1. Can you briefly describe your role within Roche Diagnostics?
I belong to a team of sales consultants with long term expertise in the Pharma and Diagnostics industry, called the Life Science Alliances. We are focused on setting up and maintaining strategic alliances with key Pharma companies and their partners. These include the major Big Pharma companies, which harbour their headquarters in the EMEA region. The Life Science Alliances team covers all disciplines across Roche Diagnostics from translational research to clinics. We have the ability to operate independently from Business Areas, their portfolios, and national Roche organisations.
2. How do you see this as being different from 'traditional' alliance management roles?
I think the Pharma Partnering or Pharma Alliances function comes after scouting and assessing new partners and technologies. Alliance functions manage a smaller number of specific partnerships and retain ownership throughout the life cycle of the project. In contrast my role is more aligned to the business development function. By building strong relationships, we learn about specific needs and can create new business opportunities based upon our existing and future portfolio to deliver added value to our partners. After qualifying the opportunity we often cross-link the scientific or business experts of both organisations to drive more detailed discussions. If these consultations lead to mutual interest, we use our network to help our national, regional and global organisations to formalise and close the deal.
3. What skill set do you feel is important to be successful in this role?
I think that communication, scientific knowledge, leadership, and matrix management are most relevant. Communicational skills are key; driving an open dialogue is essential to align the customer needs with Roche solutions and to ensure the correct information is disseminated internally. This also requires the relevant technical knowledge to be able to converse at an appropriate scientific level. Leadership plays a critical role in facilitating and moderating discussions to ensure focus, project progression, and goals met. This aspect is particularly important when dealing with the complex matrix environment of large companies, which is true for both our partners and internal organisation.
4. What type of projects do you get involved in, can you give an example?
There are a few examples I would like to share with you. We understand our role to be able to provide solutions in every step of the drug development and operations processes.
Some say that largest biotechnology manufacturing plant in Europe is in Penzberg, Germany. This site hosts Roche Pharma and Diagnostics under one roof and amongst many other activities Diagnostics is providing raw materials for our Pharma division. We see that there is also a need from other Pharma companies for critical raw materials and the Life Science Alliances are the ones who connect need and expertise, start and manage projects, and pave the way for future deals.
Sometimes finalising an agreement requires extensive time and effort investment. With one of our partners we are currently managing a global evaluation study for cell counting, a technique which is key to operational functions in Biopharmaceutical processes. The findings of the study will very likely be published in a peer reviewed paper and prove the quality of our solution. This investment now should help close future opportunities in the market without having to repeat the lengthy evaluation process.
In another example the Life Science Alliance group is managing the relationship with a facilitation company that provides products and services to pharma clinical trials. This involves coordinating the distribution of many hundreds of point of care devices for patient recruitment. Working with the relevant Roche Diagnostics sales and logistics groups in multiple countries ensures that the correct instrument, associated consumables, and reagents are in the right place at the right time. In addition there are many other considerations that need to be managed. These include training of the facilitation company’s support staff to enable front line troubleshooting and end user training, regulatory issues across different regions, and investigational use only certification in regions where a specific device is not yet registered.
As this is a global trial it extends beyond the EMEA/LATAM region and involves interaction with Roche affiliates in many different countries and an understanding of the different cultural differences. These projects generally run for 2-3 years and return revenues of several million Euros.
We actively discuss the Roche Diagnostics product pipeline and initiatives years before sales maybe realised, to keep the customer informed and provide early access if applicable. A good example is our Sequencing pipeline, which was completely renewed and will be launched throughout the next months and years. We are also bringing new and alternative technologies such as a high throughput system for routine compound library screening to our pharma partners. These projects can be time intensive, too, as they include the change management of technologies, processes and peoples skills.
In 2015 the Life Science Alliance group took the initiative to unify messaging to external pharma and biotech companies regarding companion diagnostic co-development. Companion diagnostics is rapidly becoming a critical component of many drug development processes. Roche Diagnostics has historically developed companion and complementary diagnostic tests for Roche Pharma, but in recent years some business areas have started to take on projects for external pharma companies. By coordinating with each business area and the divisional biomarkers group, the Life Science Alliances team have been able to generate a ‘One Roche’ package that we are actively promoting at conferences and seminars.