PeopleSearch Taipei’s executive search team has been connecting high-performing professionals with companies in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 15 years. Senior Team Leader, David Guo examines the engines driving the industry and the types of talent that will be needed to propel it further.
According to GlobalData, the pharmaceutical industry in Taiwan is estimated to be worth $2.44 billion in 2021. The industry is divided into four sub-groups such as Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), Western medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and biologics. Clinical investments are being boosted through Taiwanese biopharma companies’ alliances with contract research organisations and pharma multinationals.
Overall, Taiwan is recognised as having one of the best performing health systems in Asia, underpinned by a single-payer national health insurance programme which offers universal coverage with affordable and easy access to high-quality care, according to PwC.
Covid-19 has accelerated digitalisation in the sector which, in turn, has put in motion several notable developments that are likely to evolve. For instance, companies are likely to reduce branches or physical sales channels in the coming years. As a result, traditional jobs are likely to be steadily eliminated. On the upside, these will give way to new and evolving job roles.
THREE KEY CHARACTERISTICS
Today, we see Taiwan’s pharmaceutical industry possessing three key characteristics which have important implications for professionals looking to build a career in pharma.
First and foremost, Taiwan’s single-payer health insurance system remains relatively stable.
Secondly, the pharmaceutical market is almost exclusively dominated by hospitals and clinics, meaning it is relatively uncomplicated.
Finally, yet importantly, its demographic composition spans three generations – the young, working-age Taiwanese, and elderly Taiwanese. Among the most common diseases are hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and hyperglycemia. Oncology and rheumatology are also growing areas for MNCs in the sector.
These three characteristics make for a stable and growing pharmaceutical sector.
As a result of these, multi-national pharmaceutical companies consider Taiwan the cradle of young global/regional talents. Numerous general managers worldwide have been posted to Taiwan to gain experience and hone their skills before being sent to larger markets such as South Korea, Japan, and China.
Pharmaceutical companies looking to promote their new commercial projects also find Taiwan’s comprehensive development and analysis of health insurance databases extremely useful.
In addition, changes ignited by Covid-19 have cemented the need for new ways of doing business. For instance, during the pandemic, sales representatives were not permitted to enter the hospital for visits and non-essential treatments, giving rise to the use of virtual communication.
ENGINES DRIVING THE SECTOR AND THE RESULTANT TALENT NEEDS
Against this backdrop, we believe three engines will drive the pharma sector in the near future. These would require companies to attract and retain a different mix of talent compared to the pre-Covid era.
1. Speed to market
“Speed to market”, as the name implies, is to accelerate the time it takes for pharmaceutical companies to respond to customers. For this to materialise, companies are working towards being more agile. They are adopting flatter structures, improving communication across the company, and advocating a bottom-up decision-making model rather than a top-down model. All of this is occurring in tandem with digital transformation within companies both in terms of operations and serving customers.
As such, there is a great need for talented individuals with expertise in digital transformation, SCRUM, commercial and innovation excellence.
Finding suitable digital transformation leads for the pharma industry has been challenging. We have often had to cross-hire from the FMCG or IT industries. However, such cross-industry talents often find it challenging to adapt to the healthcare industry. Domain and product knowledge gaps must be bridged. Organisational and communication structures also differ greatly. But as the pharma industry evolves, this is likely to get easier.
Our consultants also do their part to educate candidates beforehand in order to reduce the culture shock they might encounter when switching industries.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data top the list of technological innovations being used to optimise pharmaceutical drug discovery and in-depth development processes. More tech companies are investing in R&D in this arena. Acer Healthcare’s AI-assisted solutions for a diabetic retinopathy identification system is one such example.
Another notable area of innovation is drug/device combination products. More are undergoing clinical trials, and are expected to be launched in the near future.
Due to these developments, experts in the areas of real-world evidence, drug/device combination products, regulatory affairs and quality assurance are urgently needed.
3. Precision Medicine
Precision medicine includes personalised healthcare solutions, genetic testing, target therapy, etc. We have noticed that several well-known cancer drug companies are initiating new roles to develop and/or extend diagnostic solutions. They are also establishing end-to-end services for patients from detection to medication, inaugurating their own ecosystems.
In this arena, in-demand professionals include diagnostic and ecosystem leads.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
As we consider the pharmaceutical industry’s current and future talent needs, we seek professionals who possess a combination of hard and soft skills. Domain knowledge is important, but so are communication and leadership skills as individuals are required to collaborate with others in order to effect growth and innovation.
Our advice to clients and candidates is to take a holistic approach to skills development even as we identify high-performing professionals with the capabilities to ensure success in a vibrant pharmaceutical landscape.