4 Tips for Building a Successful Biotech: Richard Pops of Alkermes at #BIOCEO14

The 16th Annual BIO CEO & Investor Conference opened with a fireside chat between Richard F. Pops, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Alkermes, and David Gluckman of Lazard. The candid discussion gave biotech CEOs a peek in to the story of Alkermes, yielding useful guidance on building a successful, agile company ready for a changing marketplace.

Here are some of the highlights:

Be world class in a specific area of science.

“In our company, and every other successful biotech company… you have to be world class in a certain area of science. Where we started was with the idea of complex formulations while delivering solid state chemistry and we became quite efficient at solving complex molecular puzzles.” 

Make the FDA your ally.

“For Alkermes, in particular, we’ve really made it part of our ethos to build a relationship with the FDA. And, that goes from reviewing divisions in the areas where we’re developing drugs all the way to when I’ve been involved with PDUFA through BIO and PhRMA. It is very useful for the company to have a reputation within the agency. They meet a lot of new people. The more frequent those interactions can be, [the FDA] starts to see the way you, your scientists, and your development people approach problems… and you can develop a certain style with the FDA.”

Remain agile as you grow.

“I don’t think that any company that emerges now will ever look like [one of the] big pharma companies that preceded us… If you were to build one of those companies today, there would never be the legacy of scale with your employees, your facilities, your global footprint, or your manufacturing sites. It’s just a different world. Hopefully, we’ll never be a ‘pharma’ company –in the classic definition. We will always maintain a certain amount of agility, adroitness that you just lose, by necessity, when you have 100 thousand employees.”

Prepare for a new sales model.

“We’re really interested in the idea that the entire commercial model for pharmaceutical sales is going to change. As the concentration of buyers gets tighter and tighter, as the government becomes a more important purchaser, and as purchasing decisions are no longer made solely by physicians (that they’re made with an economic overlay), you may have to do a lot more selling of product value to systems. That’s not 2,000 reps with glossy brochures calling on doctors. It’s a very quantitative, rigorous, systematic approach to making your product available to patients. ”

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