The 34th FT Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference brought together life science and pharma companies as well as emerging new players. Discussions centered on industry challenges, business models and transformation strategies that will be essential for success in a fast-changing sector.

For a world where globalisation seems to be running out of friends, at least in some quarters, last week’s F.T. Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference had a laser-like focus on global strategy. Discussions centred on exactly how pharma companies can optimise their business models for sustained global growth. Not surprisingly, of the major concerns that could limit future growth, it was talent and the ability of people to move easily around the world that were foremost among them.

Managing global complexity and balancing skills

The complexities of competing in a giant global market were laid bare in every debate. Led by the CEOs of some of the world’s largest pharma companies, the talks swept through the virtues of diversity (vaccines, drugs, consumer health) compared to pure play speciality business models, and touched on other crucial themes including commercial returns, supply chain logistics and tiered pricing between countries and regions.

One thing that became clear is the need for new skills to help pharma adapt to change. Currently 5% of global internet searches are for health issues so the growing importance of the web to patients and healthcare professionals as well as the emergence of digital health means that bringing in talented people from other sectors is a leading change driver. The need to optimise the logistics of global supply chains is another pressing issue that directly impacts profitability so drug companies are having to look at the skills found in the fast-paced world of consumer products to help them adapt.

Of course, there couldn’t be a debate without the Brexit word either. The audience was split on what it will mean for the industry and the UK economy, but as ever with uncertainty, the glass seemed a little more than half empty when people were asked to submit their opinions. Only time will tell.

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