Saturday, April 10, 2010

MD/MBA Careers in Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industries

Wing Delatorre, MD, MBA (Head of Business Operations bi3, Director of New Ventures at Biogen Idec) gave a wonderful presentation this morning at the Association of MD/MBA Programs (AMMP) 8th Annual Conference. Wing received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School/M.I.T. Health Science and Technology Program, B.S. in Biology from the California Institute of Technology, and M.B.A. from Duke Fuqua School of Business and Administration. After graduating from business school, she worked at L.E.K. consulting. Then, she joined Biogen Idec.

Here's the memorable quote from her presentation: "Medical students are like pluripotent stem cells." Students can differentiate in so many ways and find ways to market themselves. 
Biogen Idec is a FIPCo (Fully Integrated Pharmaceutical Company) and there are opportunities for physicians in basic science research, business development, finance, etc. Biogen Idec Innovation Incubator (bi3): A creative approach to allow academic scientists to develop new compounds.

FIPCo: Opportunities for MD/MBAs
  • Corporate
    • Management, Business Development, Corporate Venture Capital
  • R&D
    • Medical Director - lead clinical development
    • Scientist
    • Program Manager - oversee different function groups as compounds go through various stages of R&D
    • Therapeutic Area Lead (SVP or VP positions)
  • Finance
    • Business Planning (not just for accountants)
  • Sales/Marketing
    • Product and Market Analysis 
  • Medical Affairs: communication with physicians
  • Public Affairs/Investor Relations
  • Regulatory and Drug Safety: communication with FDA and other regulatory agencies
  • Internal Strategy
    • Internal consultant group (more common in large pharma) - could be a great option for those who are interested in a consulting career

 Questions from the audience:
  • How did you make your career transition? "I was seduced by the Dark Side..." Actually, she wanted to apply the tools she was using to make a difference in health care. She departed from science and thought about the business side to develop new ideas. 
  • What advice do you have for students thinking about careers in biopharma so they can make an informed decision? Internship opportunities. Start in investment banking or consulting to broaden your experience skills. Differentiate yourself since almost everyone has research experience.
  • Mergers and acquisitions among biopharma companies? The industry has been challenged due to decreased R&D productivity. How can companies develop truly innovative drugs? The Pfizer/Wyeth merger was driven largely due to reduced revenues from the loss of the Lipitor patent. Was it a financial decision? Was it a strategic decision? Will we see more productivity?  The bigger questions are: How do we get more innovation? What will come of small, innovative biotech companies?
  • Opportunities for physicians who wish to practice part-time and also work in biopharma? Yes. There are many physicians who still practice clinically while they work in a biotech/pharma company.
  • Fatal flaws? Why do physicians "fail" in the corporate world? They may have difficulty communicating with internal teams. They may be used to interacting directly with a patient, but now they have to interact with teams and committees. 
  • Layoffs in biopharma? It's a risk and it could happen. You're constantly being evaluated for your performance and your salary plus bonuses could fluctuate every year. 
  • Career path in the biopharma industry as a woman? There will always be bias, but the environment will change. Stay committed and don't get derailed. There are a some women CEOs of biopharma companies.
So, are you thinking about a career in biopharma? Many physicians and medical students seem interested in the pharma/biotech industries. The biggest question that always comes up is, "how do you break in?"

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