The ‘Davos’ of life sciences has been and gone for another year and the formal discussions focused on the evolving finance and M&A market, partnering activity, vaccines, oncology and biomedical investment. As ever though, as much emerged from informal discussions in 1:1 meetings as it did in the conference itself. We wish to share some interesting pointers for the year ahead.

Core focus on breakthrough innovations supported by solid data.

Although more cautious than in the US, investors are still eager to find quality projects. Well known venture funds, as well as smaller organisations, have been able to raise significant funds, attracted by sustained and improved returns in a low interest rate environment. The challenges on pharma pricing are driving big pharma ventures to look for breakthrough innovations, but past mistakes are making them more demanding of due diligence-based data. A critical success factor for biotechs therefore is to recruit senior level skill early. People with a deep understanding of data combined with trust built from past success are in demand.

New investors, new skills.

The emergence of Big Data and the integration of consumer data from M-health and wearables are bringing new types of investor into the sector. Institutions that might previously have looked at the tech sector are now turning their gaze to life science. The same thinking applies to corporate leadership where novel skills are urgently sought by innovative companies. Roles that didn’t exist in life sciences a few years ago, such as Chief Data Officer or Patient Data Management System Connectivity, are pushing businesses to look for Talent from untapped sources. Integrating data from wearable sensors? Developing 3D printing for surgical training? You’ll need to import new skills. Tech firms and leading academic institutions are being brought into play and the life sciences sector is quickly adapting to accommodate this new thinking.

New companies are fast emerging.

Western Europe is still the life science powerhouse on this side of the Atlantic yet new businesses are appearing from further south too. Spain and Italy are leading the charge but this is tempered by investors’ need to see serial entrepreneurs running the show. People who have a successful track record of build and exit are in the greatest demand especially for challenging indications such as oncology. It’s all about the quality of the people and while investors are buoyed up by the experienced people they meet, the industry is being held back by the demand for Talent. Quite simply there aren’t enough people to go round.

Swiss precision

While this is a European conference, its Swiss location means that the Medtech industry is also in focus. Medtech represents more than 5% of Swiss exports from companies such as Roche Diagnostics, Medtronic, J&J and GE as well as many smaller players. The rapid growth of the industry is pulling in talent from all over the world. Once again it’s the data that are helping to drive growth and the challenges are the same as for biotechs. Where to find the talent? Lateral thinking and a helicopter view are the keys to solving that problem.

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