Author: Kevin Duffy, Chief Commercial Officer

There is continuous evaluation and varying opinion regarding the strategic resourcing models employed within the biopharmaceutical sector today. Notwithstanding the recent hurdles of COVID-19, understanding the human resource capital companies currently employ and the talent they hope to attract, is the foundation for creating effective strategies in workforce planning, proactive analytics, and overall talent supply chain management. The most viable of these strategies has been the utilization of a Functional Service Provider (FSP) model to augment and/or supplement in-house staff to meet the variable resource needs of a clinical operations team. This popular model was born on the heels of the various strategic partnering arrangements that evolved over time in the space and became a common offering within the outsourcing community. As a result of the many mergers and acquisitions in the space, very few pure-play, focused FSP providers remain on the landscape as the majority have been absorbed into large, ‘full-service offering’ CRO operations. Well beyond the recent pandemic and the challenges it presented to the life science sector, and with the expansion and transformation of R&D portfolios into more specialized drug compounds, the life sciences short- and long-term strategy to engage quality talent must in the end, enable scientists and clinical research professionals to focus on speed to market, innovation and rapid decision making to address the changing needs of drug development. Outsourcing trends are shifting rapidly in the drug development sector as it has become apparent that functional outsourcing versus a full-service CRO model can deliver demonstrated cost savings in terms of operational efficiency and the overall reduction of program budgets. As biopharmaceutical companies have increased their outsourcing, they have been forced to maintain an internal overhead associated with the oversight of the work performed by a third party FSO. Often, Sponsors have been able to reduce the amount of overhead devoted to full-service contracting by leveraging the FSP model. In an FSP relationship where the emphasis is on managing providers by function, Sponsors can maintain strategic oversight and direction.

The talent supply chain must become more flexible and adaptive as a standard to remain competitive in the marketplace; a key differentiating feature of the original FSP model. Further, biopharmaceutical and medical device companies must be tuned-in to the needs of this talent pool and better understand their personal desire for growth opportunities, job satisfaction, competitive compensation, daily intellectual stimulus, the collaborative nature of the work environment, and the overall reputation and corporate culture of the firm. The FSP model affords biopharmaceutical companies the flexibility and speed to talent acquisition they will need to address this new-normal in a post-pandemic workplace.

  • The inherent benefits of the FSP model include but are not limited to the following characteristics:
  • Embedded resources dedicated to a given project.
  • Flexible and scalable roles to address the ‘peaks and valleys’ of the trial requirements.
  • Sponsor maintains the name and brand connectivity with the sites, patients, and investigators.
  • Inherently higher retention rates of team members.
  • High quality deliverables of seasoned, credentialed professionals.
  • Enhanced and streamlined communication pathways.
  • More cost-effective use of R&D budgets

In the last decade, the markets for life sciences products and services have increased exponentially, so having the right talent is essential. Business operations have expanded to serve these markets, and the size and availability of the workforce has been a critical factor in industry growth. But both the industry and the workforce are changing, and employers must be proactive in planning to meet staffing challenges head-on when they occur. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries have historically failed to invest sufficient resources in building internal teams and developing long-term succession plans for their workforces. Instead, established firms are increasingly partnering with specialized organizations to fill their talent gaps in the short term. Stand-alone FSP solutions companies such as KPS Life can offer valuable assistance in locating contractors with niche skills, as well as streamlining and accelerating the hiring process to fill critical positions quickly.

In the end, biopharmaceutical companies need to take a holistic approach to their talent supply chain and human capital strategy to identify the right talent, at the right time, in the right place as an investment in their scientific frontier of drug development and leverage their proliferating product portfolios over the next decade.