10 August 2020

The article at a glance

The pharmaceutical industry’s focus on procedures and dealmaking could change significantly in this uncertain period, five Cambridge Executive MBA graduates say in …

The pharmaceutical industry’s focus on procedures and dealmaking could change significantly in this uncertain period, five Cambridge Executive MBA graduates say in a webinar for the What’s Next? How to Survive and Thrive in a Post COVID-19 World series.

Here’s an opportunity to see their presentation and read key findings:

Webinar: Roundtable – Healthcare, Pharma and Biotech in a Post COVID-19 World

The focus of pharmaceutical procedures and dealmaking may change significantly in this uncertain period as the world deals with the fallout from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, participants told a webinar organised by Cambridge Judge Business School that featured five graduates of the Business School’s Executive MBA programme

Dr Nektarios (Aris) Oraiopoulos
Dr Nektarios (Aris) Oraiopoulos

“The rules have been completely rewritten” in recent months, said webinar host Dr Nektarios Oraiopoulos, University Lecturer in Operations and Technology Management at Cambridge Judge. “Projects that have taken months or years are now being done in days or weeks.”

The five EMBA alumni were speaking in a personal capacity and not as representatives of their respective companies. 

Pharma dealmaking will now place even more emphasis on milestone-linked financial incentives as it means investors don’t have to put as much money at risk early on in a collaboration, said Lily Cortese (EMBA 2014), Director, Transactions – Johnson & Johnson Innovation. “You will see more deals with additional optionality (with) financial payouts contingent on meeting certain milestones and providing more incentive to reach those milestones.”

For the time being, she said, “technical skills in terms of valuations” have become more important than personal contacts in dealmaking because it’s difficult to connect on a personal level or read physical cues like body language during a Zoom negotiation, although that may not last long term. 

The webinar roundtable, entitled “Healthcare, Pharma and Biotech in a Post COVID-19 World”, was part of a series of webinars at Cambridge Judge entitled “What’s Next? How to Survive and Thrive in a Post-COVID-19 World”.

Giulia Zotti (EMBA 2018), Project Manager – Newron Pharmaceuticals, said that there have been delays in both clinical and preclinical activities in recent months, sometimes caused by lack of available resources, but “despite all these challenges the industry has responded very quickly and constructively”.

Shirley Okere (EMBA 2017), Director, Regional Quality Operations Support at Pfizer, said that the disruptions of supply chains during the crisis means that pharmaceutical firms will lessen their reliance on materials coming from Asia. “The focus of the industry will be to have a mitigating business continuity plan to ensure things proceed much the same.” 

“There’s a teachable moment here, which is contingency plans for trans-continental and global demand,” she said. “Some organisations are looking at vertical integration so there’s more control.”

Stefano De Socio Lardani (EMBA 2017), Global Marketing Director, Portfolio Strategy & Personalised Healthcare, Rare Diseases at Takeda Pharmaceutical, said:  

“What I’ve observed from a marketing and commercial perspective is an important budget shift, from everything that was happening offline to happening online. This represents an important factor in the marketing strategic planning; this new frame of the tactical and customer mix will influence the engagement frame and product uptake especially for drugs in the launch phase.”

He said there had also been a “spike in digital health solutions, including telemedicine and remote patient support, which have the potential to influence the early diagnosis, treatment initiation and adherence,” but it remains to be seen whether this is sustainable given the uniqueness of the current pandemic. 

Dr Zahid Moneer (EMBA 2018), an investment bank Managing Director in the healthcare sector, said there would be a greater focus on gene editing in the post-COVID-19 era. “It’s evolved to the genomics age, where it’s clear that curative effects will be the way forward” for big pharma, he said, adding that drug companies are anxious to acquire the right assets to evolve their platforms to the gene-editing pathway. 

Yet despite all the upheaval caused by coronavirus, the pharmaceutical industry’s core purpose remains constant. “One thing that COVID-19 has not changed is the need to innovate and create value, whether through internal R&D or partnership as people’s health needs go beyond COVID-19,” said Lily Cortese.