MedImmune was established in 1987 and is one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies working in the areas of infectious diseases, cancer and inflammatory diseases. The organization owes its expansion to both organic growth and key acquisitions of U.S. Bioscience in 1999 and Aviron in 2002, as well as the integration with Cambridge Antibody Technology in the U.K. and the strategic alignment with its parent company, AstraZeneca, in 2007. Its rapid expansion is also attributable to the activities of its business development department, responsible for actions such as strategic inlicensing, and to the launch of MedImmune Ventures Inc., a wholly owned capital venture fund. Biologics are derived from human or animal proteins, instead of being synthesized using chemical reactions as with most pharmaceuticals. They are extremely complex medications to produce and require numerous years of R&D before approved for patient use, yet offer tremendous promise for future treatment and prevention of illness.
Below, Stephanie Duatschek, vice president of commercial operations, provides the Growth Strategy Company with insights into MedImmune’s rapid growth.
The Growth Strategy Company: How has MedImmune’s growth strategy changed over its 25 years?
Stephanie Duatschek: Early in our organization’s history, we were mostly centered on product. Growth focused on building our pharmaceutical assets, putting efforts into R&D to ensure a pipeline to clinical trials and product introduction for patients. We quickly established ourselves as an innovator and leader in the field of biotechnology. Over the past three years, not only have we revolutionized our technology, but also we now have the mission of introducing a new drug every year for five years beginning in 2016. The FDA recently approved our newest product for infectious diseases. This entrepreneurial spirit was not a new direction for our company: Our growth continues to come from innovative science and being leaner with a more simplified organizational structure. We always look for more innovative ways to help our customers.
TGSCo: What was the impetus of getting the products more quickly into the marketplace?
SD: The healthcare industry is changing rapidly, and there are greater competitive pressures with a global economy. In addition, we have become much more customer-centric, paying closer attention to understanding the patients’ needs. We direct our efforts to providing the right patients with the right products.
TGSCo: The Company has also undergone a great deal of change with its partnerships…
SD: Yes, over the years, we recognized partnerships as a successful way to fill in the gaps and quickly gain positive value and return. Both our partners and our company have a vested interest in the organization’s continued success.
TGSCo: Has MedImmune’s growth altered its organizational structure over the years?
SD: There’s always concern about the problems of growing a smaller company into a larger organization. There is skepticism about big companies and how to maintain the entrepreneurial culture. We’ve been deliberate about maintaining an entrepreneurial culture and remaining as successful as possible while being a wholly owned entity of a larger organization. We have shifted most around the large company process. The company had to grow up quite a bit in terms of the back office activity. One of the risks is that large companies typically have larger infrastructures. They sometimes have three people for every job, whereas a smaller company has one person for three jobs. If you are going to try and force the small company to act like a large one, you will crush it. It just doesn’t have the capacity: It can’t focus that way. As a management team, we were really conscious of the impact these changes would have on the broader culture, and we were clear about the boundaries. We separated out those things where decisions would affect both companies from those that only impacted a specific department or business. For example, investment decisions in the portfolio have an impact across the entire entity versus science in the lab or decisions for the commercial organization regarding a franchise. That was a lot of up front work, but it has really paid off, because we could preserve a lot of the organization’s spirit.
TGSCo: How did the employees handle the changes in the organization?
SD: All along, we have had strong employee engagement despite the changes. Employees have been part of determining key strategy. Our emphasis is on flexibility and handling priorities for change. Our employee engagement surveys, with a rating of 90s out of 100, show that we keep our spirit. When we were acquired, there were a lot of changes, internal ones that we could control and external environmental pressures that were beyond our control. All along, the employees remained highly engaged in support of the long-term strategy.
TGSCo: How is your division, in particular, directing its efforts during the past several years to support the company’s growth targets?
SD: I have set what I call “key imperatives”. Sixty percent of the workload from our organization this year is around capability building. We’ve taken a look at what we’ve done and identified what five imperatives have to be accomplished to ensure continued success. If we get into a position that we do not have enough people or money and cannot execute level is to continue to evolve the commercial excellence. This has components concerned with innovation platform, preparing the company for new launches, and raising the game around technology enablement. Another important priority has to do with our people. It’s as simple as ensuring that every employee has a development plan and understands what they are each accountable for.
TGSCo: What suggestions do you have for other companies that are facing the same growth concerns you have had over the past several years?
SD: First, companies must understand that such changes will take a new way of thinking and leading, and that is not always the comfortable thing to do. Second, the organization has to clearly define what it means by growth. That word can have many different meanings depending on the company. In some cases it can be to become leaner and more simplified, or in other cases it perhaps means establishing a different sales model with less sales people but different channels, social media for example. And third, importantly, everyone in the organization needs to be committed to the growth objectives. Once management has locked into a decision, employees need to see the commitment in the behaviors of the management team. Otherwise, all credibility is lost. Change is the new normal, and if a company can’t face what this means to them, then they should get out of the game.
image credit: medimmune.com
Wayne Simmons is an accomplished executive, innovator, value creator, and entrepreneur and co-author of GrowthThinking: Building the New Growth Enterprise. As CEO and Co-Founder of The Growth Strategy Company, Wayne leads the vision, strategy and growth of the company. He has worked for global advisory firms Ernst & Young, Deloitte Consulting, and has been a trusted advisor to C-level executives at Fortune 500 corporations, venture capital firms, and small and midsized companies. Wayne was trained in airborne reconnaissance for US Army Intelligence; and is an alumnus and Fellow of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Keary Crawford is a results-driven executive leader with extensive experience in operations, M&A and finance for start-up, entrepreneurial and middle-market companies. As co-founder and COO of The Growth Strategy Company, she manages the strategic growth and vision, and day-to-day operations; and is co-author of GrowthThinking: Building the New Growth Enterprise. Keary was trained in Behavioral and Social Sciences and is a Fellow and alumna of the Executive Development Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.