Last week’s Spotlight feel on ex-KCL post-doc Muneer Ahmad, now a senior strategist at Lifescience Dynamics. He gave a very detailed insight into his work and that of life science consultancies generally.
How did he get into consulting?
Whilst doing his PhD (at Imperial), Muneer ‘bumped into’ someone who was VP of a consulting company, at a conference. This led to him doing some work editing business intelligence reports about drugs and possible markets. He examined questions such as how did patients with cardio-vascular disease get diagnosed, how did they get treate, how patients complied or not with their medicine; all information that would help figure out how a market would develop.
He then worked for Oliver Wyman as a risk consultant, and then, on redundancy, took a role looking at prescription data with another firm. All this experience served to make him an attractive candidate at Lifescience Dynamics.
What are the similarities and differences between business and science?
Both are about solving problems. Both want to know a ‘truth’. But business does not have the luxury of time; so you are looking to get the best answer within a given time, efficiently and effectively. In both, you have to be a team-worker. In business you are having to use your judgement more often, given that often you are not working with complete data.
What does Lifescience Dynamics do?
Active in over 80 countries, they have worked with the top 20 pharma companies on over 400 projects. There are three main themes to their work:
1) Competitor Intelligence. Looking at pricing, understanding the pipeline, conducting interviews with contacts, finding out what stage clinical trials are at. You might conduct ‘war games’ for a client, where you simulate what would happen if a competitor released a drug on the market and you would ‘develop a playbook’ of possible outcomes.
2) Market Research. You are now not just ‘dumping data’ on the clients but also having to provide interpretation: answering ‘so what?’ for the clients.
3) Market Access: covering pricing and reimbursement. It used to be that decisions about what drug to prescribe were made by GPs; now more often these decisions are made at PCT/SHA level to give a formulary to their GPs. You can say the market has gone from being prescriber-led to payer-led.
What is an analyst’s typical day like?
One project might need two or three analysts, one senior consultant and one project manager. Imagine you had been given the task of writing a two page document on rheumatoid arthritis. You would spend the day researching data, possibly creating a survey questionnaire, possibly talking to PIs working in the field. You might be taken to client meetings where you would have to be sensitive to cultural differences (you may have been asked to research across 5-8 countries). ‘Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.’ is the consultant’s mantra!
Many of his colleagues have scientific and PhD backgrounds. You are always likely to start at the bottom (think of working as a freelance in disease information). Your bosses may be younger than you. But ‘clients love PhDs’!