Using forecasts and a myriad of other data and information, pharmaceutical companies can challenge R&D and marketing organizations to make collaborative decisions that create real value for the company, says Nic Talbot-Watt, former director of forecasting for GE Healthcare.
Using forecasts and a myriad of other data and information, pharmaceutical companies can challenge R&D and marketing organizations to make collaborative decisions that create real value for the company, says Nic Talbot-Watt, former director of forecasting for GE Healthcare. Speaking at eyeforpharmas recent Forecasting Europe 2008 conference, Talbot-Watt explained how establishing a process and toolset for decision making can bring these two traditionally opposed camps to the table and get them speaking the same language.
Her company had an opportunity to in-license a new product, she explained. And although it was a good strategic fit, with portfolio cross business potential, to be successful would require coordination across multiple departments (not necessarily a strong point for any pharma), buy-in from key departments and creating value, Talbot-Watt said.
Historically, R&D and Commercial/Marketing dont really like talking to each other, she said. They dont usually speak the same language. But you have to try to align the organization to collaborate.
At GE, Talbot-Watt said, they borrowed from their deep-running Six Sigma methodology to create robust ranking tools, using QFD and Excel-based approaches with portability. Then R&D and Marketing identified 7 indications of interest for the in-licensing candidate and two lists of ranking criteria.
For R&D, the ranking criteria included traits such as technical feasibility, cost of clinical trial, program length and availability of patients. On the Commercial side, ranking criteria focused on things like size of patient population, unmet medical need and value of indication (driven by forecast output). The factors were then weighted by each group based on importance.
The goal was to identify and rank the top two or three indications, Talbot-Watt said. And to do that they used a standardized forecast model template structured to use the same data and set of assumptions for each indication, including patient population, uptake/market share, frequency of product use and price per use/dose.
The view from outside
It was, she said, fairly top line for initial valuation, with short-listed indications to be worked up into more complete strategic models.
Key sensitivities and challenges were identified, along with any data/knowledge gaps, Talbot-Watt recalled. But there were strong in-house opinions, so it all got rolled forward into a Medical Advisory Board.
By involving external experts, she said, the assessment gained objective credibility to challenge both R&D and Commercial. The advisory board was challenged to consider whether the correct indications were being examined and if anything had been missed so that the company could calibrate its thinking against what the market really needed.
The group also served to:
Clarify disparity of opinions between clinical and commercial
Fill gaps in knowledge on both sides
Offer early indications of unmet need in the market as perceived by specialists
Enhance rankings for both Commerical and R&D
Output was fed back to R&D and Commercial so that they could refine their thinking, Talbot-Watt said. Then the ranking tool was updated to arrive at one agreed development plan and one agreed commercial forecast to send to senior management, she said.
A final road map for R&D was developed with a full work-up of R&D costs, she said. In addition, timelines and a PoS were generated and fed into portfolio evaluation for the whole project.
Talbot-Watt says the project was successful in:
Establishing a process and toolset for evaluating project potential in its entirety
Educating R&D and Commercial on balancing value creation with technical difficulty
Introducing robustness and quality using external focus (Medical Advisory Board)
Providing harmonized internal views for product development strategy.
Our hope was to develop a best practice for how to approach these kinds of decisions going forward, she said. And it definitely started both sides to help see the others issues, roadblocks and other concerns.
To learn more about projects like the one Talbot-Watt and her colleagues tackled, be sure to make plans to attend eyeforpharmas Forecasting Excellence Europe summit in Madrid, April 20-22. For more information or to register, visit http://www.eyeforpharma.com/forecasting09 
Author: Lisa Roner, editor, eyeforpharma