Can you briefly introduce yourself and your background in the life science industry?
Sure, I’d be happy to introduce myself! I’m a CCO at Flow Robotics and I joined the company in February 2023. I have a background of over 30 years in the life science sales industry, specifically working with scientific tools vendors since 2005. It’s truly a passion of mine to be involved in this field. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with companies like Mol Dev, Tecan, Opentrons, and now Flow Robotics, which have all been heavily involved in research with a crossover into clinical applications. My particular interest lies on the research side, as I find it incredibly fulfilling to be able to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the industry and make a meaningful difference.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the life science industry, and what changes do you foresee in the post-pandemic era?
It’s fascinating to see how people are constantly striving to do more with less these days. The desire to extract more information out of a single sample and combine different assays is really driving innovation in various fields. Also having a global view of what’s happening is becoming increasingly important.
The traditional methods are definitely being challenged by modern approaches that offer greater efficiency and accuracy. One exciting development that’s gaining traction is the concept of organ-on-chip technology. It’s predicted to be a game-changer because it allows researchers to simulate the behavior of organs on a microscale, providing more relevant data that can be easily accessed.
The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in highlighting the need for more tests and relevant data. The demand during that time was unprecedented. Although things have settled down now, the importance of testing and being proactive in preventing future pandemics and response issues remains relevant, especially with an aging population. Also there’s a growing focus on automating workflow processes to free up time for other essential tasks. It’s all about finding ways to optimize efficiency and make the most of available resources.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the life science industry, and what changes do you foresee in the post-pandemic era?
The industry went through a turbulent period, and during the time I was with Tecan and we noticed this. Early signs of change emerged from China, and there was a noticeable shift in customer behaviour. Governments began to emphasize automation requirements, transforming the market into a pull-based system. The prevailing behaviour was for customers to spread their risk across multiple players in the industry. This resulted in all companies experiencing growth, but it also impacted the supply chain as well, no one could make and distribute products quickly enough.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a significant drop-off in business, leading to a post-pandemic hangover effect. Suppliers had to adopt proactive methods to drive sales once again. The demand was still present, and it may have even surpassed pre-pandemic levels. However, many new companies had emerged during the pandemic, further intensifying competition.
In 2023, the industry entered a period of adjustment. In the first half of the year, there was some hesitancy and cautiousness among scientists and businesses. They started contemplating how to accomplish their work and achieve their goals while operating within spending limits. The focus shifted towards finding more efficient ways to get things done and prioritize essential tasks.
What innovative technologies or advancements do you believe will have the biggest impact on the life science field in the next few years?
NGS and single-cell analysis have made significant progress in genomics and clinical research. They have the potential to transform diagnostics and are being integrated into routine testing in some countries. These technologies enhance our understanding of diseases, identify genetic variations, and offer personalized treatment options. While traditional methods still have a role, NGS and single-cell analysis complement them, providing more information and improving accuracy. However, challenges remain in standardization, data interpretation, and cost-effectiveness but this is ever changing and improving.
Could you share some of your notable achievements or success stories in the industry?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments worldwide called upon various companies to assist in combating the crisis. In this particular case, Tecan, a company specializing in laboratory automation and liquid handling solutions, had a discussion with the UK Biocentre. It quickly became apparent that there was a significant number of samples that needed to be processed, and a solution had to be found to handle the increased workload.
Tecan stepped in and provided a considerable number of instruments to enhance the testing capacity in line with the ambitious expectations set by the government. Tecan worked closely with the UK Biocentre to determine the optimal workflows and strategies to scale up the processing of samples, allowing them to reach more individuals in accordance with the government’s targets.
The situation demanded quick reactions and creative problem-solving due to various supply chain restrictions. Tecan had to be selective in determining what they could provide while still meeting the increased demand. They played a behind-the-scenes role while politicians were presenting numbers and targets to the public, but their flexibility and collaboration were crucial in helping achieve those goals.
