Q&A with RCP’s Christina Ansted Discussing Commercialization for Biotech Companies
SM: Hi, I’m Sara Michelmore, Managing Director Investor Relations at MacDougall Advisors. I’m here today with Christina Ansted, co-founder and CEO of RCP, to talk about how biotech companies can best prepare to navigate the path from clinical development to commercialization. Christina, thanks for joining us. Why don’t you give us a quick introduction?
CA: Fantastic. Thank you. I’m really excited to be here. So as Sara mentioned, I’m co-founder and CEO of RCP. I’ve spent the better part of my career in biotech, always on the commercial side, and have experience in medical affairs as well. And prior to biotech, I spent a lot of time in medical, communications and the CME space.
SM: Great. Well, one of the reasons I invited you to talk with us today is I spend a lot of time with investors. And investors right now are very focused on risk mitigation and or risk reduction for the companies that they currently invest in or considering making investment in. One of the most challenging and riskiest things a company can do is transition from a solely clinical developed stage company to a commercial one. And I wanted to ask you a few questions about how companies can best prepare for this transition and reduce risk for investors while optimizing success. So, I guess we’ll start off with, can you tell me when a biotech company should begin thinking about their commercialization process?
CA: Yes. So, I love that question. Probably one of my favorite topics, and it’s what we are dedicated to doing at RCP. So RCP is short for Rapid Commercialization Partners, and that’s what we’re focused on – optimizing the commercial journey for clinical stage biotech companies. When you’re talking to investors or seeking investment, it’s important that you have those. What we call commercial fundamentals are understood and done well, and that’s going to really speak to your ability to gain investment, improve your valuation, whether your ultimate end goal is to bring your product all the way through to launch, or it’s really guided by acquisition, those fundamentals remain the same. And the better you understand your market, you understand where your product is going to be positioned, the unmet need that you’re fulfilling your path to reimbursement your regulatory strategy, etc. These are all de-risking events and efforts that really help investors to feel confident about what they’re investing in and why and what that exit is going to look like.
SM: So, one of the challenges I see for biotech companies right now is the funding environment. And many companies are really watching every dollar and focused on capital preservation. Knowing that there’s a benefit to starting this commercial planning process early, can you talk about much either in terms of dollars or resources or what’s required at clinical development stages for companies to do this?
CA: It’s a great and a very important question because I think one of the things that strikes me in commercialization is that we’re trying to commercialize, and yet the concept of commercial preparation readiness is often put off or delayed. It’s often put out until about Phase II or later yet, there are things that you can and should be doing earlier. And it doesn’t require investment in a full-blown commercial team or getting top heavy with a full C-suite. There are ways to do this very effectively through outsourcing, through companies like RCP that operate as integrated and fractional members of the team, providing expertise where needed across different commercial disciplines. It can be very effective. Ideally, we’d like to see companies preparing a minimum of 24 to 36 months out from launch. I’ve seen it done in less time, 18 to 24. But when you prepare earlier, there are a lot of decisions that have a significant impact on your commercial outcomes that can be mitigated, I think, and provided with the proper evidence-based insights that can guide those outcomes. And you can do this with a smaller team. You don’t need, like I said, a full team of FTEs. You can do it thoughtfully and grow your team as needed so that when you’re closer to launch, you can start building your full commercial team.
SM: Back to risk. Christina, what are the biggest pitfalls or areas of highest risk that you see when companies start this process later than you suggest or under invest in this pre planning for their commercial launches?
CA: I think the biggest thing is an underappreciation for the complexity of what commercialization really means. That it’s not just commercial and branding and marketing. Commercialization involves medical affairs and regulatory and clinical development and patient and market access. And these components must move together in unison and individually. They’re all complex. Each of them has subcomponents that are equally as complicated. And you have to be able to have somebody who’s looking across the ecosystem, understanding how these pieces work together and how they’re going to move forward. You can’t have just, let’s say, a really good strategy and poor execution, and you can’t have a good team with good execution but poor strategy. You need to have both good strategy and good execution. And it has to be seamless in order to be successful, is the first thing. And because of that complexity, that’s why things need to be started earlier, because I have often seen companies waiting, like I said, 18 months out from launch, and then there’s enormous pressure placed on the commercial teams to try to do the work that should have been started two to three years ago. So the biggest risk is not understanding your path to reimbursement, not understanding or starting those conversations with payers and regulators in the market and the need that you’re trying to fill, you need to understand early whether it has to be more than just a science experiment. And even the best science and the best, most innovative asset won’t sell itself. That commercial acumen is a very important part. It needs to be involved early.
SM: Christina, I really appreciate you sharing your insights here. For those listening, if you’re a company at this critical clinical development stage looking at a pathway towards commercialization and need help on a communications front or strategy as you try to tell that story and communicate to key audiences, please let us know at MacDougall advice how we can partner with you for successful communications. And if you’re a company looking for a partner to help you work through that planning process and strategy, please do reach out to Christina and her talented team at RCP. Thanks again, Christina, for joining me today. Great. Thanks so much.
CA: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure to talk about one of my most favorite topics. Thank you.