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Thoughts On the Future of Life Sciences, Culled From a Decade In the Industry

Thoughts On the Future of Life Sciences, Culled From a Decade In the Industry

The life sciences industry operates at the forefront of human wellness, the fight against disease, and the development of new cures and treatments. Future State CEO Shannon Adkins has worked with global leaders in this cutting-edge industry for more than ten years.

What do you see the most forward-thinking life sciences companies focused on now?

Leading life sciences companies are striving to become better collaborators outside of their organizations. We are thrilled to work with a number of life sciences organizations that are aggressively partnering to drive new breakthroughs  —  yes, with other life sciences companies, but also with technology companies and services partners.

We envision a future that supports preventative breakthroughs through collaborations that allow us to bring scientific and genetic insights to the world of wellness, empowering health-care providers (conventional and nonconventional) to work alongside patients, drug and device developers, technology innovators, and environmental and social scientists to prevent disease and improve quality of life for all humans.

[Related: Confessions of a Purpose-Driven Company: What I Learned When I Tried to Save the World]

What changes or strategies are needed to enable these breakthroughs?

These kinds of transformative breakthroughs will require new business models, new incentives, new ideas, [and] new partnerships. We need to re-envision the problem statement  —  from "cure disease" to "prevent disease and enhance wellness." We need to tell new stories, build new connections, and break the financial and systemic models that get in the way. This means, from top to bottom, organizations prioritize people and purpose, in addition to profits.

This also benefits organizations in the race to attract and retain the most brilliantly talented people in the world. Life sciences is highly competitive, and the war for talent is the number-one challenge that all of our clients face. The leading talent in this industry is there to make a difference: They want to see and feel the impact they’re making every day, and to participate fully as empowered and engaged stakeholders in the decisions, priorities, and strategies of their organizations. What you do, why it matters, and how it connects to individuals on a personal level matters greatly.

[Related: Feminine Leadership + Why Leading With Purpose May Change the Future of Business]

What do you see as the biggest challenge and opportunity in life sciences now?

Data. This is the big challenge and opportunity for any life sciences company  —  data standards, insights, sharing, and connecting the dots across the ecosystem to drive better outcomes for patients. Data mining for patient solutions can only happen when data sharing, data quality, and data standards are in good shape.

The challenge is to build systems that enable those within the organization to look across functions, share data, and automate non-value-add activities. This means setting a smart, comprehensive strategy and staying with it for the long haul. For most executives, it’s a challenge to stay excited about data governance and standards, but it is essential and enables organizations to generate more insights on behalf of patients.

What can biotech companies do to future-proof themselves, especially given uncertainty in policy, regulations, and funding?

Biotech companies need to treat their data  —  data about their molecules, products, patients, studies, and portfolio  — as a most-valuable asset, second only to their employees. They need to balance the need for regulatory compliance (and the complexity that comes with it) and the imperative to remain innovative, agile, and competitive. Ideally, the methods developed to standardize and improve data quality and gain valuable insights also help them more easily meet new regulatory demands surfacing from health authorities around the globe. A powerful benefit of doing this work is that employees can then focus more on the work that matters, rather than chasing data points for reports or submissions, or replicating data across the organization.

[Related: The New Girl Scout Badges for STEM: Forming the Leaders of the Future]


Shannon Adkins is the CEO of Future State, a people-centered, purpose-driven management consultant firm in Oakland, California.

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