Ensure Diverse Internal Capabilities in a Personalized Medicine Pharma Company (Personalized Medicine: What Pharma Should Do to Get Ready) - Diaceutics

Ensure Diverse Internal Capabilities in a Personalized Medicine Pharma Company (Personalized Medicine: What Pharma Should Do to Get Ready)

November 9th, 2015

Tessa Sandberg

In Part 8 of the series, ‘Personalized Medicine: What Pharma Should Do to Get Ready’, Tessa Sandberg of Diaceutics discusses how the internal capabilities of a pharmaceutical company, like that of a successful soccer team, are essential to a well-designed organization.

When you are watching a soccer game at the European Championships or the Women’s World Cup, there are often one or two players who immediately catch your eye as they play amazingly well. These players seem to be individually responsible for the final score and the victory. However, team sports – and the clue is in the name – are all about the team performance and every player plays a part in its success. In fact all the players have skills and contribute to the team with their specific expertise, for instance, as the striker or goalkeeper. If ever one of the eleven players is weaker or even has to leave the pitch, let’s say it is the defender, then the team will find it harder to win the game even though the strikers are still scoring goals. Isn’t it really straightforward?

Being part of a company is like playing a team sport, where every member or player is necessary and contributes his specific skills and expertise. Over the years, employees of pharma companies have acquired significant expertise in drug development and commercialization. Today, pharma invests in personalized medicine, an area where diagnostic tests play an important role. To play this personalized medicine game, pharma should invest in the diagnostic expertise of the company by building internal capabilities in the field. How can pharma buy its own version of Manual Neuer in goal, or the Robin van Persie of diagnostics to keep scoring goals, or an equivalent of the three times Olympic women’s soccer gold medallist, Christie Rampone? To address the challenges of building internal capabilities, Diaceutics has identified the following three best practices to help you win in the arena of personalized medicine.

  1. Ensure the team has diagnostics commercialization experience
    Whilst pharma has a track record of hiring people with diagnostic development skills, often diagnostic commercial skills are neglected or are assumed to be provided by the diagnostic partner. To ensure a team has relevant diagnostic commercialization experience, pharma can either recruit people with relevant experience or educate internal teams across functions. Some pharma companies go one step further and become experts in diagnostics, such as Roche, which has developed its own in-house diagnostic division. This topic is discussed in more detail in Drug/Diagnostics Partnering Deals Flow: A Changing Landscape [i].
  1. Executives with integrated drug and diagnostics commercial skills
    In the personalized medicine space, the ideal commercial leader needs to have had both pharma and diagnostic commercialization experience. Excellence in personalized medicine is about the integration of commercial plans, not about running diagnostic and therapy commercialization in parallel (Figure 1). For instance, medical sales representatives are having to educate physicians about the therapy as well as the test, a type of integrated approach that represents a shift in planning, productivity and communication[ii].
  1. Skills to measure diagnostics
    Today’s soccer coaches measure everything from fitness and performance to team formations. They measure to enable continuous live adjustments to the game as it happens. Pharma is familiar with the measurements associated with therapy commercialization and organizational investment. This same discipline needs to be part of personalized medicine teams as joint drug and diagnostic commercial teams. Here are a few examples where skills to measure the diagnostic metrics are required to underpin the therapy metrics:
  • Labmapping[iii] to measure which labs serve which physicians for which test
  • ‘Propensity to Prescribe’, which measures the number of positive tests that convert into treatment decisions
  • Return on investment of different tactics to drive test adoption.

In summary, pharma companies need to develop the right internal capabilities, using the most valuable resources—people—to work on both the drug and the diagnostic development and commercialization processes. However, not all expertise needs to be in-house and pharma companies are encouraged to partner in order to fill in the gaps. Partnering with a technology company to develop an assay or leveraging another company’s expertise in measuring the laboratory and testing landscape could build strength across the organization.

In 2015, New York honored the US Women’s National Soccer Team’s victory at the 2015 World Cup with a ticker tape parade. Fans lined the Manhattan streets to show their appreciation for the players. The final against Japan was a masterful display of a team at the top of its game. Personalized medicine commercial teams of today (the joint drug and diagnostic commercial teams) are, for the most part, still on a learning curve but the skills required to deliver superior return on personalized medicine investments are no longer a mystery. Which company will get on top of its game and win the next gold medal?


Figure 1. Personalized medicine teams from a pharma company need to ensure they have integrated drug and diagnostic commercialization skills across all levels of an organization.

[i] Drug/Diagnostics Partnering Deals Flow: A Changing Landscape

[ii] Physicians’ Lag in Understanding of Personalized Medicine is Pharma’s Opportunity

[iii] Diagnostic Landscape



View all blogs

Webinars & Podcasts

August 20th, 2019
Podcast: How Diaceutics is repairing the diagnostic testing ecoystem for patients worldwide
Diaceutics CEO, Peter Keeling joins Pat Kenny on Newstalk FM to discuss how analyzing Big Data to implement better diagnostic testing can help patients access better treatment options for cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
July 5th, 2019
Liquid Biopsy in NSCLC
View all

Expert Insights

April 19th, 2018
The CMS National Coverage Decision on NGS
I. Introduction On March 16, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a National Coverage Determination (NCD) that cove...
January 19th, 2018
What does the EU IVD Regulation mean for companion diagnostics and LDTs?
Dave Smart, PhD, Director at Diaceutics, discusses the introduction of the EU IVD Regulation. While it is considered a necessary step, the Regulati...
View all expert insights

Competitive Benchmarking Reports

October 21st, 2019
Pharma Precision Medicine Readiness Report 2019
March 16th, 2018
PM Readiness Report 2018 Summary
View all reports

Case Studies

View all case studies


June 25th, 2019
FLT3 testing in relapsed Acute Myeloid Leukemia setting is becoming increasingly common, but laboratory turnaround times (TAT) may be a barrier to treatment with second generation FLT3 inhibitors
The treatment landscape in AML has developed at an astonishing pace in the last 3 years, with 5 therapies being approved by the FDA. FLT3 inhibitors gilteritinib (Gil) and quizartinib (Quiz) present an unprecedented opportunity for improved surviv...
May 23rd, 2019
Diaceutics reviews the ongoing debate on diagnostics reform legislation
Thought leaders at Diaceutics recently authored a peer-reviewed article that covers the ongoing national debate over diagnostics reform legislation in the United States. The article is now available online ahead of print in the Journal of Molecula...
View all publications