How can biosimilar companies attract the right talent?

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/dimitriotis
Pic:getty/dimitriotis

Related tags: Biosimilars, Talent

Recruiting and nurturing talent will be incredibly important in the biosimilar industry as it continues its rapid evolution, according to RSA Talent Equity.

“However businesses choose to develop, manufacture or sell their products, one thing is certain: developers will need a core team of highly experienced and educated talent to ensure market growth and create the leaders of tomorrow.”

In its Biosimilars Report 2022, the global life sciences executive search firm notes the growth and potential of the biosimilars industry, making it an attractive area for companies to move into. But new entrants are unlikely to have the specific highly-skilled talent in-house. So how can companies attract the right people?

Self-propelling expansion

The biosimilars market reached $13bn in 2021 and is expected to reach $60.8bn by 2027 with an impressive 26.1% CAGR from 2022 to 2027, according to estimates from IMARC Group.

Biosimilars – which are highly similar to the originator biologic with no clinically meaningful differences – find their market in offering reduced cost versions thanks to innovation and manufacturing efficiencies.

“At the time of print, there were 34 biosimilars approved for use in the US and 70 approved for the European markets," ​notes the report.

"This number is rapidly expanding and there are dozens of biosimilars progressing through regulatory pipelines. With regional markets focusing on the price benefits offered by biologics, regulatory authorities are working to shorten the process and therefore the costs associated with approval; the FDA launched its Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) in 2010 for this very purpose.

“Through cost reductions, biosimilars will give more patients access to lifesaving treatments. This should help to grow interest and investment in the market, helping to achieve further cost reductions and increase the reach still further. In an ageing population with increased occurrences of chronic diseases, this expansion is self-propelling.”

Setting up the right team

But while the biosimilar industry may be an attractive one, organisations need cohesive teams of experts across all channels, from R&D innovators to regulatory experts, sales teams and key opinion leaders. The good news is that talent is available: the challenge is setting up the right team.  

“Companies moving into the biosimilar space are unlikely to have all talent in-house, but thanks to originator companies, this talent pool does exist,”​ notes the report. “The job of the biosimilar developer is to encourage this talent to find a home with them.

“To protect margins and costs, and to prevent penalties through late tender delivery, many organisations are choosing to bring all functions of biosimilar development, manufacturing, and commercialisation in house. These huge, vertically integrated businesses take control of every element of a biosimilar’s lifecycle, and that means having the talent and leaders in every sector.”

One particularly important sector is R&D: with the technical barrier for biosimilar development and production set high due to the complexity of the process.

“There is no recipe for biosimilar production. The molecule needs to be reinvented from scratch, cheaper but with additional benefits, and this requires high levels of expertise as well as the freedom for scientists to innovate. As more complex originators come out of patent, biotechnologists, molecular biogeneticists, and genome sequencers will become the stars of the R&D process. Digitally native scientists with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) techniques and biotech 4.0 will also be critical in enabling organisations to be the first to file.

“The skills and competencies needed for biosimilar R&D are complex, and recruiting partners need to have an indepth knowledge of the industry and its requirements to recruit specific skills. This talent pool is small and finite, but many academic and biotech incubators are harvesting these skills. Strong talent acquisition in these areas will be important. Originators will continue to be fertile ground for recruitment, and biosimilar organisations will need to have strong strategies for attracting and retaining talent from these large and successful organisations, particularly if they need to import that talent.”

International focus

The nature of attracting specific expertise means companies must consider their recruitment model carefully. It could focus on casting the net wide and attracting employees from an international base – or it could mean going out to the talent and setting up affiliates in talent hot spots for particular areas such as R&D.

“Regional skews are common in this industry,"​ notes the report. "Certain talent in regulatory, commercial and R&D roles seem to congregate around the strong biosimilar sales markets and those regions that have supported biosimilar development – such as Europe and the US.”

The right culture

But it’s not just about attracting talent. The biosimilars industry requires a ‘fail fast, recover fast’ model, with people free to innovate without fear of failure.

“Leaders and wider teams need to know that they can take calculated risks without the blame that might follow a failure. This attitude requires highly creative, educated, experienced and driven people at the top tiers of leadership. Not all biosimilars will make it to launch, but a strong and diverse pipeline with a nurturing, innovation focused culture will lead to growth.

“Once you have established expertise through the right leaders, talent development is key. Many organisations are now training the next generation of leaders, home-growing talent to establish and maintain their defining principles.

"And organisations shouldn’t forget their other goals while focusing on the specific needs of the biosimilar market – diversity, inclusion, fair remuneration and working conditions are all important when attracting and retaining talent. Many staff now expect flexible working conditions, including home working and adjusted working hours. These benefits can be extremely valuable tools when recruiting talent out of region. Each organisation will have very specific needs when it comes to talent recruitment, depending on its markets, products, and current in-house capabilities.”

And finally, reminding people of the goal of their work will help create the right atmosphere.

“People work for money, but they stay for a purpose. The biosimilar industry is dynamic but it has a strong foundational purpose: to bring life-saving treatments to more patients at lower costs through the power of living organisms. Organisations that imbibe this principle and centre their culture around doing good through innovation will surely nurture and retain talent.”

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