Setting up a European medical infrastructure for a US biotech preparing for commercialisation is possibly one of the most exciting challenges that one can find in Medical Affairs. We recently interviewed the Vice President of a successful US biotech company in the orphan drug area, who set up a European medical infrastructure in readiness for the launch of a high-profile drug. We asked him what worked and didn’t work.
How they did it:
The company set up their infrastructure in ‘waves’, starting with the big five markets and following with clusters like the Nordic regions. They started in Germany, which was their key market and the quickest to access and resolve pricing and reimbursement issues.
At the affiliate level, they recruited their core team at the start, consisting of a General Manager, Medical Director and Market Access Director. They simultaneously built the EMEA regional team based in Switzerland, using the same supplier to source across each individual function to ensure consistency in cultural fit and that all candidates went through the same benchmarking and assessment process.
Next, the company moved on to recruiting for the key pillars of Safety and Medical Information. They found that recruiting physicians took around 6-9 months, depending on the country; it took the longest time to recruit in Germany, due to the lengthy notice periods.
One of the key tips the Vice President had for companies going through the same exercise is to ensure that candidates have small company experience or the cultural fit will never be right. They also found that providing an elevated title helped attract the right calibre of candidate, for example calling a position ‘VP of Medical Affairs’ rather than ‘Medical Director’.
What’s your experience of moving into a new market? Do you have any advice to share on what worked and didn’t work?