The demand during this time was unprecedented, but it was heartening to witness everyone involved rolling up their sleeves and taking on extra responsibilities to address the crisis. The collaborative effort between Tecan, the UK Biocentre, and other entities involved was commendable, and their dedication played a vital role in supporting the government’s testing targets and mitigating the effects of the pandemic.
What advice would you give to young professionals aspiring to enter the commercial life science industry?
Sales in the life science industry can indeed be exciting and fulfilling. Being involved in the process of making a difference in people’s lives and contributing to advancements in human health is a rewarding experience. When you witness significant breakthroughs and see the positive impact of the products you sell, it can be incredibly gratifying to know that you played a part in that success.
Success in sales within the life science field often requires confidence in engaging with people and building relationships. Meeting with scientists, researchers, and professionals in the industry allows you to understand their specific needs and provide tailored solutions. By actively networking and establishing connections, you can expand your reach and contribute to the growth and success of your business.
Overall, sales in the life science industry can be both personally fulfilling and financially rewarding. The opportunity to make a positive impact on human health and witness breakthroughs in medical research makes it an exciting and dynamic field to be a part of.
How do you think artificial intelligence and machine learning will revolutionize the field of life sciences?
That’s a big one, I don’t have a detailed view yet, I am biding my time. In the automation space AI will be able to help shape workflows and help tell scientist how they should go about research. Will be used globally to see what other teams are doing and will bridge with extra data. It will likely help enrich data sharing.
What role do you see data analytics playing in shaping the future of the life science industry?
This is key, I mentioned at the start people are focused on getting more from their data, being able to store and interpret it is very important. I have done projects with up to 92TB of data and this goes in no time. Being able to look at multiple parameters is key. This is where analytics is key, lots of need for bioinformaticians these days. A challenge is bringing all of the data together and having an overarching software that can process data. This will be a big breakthrough.
How do you develop and execute effective commercial strategies to drive revenue growth in a highly competitive market?
It’s a team game, got to look at where you are and where you want to be. You need to plot your journey to do this. From mol dev days I utilised the DBS (Danaher Business System) system, this helped my problem solving skills, defining the journey, mapping the journey and spotting the biggest roadblocks and using the problem solving system to solves this. It provides a systematic approach to identify and address roadblocks or challenges along the way. Whether you encounter simple or complex issues, the problem-solving system can be applied effectively to find solutions. Furthermore, teamwork and cohesion are crucial aspects of any journey. Collaboration and effective communication within the team are key to overcoming obstacles and achieving collective goals. By working together, team members can leverage their strengths, share knowledge, and support each other to drive success.
Additionally, adaptability is essential. The ability to adjust and respond to changing circumstances is vital in a dynamic environment. Being adaptable allows the team to navigate unexpected challenges, seize opportunities, and stay on track towards the desired destination.
In your experience, what are some successful tactics for effectively launching and promoting new products in the life science market?
In my experience, launching and promoting new products in the life science market requires a multi-faceted approach that involves various tactics. One successful tactic is to work closely with the marketing team and utilize multiple channels to reach a wider audience. This can include digital marketing, social media campaigns, email marketing, and targeted advertising.
Engaging Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) is another effective tactic. These industry experts have influence and credibility within the life science field, so involving them in the product launch can help generate interest and trust among potential customers. Collaborating with KOLs can involve inviting them to product demonstrations, obtaining endorsements or testimonials, or even co-creating content related to the product.
I was part of the process for launching a High Content Confocal System. Around 18 months before the launch, my team and I sat down to prepare for the upcoming launch. We discussed who we wanted to target and what the ideal customer would look like. It was crucial for us to build a customer profile that would help us identify and reach our target audience effectively.
By taking the time to understand our customers and create a detailed customer profile, we gained valuable insights into their needs, preferences, and characteristics. This information was instrumental in shaping our marketing strategies and product messaging. We were able to align our product features and benefits with what our target customers were looking for, ensuring that our offering would resonate with them.
