Biotech’s course to recovery. Is your company ready?

Kim Kraemer
Oct 23, 2023

There’s no shortage of folks dissecting the state of the biotech industry, but after attending last week’s Fierce Biotech Summit in Boston, I’ll share my optimistic view of an industry in turmoil yet destined to recover by changing the state of play.

Over three days of panel discussions and fireside chats, the “who’s who” of pharma and biotech – CEOs, investors, industry representatives and vendors – delivered a resounding message: companies must navigate in new ways.

Acknowledging how macroeconomic, financing, and regulatory challenges have shaped the current state, panelists offered solutions to help companies course correct toward a new future state.  Consensus was clear: it’s not time to retreat or play it safe.  It’s time for CEOs to shift their mindset towards creating opportunity.

Jeremy Levin, Chairman of the Board of Directors & CEO, Ovid Therapeutics framed the situation for one panel discussion noting, “This is not just a disaster, it’s an opportunity, it’s not a moment to hide, it’s a time for leadership and to focus on your business.” He was joined by industry leaders who shared key learnings from their own experiences rationalizing pipelines, downsizing teams, and making difficult decisions.

This is not just a disaster, it’s an opportunity, it’s not a moment to hide, it’s a time for leadership and to focus on your business.
Jeremy Levn
Chairman of the Board of Directors & CEO, Ovid Therapeutics

Spencer, along with Levin and fellow panelists coalesced around 5 key strategic imperatives for C-suite executives.

  • Be disciplined in modeling and managing in sprints vs. via an annual plan to pivot quickly
  • Be discerning in prioritizing investment in value-driving assets to efficiently reach milestones
  • Be decisive in rationalizing headcount and the pipeline, partnering early to monetize programs
  • Be development-minded investing in skills-building for key employees
  • Be diligent in communicating early, often and transparently

There was no sugarcoating how hard this work is. Levin highlighted the importance of making and communicating tough choices and focusing on people engagement while pursuing a risk-adjusted pipeline strategy.  Others hailed effective positioning and storytelling as critical to raising money and forming synergistic partnerships.

You must understand your audience and what you are trying to sell…That’s what will put your biotech at the front of the pack, because there’s a long line of people looking for funding.
Christopher Conway,
President, R&D at Curia Global

Despite the challenges ahead, the overwhelming reason to believe in biotech echoed throughout the conference: innovation, partnership and advocacy IS our industry’s DNA!

My take

In my 30+ years in biotech, I’ve seen time and time again that it’s the companies who bring focus to their business and put their brand narrative to work who most effectively capture and monetize mindshare.  Connecting the dots between why a company’s innovations, partnerships and patient access strategies are designed to minimize risk and maximize its value creation are critical to demonstrating how a company will win. With the stakes so high, now is the time for business leaders to step back and ask some fundamental questions:

  • Is our pitch to investors, partners and talent getting the results we want and need?
  • Do we spend too much time as a leadership team trying to figure our story out?
  • Have we customized our messaging by target audience?
  • Do audiences grasp what makes our company/technology/programs/pipeline unique and special vs. the competition?
  • Are all members of our team communicating our story with clarity and consistency?

If you answered no to any of these questions, it may be time for an outside perspective to eliminate internal spin that drives cost through inefficiency. Waterhouse Brands can help by working with you to articulate a clear, pragmatic line of sight to patient impact with the goal of inspiring investment, partnership, and employee engagement. We look forward to hearing from you!