CEO-as-a-Service boosts biotech startups

In addressing leadership shortages in biotech, entrepreneurial talent is needed.

The shortage of experienced leadership is a significant barrier to growth and innovation, and CEO-as-a-Service could revolutionise how the biotech industry navigates their development and commercialization challenges.

Quintus Lim, Milken Institute's Associate Director of Policy and Programs, said that the CEO-as-a-Service is designed to supply biotech startups with top-tier executive talent on demand, addressing a crucial need for seasoned leadership without the long-term commitment of a traditional CEO role.

"Scientists might not always grasp the market's demands, making it vital to have an experienced CEO to steer the company," Lim explained. This service aims to provide a 'plug and play' leadership solution, allowing startups to leverage the expertise of industry veterans precisely when needed.

The discussion also touched on the importance of entrepreneurial talent in the biotech sector. Lim pointed out the disparity in employment patterns of biomedical PhDs between the US and Singapore, indicating a broader need for entrepreneurial skills across the industry.

"It's not just about having a PhD or street smarts," Lim stated, emphasising the necessity of understanding the final market, including regulatory and reimbursement pathways, for the success of biotech ventures.

Entrepreneurial talent, according to Lim, often needs to be sourced externally, especially in markets like Singapore, where the local talent pool may lack direct exposure to the nuances of the US healthcare system. This underscores the importance of attracting talent from target markets and providing local entrepreneurs with the opportunity to gain experience and understanding of business development in relevant markets.

To bridge the gap between scientific research and commercial viability in biotech, Lim suggested convening dialogues among stakeholders from various sectors. These discussions, often held off the record at global conferences or summits, facilitate the exchange of ideas and identification of potential solutions and financing avenues. 

Moreover, Lim highlighted the work of the Milken Institute in advisory and R&D governance, citing examples like ARPA-H in the US, which adopts a novel approach to research organisation, emphasising a hierarchically flat and politically autonomous structure that deviates from traditional peer review models.

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