As with other industries, Life Sciences companies (well…the successful ones) needed to be quick to adapt and quick to adopt new ways of thinking and working—such as shifting to digitalized business models with an increasing dependency on flexible/remote work arrangements. While Biopharma companies, government and academic research institutions were tasked to save the world with vaccines, they also needed to keep their employees safe and productive and positive from a morale standpoint. Healthcare systems, retail pharmacies, federal/state/local governments, and nonprofits further upped their game in collaborating as never before to ensure the timely and organized distribution of the vaccine as it became available.
The confluence of all these challenges and the new processes required to best address them from an organizational and people leadership standpoint, pushed global Biopharma companies to another pivotal junction in the evolution of their organizational structure. From their foundation, and in the decades that followed, large pharmaceutical companies were generally structured and operated in the standardized manner of traditional corporate design. Per other industries, as these companies grew, so did the levels of hierarchies, the slow pace of decision-making, and the lack of communication caused by cultural/organizational silos.
In retrospect, it can be difficult to fix a date when an evolution starts. Approximately 10-15 years ago (concurrent with the exponential growth of the JPM conference and all the related piggyback conferences taking over Union Square for a week), more and more early-stage biotech’s were being funded and making rapid progress in their development programs. There was also an increase in deal making, with co-development and co-marketing deals between biotech and global pharma, as well as biotech acquisitions by global pharma companies. Senior leadership at global pharma began to have a more direct line of sight to how smaller-medium size companies were structured and how they established their cultures of smart, collaborative, yet swift and decisive decision-making.
Beyond just culture changes, smaller biotech’s were getting things done—like progressing in the clinic and getting new drugs approved. Big pharma had to increase efficiencies in both R&D as well as commercial functions. They began steering toward biotechnology-inspired organizational structures. Forward-thinking leaders broke the traditional corporate structure with significant organizational and cultural transformations that aspired to replicate the structure and the successes of the biotech model.
Fast forward to today, and global biopharma is looking at further leveraging lean and agile cross-functional leaders who empower employees to be accountable—with the support of smart and savvy governance. They are also looking at institutionalizing a remote work environment powered by a hybrid business model. But…..how do you do it right?
There is, of course, no single answer. But what are the common principles of leadership in successful organizations that are flourishing with a flat matrix organization and a culture of collaboration and accountability?
I caught up with a highly accomplished and respected industry veteran and the new Chief Medical Officer of Centessa Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Dr. Antoine Yver, to discuss his approaches to building and sustaining highly successful and productive organizations. Dr. Yver has over 30 years of global pharma experience. His direct leadership has led to the approvals of 11 different Oncology drugs, including TAGRISSO, LYNPARZA, and ENHERTU. Those approvals reflected his leadership in the turn-around of global oncology development with AstraZeneca and subsequently his repeat of that success leading for global Oncology R&D at Daiichi Sankyo.
As the industry struggles to fill the skill talent gap today, Dr. Yver takes us through his detailed approach to building and recruiting a talent pool that is agile, interpersonal, savvy, decisive, and accountable.