January 31, 2018 – A new executive search firm, GeneCoda, has been launched in Wake Forest, NC. Headed by Don Alexander, the organization will focus on recruiting for the life sciences sector.
Mr. Alexander has over 15 years of progressive executive search experience and has made hundreds of placements in the life sciences sector. Among other achievements, he is credited with having built Arris Partners’ life sciences practice. Earlier in his career, Mr. Alexander spent time with MATRIX Resources and Renaissance Worldwide.
The name GeneCoda is a combination of the words Genesis (origin) and Coda (conclusion), translating to “start and finish.” As part of its foundation, one of GeneCoda’s main objectives will be its search completion rate as measured against its peers, said Mr. Alexander, who is president and managing director of the firm.
“Our life sciences clients want to work with seasoned professionals who know how to plan and execute an effective search strategy in the highly competitive life sciences industry,” he said. “Too often, because of the challenges involved in our field, search firms don’t put the ball in the end zone. We do.”
Newly Launched Firm
Mr. Alexander recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the launch of his firm and the current state of the life sciences sector. Following are excerpts from that interview.
Don, tell us about your new firm. Why did you launch it and why now?
GeneCoda is an executive and professional search and recruitment firm. Our focus is U.S. recruitment with emphasis on the life sciences sector including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and diagnostic innovators and the service sector and tools companies that support them in bringing products to market. GeneCoda was launched to support innovators whose life-saving products are critical to the global population.
How is your firm different?
My philosophy is that service-sector firms are all about their people. It’s not about the firm and, in the end, it’s about the results of the people we place. To think that we might place a professional who discovers a cure or moderates “X” disease is more than enough reason for me to get to work. I presently serve as the board chair of the Carolinas chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and CF is a great example of a disease we may well beat in my lifetime. Also, two-thirds of the innovation in this industry is coming out of small to mid-sized innovators. These are the types of companies I’ve served over the past 15 years and although large brands can offer comfort, niche firms have significant opportunity. Our growth opportunity is to establish a board of professional advisors, develop deep partnership and channel relationships, and attract partner-level experience that includes seasoned scientific professionals and company operators. Those that work directly for GeneCoda participate on an ownership basis as we want to encourage growth, creativity, ideas, loyalty and longevity.
“Those that work directly for GeneCoda participate on an ownership basis as we want to encourage growth, creativity, ideas, loyalty, and longevity.”
Tell us about yourself.
I spent seven years in the financial services industry working for large Wall Street firms and achieved the CFP certification. This experience developed my personal finance and sales experience and allowed me to accumulate a deep understanding of various assets classes and industries as well as the ability to apply many of these learnings in the executive search industry. I worked with some real industry pros in my first search recruitment role at Renaissance Worldwide. I was able to recruit on diverse technical and engineering projects which culminated in the placement of about half of the U.S. test team for GlaxoSmithKline’s Y2K project. Thankfully, everything worked! Although I was focused on technology and engineering recruitment at companies like GSK, Quintiles and PPD, I was able to learn enough about the life sciences sector to realize this was the sector I wanted to serve. I joined my former firm to build the life sciences practice and played the lead role for 15 years. The diverse experiences in finance, technology, engineering and the life sciences help me offer clients value through multiple lenses.
Can you give us an overview of the current state of executive search for life sciences organizations?
In the 2016-2017 timeframe, the U.S. life sciences sector was posting about 85,000 jobs per quarter online, which had grown significantly from the 2014-2015 timeframe. Additionally, outsourced services providers such as Central Labs, CROs and CDMOs were responsible for a significant part of this growth. Given that almost half of these postings stayed open for 60 to 180 days during the 2016- 2017 timeframe, it’s not hard to extrapolate the challenges of filling many types of roles in the life sciences industry. At a grass-roots level, this environment manifests itself in longer fill times and multiple offers for talented candidates. Given the strong momentum in the overall equity markets and a strong year in the life sciences sector in 2017, it won’t be surprising to see some roles go unfilled this year.
How do the cultures of life sciences companies differ from that of more traditional healthcare companies, and how have those differences affected how you search for top talent?
Although my experience in traditional healthcare companies is limited, cultures between healthcare (product users, providers and payers) and life science (product innovators) seem to be a very different. From the establishment of venture funds and payer departments dedicated to innovation review, my sense is that healthcare companies are evolving but the (U.S.) healthcare system is based on more traditional insurance valuations and reimbursements. We will see a trend toward value-based medicine over the next several years, however. Although there may be translational skill sets in some healthcare systems for certain roles in the life sciences, I haven’t seen much evidence of this in the real world.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media