their mix for end-to-end offerings, it can take advantage of the development relationships sooner in the drug’s lifecycle. 

If Kasher sees paths from CRO to pharma and back, there is a definite move from pharma to biotech. In our talent section, Senior Editor Michelle Maskaly outlines a few routes that former pharma executives have taken to reach their new future in biotech. Recruiters that I interviewed said that the world of biotech, full of venture capital and vision, is a very fertile area for former big pharma executives. But one warned that, if you are going to go to biotech, be prepared to wear many hats and not have access to the larger budgets you might be used to. 

Pharma companies are also now more open to hiring outside of life sciences altogether. People who are in consumer goods or retail, or those with digital and data experience, may find the doors of pharma more available than in the past. As noted, GSK’s new CEO has hired the former CIO of Walmart and appointed its chief digital officer from Google.  

The rest of our talent section this month touches on the new role of data scientist; the revamped role of medical affairs; an uptick in the education of and need for HEOR professionals; and how sponsorship, rather than traditional mentorship, has become more necessary for not only diversity but toward helping create opportunities for a more inclusive company culture.

Pharmaceutical Executive regularly profiles executives in pharma and also biotech, healthcare, and related fields, so we see a lot of career paths and trajectories. Most are not hardened into a single line, but flow and move based on mentors, personal decisions, inspiration, or necessity. 

As we continue to cover those C-suite executives, again we are turning our eye to the next generation of pharma leaders. Nominations for our annual Emerging Pharma Leaders are now open. You can submit your nominations here.

Who’s destined to change the face of pharma? Can you make the tough decisions that face manufacturers? Do you navigate the commercial, financial, scientific, and R&D market landscape with leadership and inspiration? Do you have what it takes to get to the C-suite? Winners will be featured in the October issue of Pharmaceutical Executive.


Lisa Henderson is Editor-in-Chief of Pharm Exec. She can be reached at lisa.henderson@ubm.com. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @trialsonline


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