Thursday, March 12, 2015

Relationships are Key to Startup Partnerships

Partnerships between pharmaceutical companies are vital for the development and growth of startups within the industry. Jodie Morrison of Tokai Pharmaceuticals spoke at the Partnerships in Clinical Trials Conference in 2014 and discussed in an interview the challenges that small, speciality pharma companies face and how big CRO’s should be interacting with them.

Morrison, the CEO of Pharmaceuticals and who has huge experience in clinical affairs, believes that ‘smaller companies are reliant on partnerships’. Smaller specialty pharma industries often struggle to make an impact in the industry due to them not having the same resources and funds that the larger companies do. Forming partnerships gives an opportunity to boost productivity and get past financial roadblocks that could halt R&D and clinical trials before they even reach the human trial phase. Partnerships have to be made in a way that is mutually beneficial and Morrison believes that they need to be ‘appropriately built.’

A theme that is prevalent throughout the interview is one that people are incredibly important, in that having staff and a team that are happy and work well will ultimately boost turnover. Morrison noted that often there can be a lot of travel involved for the ‘front line’ employees such as program managers. They deal with sites in different locations and small things such as putting them up in a nice hotel or paying for presents for relatives they may be staying with, can go a long way for keeping teams happy.

Partnerships between pharma companies, especially for the smaller companies are very at risk of failure and there is very little room for error. The partnerships, as mentioned before should be ‘appropriately built’ and often in startups, the bulk of the staff on a non-management level is through partnerships. Forming new partnerships should be looked at as if they are hiring someone, as in the long run, partnerships are the driving force of the company. So to minimize the chance of failure, as previously touched upon, having a strong and happy team to work with and drive the company forward will ultimately mean a stronger chance of success. Morrison, mentioned that she was fortunate enough to have never lost an employee as a result of them wanting to leave which was down to a great team environment and ultimately was beneficial to the company.

The crucial element that I believe came out of the interview and is the key to success in pharmaceutical partnerships is the importance of all people within the company. From top to bottom, having staff feel incentivized and mentored, but not in a competitive environment with each other means better collaboration and in the long run better productivity for the company.

To watch the entire interview, check out the video below:

For information on the 24th annual Partnership in Clinical Trials conference taking place in Boston this April, click here:

About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at

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