The Biotech Executive: Bold, Tenacious, And Accountable

A diverse and engaged biotech management team are having a meeting in the office.
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The TD Cowen Insight

A high-functioning executive team is critical to building a successful biotechnology company, but it is often the hardest element to get right. In this report, we seek to help CEOs cultivate a culture that breeds success. We provide a roadmap to help biotech executive committees assess their performance and drive for success. We also detail important questions and clues investors can look for to assess the quality of executive committee beyond bios and LinkedIn profiles.

The Importance of a Well-Functioning Executive Team

A good technology or program, in the hands of a poorly structured executive team, can still fail and, some would argue, would be able to find a way to fail. But even mediocre technology in the hands of a well-functioning biotech C-suite can be successful.

As biotech company formation has accelerated at a rapid clip in the past few years, it is becoming increasingly difficult for executive teams to gel and foster a culture that breeds success. Moreover, many C-suites are occupied by first-time CSOs, CFOs, CMOs, and the like, who are likely learning as they go along.

Helping Biotech Companies Cultivate a Culture of Success

In this report, we seek to delineate an executive committee culture that breeds success and provide a roadmap for management teams to understand how they contribute to the success of a company as individuals and as a team. This report should help CEOs cultivate a culture of honest dialog, respect, trust, accountability, curiosity, objectivity, and leadership. It should also equip individuals within the C-suite – from the CMO to the CFO to the head of regulatory – with key thoughts about how to steer their company toward success.

Unique Skills and Attributes are Required to Lead Biotech Companies

The skills and attributes necessary to succeed in biotech are universal and unique. It is a different industry with its own risk-taking culture, fueled by highly intellectual individuals in a fiercely competitive environment. It can take many years for a product to progress from a concept on a whiteboard to clinical testing in patients. The odds of success are low, and the endeavor can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Key Attributes of Successful Biotechnology Management Team

The team itself is arguably the most critical element. Without a high-functioning, collaborative team, even the best technologies could fail. To this end, we spoke with numerous current and former CEOs, board members, and C-suite executives to investigate:

  • Key attributes necessary for a successful biotech
  • What has caused companies and projects to run aground in the past
  • How individuals within the C-suite can perform at a level that will deliver the greatest chance of success

Extensive interviews with biotech CEOs, boards, and executives revealed that a culture of honesty, humility, accountability, leading by content and not process, anticipating what can go wrong, and a sense of urgency must permeate the executive committee.

Why Investors Should Seek High-Functioning Biotech Executive Committees

Most biotech companies face tough odds, with their chances for success low. Most investors and Wall Street analysts are well-versed in evaluating companies’ strategies, science, technology/platforms, and clinical products. However, little time is spent considering if the executive team can execute, has a culture that will lead to making good decisions, and can hold each other accountable.

Not only do the CEO and executive committees need to understand what makes a high-functioning team, but it is also just as critical for investors to determine whether the group of individuals at the helm is capable, aligned, and making the right decisions.

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