Racing Against the Clock in the Life Sciences

Business leaders racing

Jordan WarshafskyBusiness leaders racingBy Jordan Warshafsky, Partner, Ashton Tweed

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Time is of the essence in the life sciences industry, just as it is in many others. Uniquely, our industry can feel both painstakingly slow and dizzyingly fast-paced. Racing against the clock is a struggle that most business leaders face when trying to progress their therapy or technology through the product pipeline. Executives often find themselves walking a tightrope, balancing their desire for speed with their desire to do things right. It’s like we say at BioNJ: “Patients can’t wait.”

Having faced this common but critical issue throughout their careers, life science leaders have developed strategies to overcome it. As told by industry experts, here are 3 ways to fight time in an industry where obstacles like lack of funding and complex regulations can slow you down:


1. Improve the Process

Dr. Ira Spector, CEO of SFA Therapeutics, believes that his company’s novel approach will result in faster drug development with higher probabilities for success, despite the fact that he has faced some push back against his unconventional methods.

“Faster equals lower cost in drug development, because time equals cost. I’m very focused on speed to market and on trying radical ways of getting products developed and approved. It’s a consistent theme in my career. I believe the goal is to get the product out and learn from the marketplace. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as perfect.

The development process that most people follow can be improved. I’m not talking about taking shortcuts or doing anything that is not in the realm of approved processes, but I think there are ways of working smarter and faster.”


2. Maintain Laser Focus

Patrick Treacy, CEO of Onkos Surgical, says that his biggest decision as CEO has been “Maintaining absolute focus. We have to maintain our focus on driving and growing the business but, at the same time, not taking our eye off fostering the innovation that will allow Onkos to grow into what we want it to be.”

When asked about his company’s biggest challenge, he responded: “It’s speed because, in general, time is not our friend. We have to move quickly. It’s also focus because there’s so much opportunity in the musculoskeletal oncology space. It’s really been void of innovation for 15 or 20 years and there’s so much to do. Our customer group is very, very excited about what Onkos is doing and we get a lot of different suggestions about where to take the company. So, we really need to make sure that we remain hyper-focused on what our vision is and not get distracted because there are millions of different things that we could develop.”


3. Tread Carefully When Speeding Up

Betsy Hanna, President, Human Health, and COO of Origin, Inc., says “I think the biggest challenge is getting people to understand what it takes to get things done—the complexity of working with the FDA, external partners, and clinical sites. Once we say, “let’s go” and have regulatory approval to move forward, the real work begins.”

In order to speed things up without rushing through the delicate process, she takes her time to assess how best to approach the situation. “One of the strengths I bring from my experience is an understanding of how to focus on what needs to get done – and then make it happen. So I took over that responsibility, because after the planning phase we really needed to go into rapid execution. As I’m sure you know, in a small, pre-commercial company cash flow is everything. We have investors who put money in the business expecting us to clinically prove our technology, so getting our trials moving forward as fast as possible can determine the life – or death – of the company.”


Racing against time is not a new problem and the solutions above are not new either. However, as a leader, it’s beneficial to approach this problem in new and innovative ways. With fresh scientific advancements, changing regulations, and progressive leadership styles, the three strategies above can provide endlessly novel ways to accelerate your business forward.

In need of life science leadership for a time sensitive issue? Contact me today.

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