ThromboGenics and Vlerick team up on business model innovation

Exploit a unique business model

Patrik De Haes - CEO ThromboGenicsThe biopharmaceutical company ThromboGenics is a Belgian success story. Despite a headcount of only about 200, the company has a worldwide reach. In March 2013 its shares were included in the BEL 20. Why a Prime Foundation Partnership? Patrik De Haes, CEO at ThromboGenics, explains.

Specialist network

“We’re a semi-virtual business. Others would typically need over a thousand people to achieve what we did with a core team of around a hundred, working closely with a large network of specialist suppliers and service providers to develop and commercialise a drug from scratch.” For the commercialisation of its lead product JETREA® outside the US, a complex undertaking with 28 different markets in Europe alone, ThromboGenics has partnered with Alcon (Novartis). “But because we’ve taken on the commercialisation in the US ourselves, our headcount has almost doubled. This sudden growth poses several challenges.”

Small meets big

“To be effective, we have to work as one team. And it seems there are limits to the degree of virtualisation we can achieve. Initially, most of our staff were researchers, often recruited from small firms. Our most recent hires are sales reps and marketeers, typically coming from a large company background. This leads to interesting dynamics — Europe meets the US, small meets big, research meets sales and marketing… We want to exploit these dynamics and investigate how we can continue to grow as a semi-virtual company with a relatively small but experienced team, managing external partners.”

Ecosystem

This is where the research focus of the Prime Foundation Partnership lies. Together with Walter Van Dyck, associate professor of Technology & Innovation Management, ThromboGenics will analyse how to best fine-tune and innovate its business model and what processes and structures could be put in place to sustain its core. Patrik is convinced that their semi-virtual model offers the flexibility a biotech company needs. “A fully-integrated biotech company, or pharma company for that matter, is something of the past. The future will be an ecosystem of specialised entities, excelling in specific areas. The success of a biotech or pharma company will depend on its patents and the project managers it employs to source and manage its service providers.”

Collaboration is key

You won’t find any trace of not-invented-here syndrome at ThromboGenics. Working with partners is in the company’s DNA. “Sourcing the right expertise is all that matters. If we can’t find it externally, we’ll develop it in-house. But most of the time we find excellent external providers. Our motto is ‘If someone else is better at it, let them do it’.” And so this partnership with Vlerick comes naturally. “They have the expertise to look at our business from a fresh perspective. We also know the School well. Several of our staff and executives are Vlerick alumni. And why would we look elsewhere if there’s a world-class business school right on our doorstep?”

ThromboGenics focuses on developing and commercialising innovative ophthalmic and oncology medicines. Listed on NYSE Euronext Brussels since 2006, it is headquartered in Leuven with offices in Dublin, Ireland, and Iselin (NJ), US.