Sunday is blog day. Maybe it’s because I am backed by The New York Times Sunday business section that always motivates me to think about the clinical research and development industry even as I am trying to take my proverbial “day of rest.” This week an interview with Steve Case, CEO of the venture capital firm Revolution, caught my eye... heart... and, mind.
The headline for the article is “When Attackers Become Defenders, Innovation is Lost.” The attackers, he explains, are the entrepreneurs who are disrupting the status quo, trying to change the dynamic. They are driven by passion, the idea, and intensity. The defenders are large companies working to minimize the downside and hedge risk. “Entrepreneurs,” he says, “can’t even think that way.”
What caused me to leave my vegetable garden on this fine sunny day and head for my computer is the way in which I am troubled by the relationship between CROs, sponsors, and the smaller clinical trial service providers who, for lack of a better term, represent the attackers within the clinical trial arena.
It’s not just a David and Goliath scenario. The nuance here is that tensions between attackers and defenders make for unnecessary work stress in an industry that is plagued by deadlines and pressure. And, the attacker and defender role is a moving target – almost like too many kids in a sand box – plenty of toys, but not enough sand to shovel. Smaller biotech and pharmaceutical companies want to work with large CROs so that they are privy to the most formidable scientists, investigators, and managers. And yet, the large CROs are in a state of overwhelming competition, vying for contractual partnerships with the pharma giants. Ultimately, seasoned expertise often eludes the smaller players. What ensues is distrust and tension that form a black cloud over the clinical development horizon.
Enter BBK, and other companies of our magnitude. We have no interest in even playing in the same sandbox. Our eyes are on the prize, on-time enrollment at the lowest cost – financial and emotional. Each new sponsor we work with approaches us with a vestige of defensiveness and hurt that they bring with them from their previous consulting relationships. Protecting the execution of “good recruitment practice” within the study community is a tiresome task that BBK’s campaign managers struggle with on a daily basis. Or, as Thomas Edison so aptly said, cited by Steve Case in his The New York Times interview, “Vision without execution, is hallucination.”
What BBK has in common with the formidable CROs is that we are long-standing and viable outside consultants to biotech and pharmaceutical organizations. Because we share a consulting status, we are related to by sponsors as if we are the same. RFPs and RFIs ask for answers that make no sense to the patient recruitment consultant. Financial evaluations and regulatory requirements are less than fluid in terms of seeing the inherent differences that an attacker company has from a defender company. And, visualizing us as fluid partners willing to take calculated risks and innovate – this is a hard construct to convince clinical teams that we mean this. An attacker patient recruitment company does not perform in the same way as a defender company performing services under the same name. It’s inherently not possible.
So, BBK is committed to being nimble. We will grow through innovation – not around it. We will strengthen our ranks through worldwide relationships with best-in-class attacker companies. We will grow our seasoned management team by making them partners in our work and in the privileges provided by doing good work. And, we will serve our sponsor clients with good recruitment practice principles and execution working to carve a place for how we are different from the defender companies and continuing to explain why that contributes to advancing clinical research for all the players ably occupied by this same day’s work.