The reality of becoming a Chief Medical Officer

The role of the Chief Medical Officer could be one of the most misunderstood roles in industry.
Many of the aspiring medics I talk to assume that a CMO’s role consists entirely of devising high-level strategy from a corner office with a view and travelling first class to meet key opinion leaders around the world. The reality is very different.

An illustrious CMO from one of Europe’s most exciting biotech companies mentioned to me that for every day spent meeting with investigators and opinion leaders, there are another fifty spent doing menial hands-on development work. For some physicians moving into a CMO role, it can come as a surprise to be carrying our work they used to do 5-10 years ago in a traditional big pharma. For example, it is not uncommon for a CMO to act as medical monitor on a lead study.

Depending on the company, the role of the CMOs can include contact with investors (a role in raising funds) as well as heavy dose of PR and communicating medical messages to a non-scientific audiences.

It is clear that there is no uniform job description for a Chief Medical Officer, but there are normally two truisms. More often than not the primary focus of the role is to provide leadership and direction for the company’s clinical development programmes. The level of personal involvement in the running of the trial depends on the size of the company but most organisation would want to leverage a physician’s strategic development experience.

Secondly, the vast majority of CMO roles involve the leadership of teams either in a direct line or matrix environment. Therefore the employer would want to see clear experience of leading or building small teams.

So when considering your next move or searching for the identity of your next Chief Medical Officer, it’s worth making sure you know exactly what you’re in for. If you’d like to have an informal chat to discuss your options, why not get in touch on +44(0)207 993 2498 or