When the product finally launched, we were able to hit the ground running. Thanks to our thorough preparation and customer profiling, we knew exactly who our target customers were and how to reach them. We could focus our efforts and resources on engaging with the right audience, maximizing our chances of success.
How important is collaboration and partnerships in the life science space, and how do you approach building and maintaining such relationships?
Collaboration and partnerships are increasingly important in the life science space, as no single company can fulfill all the needs of customers in today’s complex landscape. The post-COVID era has seen a rise in companies working together and being more open to collaborations. This trend is driven by the recognition that multiple partners can provide a broader range of expertise and resources, reducing risk for customers.
Building and maintaining successful relationships in the life science industry requires a clear understanding of objectives. It is crucial to communicate goals effectively to potential partners, ensuring a shared vision and alignment of efforts. Finding partners with complementary capabilities is essential, as this allows for the combination of expertise and resources necessary to deliver comprehensive solutions.
To maintain strong relationships, regular communication and active engagement are key. Open and transparent discussions, knowledge sharing, and seeking feedback from partners are important elements of relationship maintenance. By nurturing these connections, trust can be built, fostering innovation and driving meaningful outcomes for all involved parties.
How do you stay updated with the latest advancements, research, and discoveries in the field?
To stay updated on the latest advancements, research, and discoveries in our field, I ensure to subscribe to a variety of reputable sources such as Fierce Biotech, as well as other comparable platforms like GEN (Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) and BioSpace. Within our team, we prioritize sharing information, leading to frequent email exchanges highlighting recent breakthroughs. During our sales meetings, we also engage in discussions about noteworthy developments. Given the sheer volume of available information, it’s crucial to sift through and focus on what’s most pertinent to our industry. Additionally, I leverage social media, especially platforms like LinkedIn, where I often come across valuable insights that directly impact our work.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs or startups looking to make a breakthrough in the life science industry?
Just go for it. There are so many companies that fail but you if you never try you wont fail or succeed. Be brave and take the step, at least you had a go. If you are confident in your tech then make it happen. There is so much help out there but you have to take the plunge yourself first.
As a senior leader, what leadership qualities do you believe are crucial for success in the life science industry?
As a senior leader, I believe that certain leadership qualities are absolutely essential for success in the life science industry. One of the most significant aspects is the ability to foster a sense of followership by actively sharing information. It’s crucial to be transparent and clear in communication, ensuring that everyone understands the company’s mission and vision. While many leaders focus on the ‘what’ and ‘how,’ I place great importance on emphasizing the ‘why’. This encompasses the emotional aspect that drives individuals to do what they do. This deeper understanding of purpose is key in motivating and aligning the team towards achieving our goals.
To end on a lighter note, what is your signature dish?
Roast dinner – Yorkshire Puddings and all trimmings beef, pink in the middle
What is the best place you have ever visited?
New Zealand, south island, amazing, took my breath away.
Finally, who would be your 3 dream dinner party guests (dead or alive).
Edmond Hilary, Bear Grylls, Ranulph Feinnes – love adventuring.
Interview by Oliver Chalkley, Director
Connect with Oliver on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/oliver-chalkley-kapia-scientific-medtech-talent-commercial-solutions/
Follow Kapia on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/kapia-io
Kapia is a boutique organization established just under three years ago with a mission to revolutionize the perception of recruitment. Focusing solely on the scientific and medical technology sectors, Kapia prides itself on a continuous learning and improvement methodology, providing clients with the highest level of service. Employing techniques derived from Miller Heiman Blue and Green sheets, each project is meticulously analyzed and tailored to align with the client’s goals. Kapia distinguishes itself not by being superior, but by being different, with the ultimate aim of contributing to the success of its clients.
To offer companies the opportunity to partner with a recruitment consultancy that places emphasis on the ‘consultancy’ aspect. Kapia is committed to transforming the recruitment landscape and is determined to prove itself right.