March 2013 Edition Vol.7, Issue 3

Success Factors for Building an Oncology Business (Part One)

Success Factors for Building an Oncology Business 
(Part One)

By Wen Shi, PhD and Rohit Sood

When several companies are all good at one thing, it is logical to assume that the organizations may share specific attributes that contribute to their success. By 2016, the top five oncology players by revenue are expected to be Roche, Novartis, Celgene, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Pfizer (Figure 1).  We sought to identify the specific success attributes that these five companies share.

Our analysis identified the following nine key factors that most of these companies have in common from an organizational perspective, a clinical development perspective, and a commercialization perspective:

  1. An independent oncology unit
  2. Multiple phase II and phase III trials conducted in parallel
  3. Engagement with outside groups in clinical development
  4. Biomarker capabilities throughout development process
  5. Sourcing external innovations, both early- and late-stage
  6. First-to-market products
  7. Strong medical affairs organizations
  8. Innovative engagement models
  9. Sophisticated oncology sales forces

Part one of this two-part series will explore the first four of these nine success factors in more detail in order to suggest best practices other oncology players may want to follow.

An Independent Oncology Unit

The dynamics of the oncology market are different from those of any other therapeutic category.  Therefore, it makes sense that four of the five companies predicted to be oncology leaders by 2016 currently have an independent and nimble oncology unit in place to make decisions specific to the therapeutic area.

Roche’s BioOncology group is one of eight specialty care business units within the organization.  The BioOncology business unit receives its budget allocation annually and is free to conduct its own business.

Novartis Oncology is a separate business unit within Novartis’s Pharmaceuticals Division that is responsible for the global development and marketing of oncology products.1  Internal functions are dedicated to oncology and not shared with other therapeutic areas.

Celgene’s Oncology and Hematology business unit reports to an SVP group head.  At Pfizer, Oncology is one of seven diverse business units, and each business unit is led by an executive with clear accountability for results, from product development post-proof of concept to the end of the product's life cycle.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is the sole outlier, possessing an oncology business that is integrated with other therapeutic areas.

While an independent oncology business unit is not necessarily appropriate for every organization, it is important to organize the oncology business for success, paying attention to the special needs of this therapeutic area.  This success factor is especially relevant to larger, more established companies as well as those making an initial foray into oncology. 

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