Leadership Void: Change Agents Sought for Life Sciences Sector

January 26, 2016 – Given the integration of technology into all facets of everyday life, the healthcare industry is not alone in facing technology-related issues. These take on increased importance when they impact health, disease diagnosis, treatment and, ultimately, human longevity. Having the right leaders in place to sort through these complex challenges, say recruiters serving the sector, is critical — especially those with vision and transformational skills.

“We’re seeing more and more receptivity to leaders from a variety of backgrounds, not just IT, because of the necessity to have a breadth of knowledge and experience,” said Jim Bethmann, managing partner at Caldwell Partners. “Every search is different and we work in concert with the client organization to build the profile of the ideal candidate.” Accordingly, he said, “we assemble our search teams to ensure we are covering the right industry landscape and pursuing the appropriate level of experience, skills and leadership attributes to deliver the correct outcome.”

One outcome Caldwell Partners has delivered is a new chief executive officer for Health2047, a new start-up backed by a $15 million investment from founding partner American Medical Association (AMA). It is aimed at harnessing Silicon Valley expertise and innovation to help solve key problems in the healthcare field.

Leading the search assignment were Darin DeWitt, managing partner of Caldwell’s life science and healthcare practice, and Mr. Bethmann, who oversees the firm’s TMT & IT services and information security practices.

The incumbent, Dr. Douglass Given, has advised numerous VC funds in Australia, the U.S. and Israel, and has served as an investment professional on nearly 50 investments at Bay City Capital, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm focusing on life sciences industry investments.

Over his career, Dr. Given has directly participated in the development of more than 15 top-selling drugs, biologics, diagnostics, imaging agents, and medical devices. He has overseen the drug development process at Schering Plough Research, Monsanto/G.D. Searle Research Laboratories, and Lilly Research Laboratories. At the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Association, Dr. Given chaired the combined regulatory affairs committee and was a founding board member of the International Conference on Harmonization and member, U.S. Japan Business Council.

Health2047 is an integrated innovation company that will draw upon the AMA’s expertise and unique relationships it has with physicians nationwide to develop new products, tools and resources that improve the practice of medicine and the delivery of healthcare to patients. The organization will integrate healthcare companies, technology companies, entrepreneurs and investors to co-develop, create and spin out offerings that can have large scale, systemic impact on the delivery of healthcare and efficiencies of leading a medical practice.

“It was a unique and fascinating search, looking for a leader who can leverage the strength and history of the AMA in identifying and developing novel early stage companies,” said Mr. DeWitt. “Given his background in venture capital, healthcare and drug development, Doug was a uniquely qualified candidate, and will be able to filter opportunities through the lens of a physician.”

“Dr. Given has advised numerous VC funds and served as an investment professional on more than 45 investments; directly participated in the development of more than 15 top-selling drugs, biologics, diagnostics, imaging agents, and medical devices; and has led large teams through high growth, IPO, M&A, restructuring and exit processes as a C-level executive and board director,” said Mr. Bethmann.

Over the past year, Caldwell Partners has recruited the CEO for Surgical Specialties Corporation, filled a board position for therapeutic target discovery company AbVitro, Inc.recruited senior leaders for BrainScope, and placed the chief medical officer of biopharmaceutical company MannKind Corporation. All were considered change-agent leadership choices by these client organizations.

The global healthcare and life sciences sector is itself in the midst of a turbulent transformation, making the need for these sorts of leaders more important than ever.

According to life sciences sector specialist Bianca Coulter, finding leaders for organizations throughout the field impacts the industry’s ability to deliver advances in diagnosis, prevention, treatment and management of disease. Hence the need to recruit just the right ones who can transform the organizations they join.

In recent months a number of executive search firms have placed transformational leaders into the sector:

Search firm Catalyst Advisors recruited Miguel Barbosa Ph.D. as chief scientific officer of Mirna Therapeutics, Inc., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing a broad pipeline of microRNA-based oncology therapeutics. It is the first to establish clinical proof-of-concept for a microRNA replacement therapy for cancer.

Isaacson, Miller recruited Ann Braun as president of the Medical Foundation of North Carolina and associate dean for development for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Earlier this year, Witt/Kieffer placed Brian Steines as chief financial officer of MU Health Care and School of Medicine.

Russell Reynolds Associates recruited Travis McCready as CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. MLSC is an investment agency that supports life sciences innovation, research, development and commercialization. These investments create jobs and support advances that improve health and well-being.

Summit Talent Group was recently retained by Bon Secours Health System to search for chief executive officers for Physician Networks and St. Francis Medical Center. The $3 billion dollar not-for-profit Catholic health system owns, manages or joint ventures with 18 acute care, five long term care, four assisted living, six retirement communities/senior housing, 14 home care and hospice services, and other facilities primarily on the East Coast. It, too, seeks transformational leaders who can integrate its health network and guide its growth.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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