SELLAS Life Sciences CCO Robert Francomano on the strategy and experience needed for commercial biotech success.
'I firmly believe that if you have the intellect and you have the cash [...] you can effectively have a "go-it-alone" strategy', says Robert Francomano. He should know. In his former role as Chief Commercial Officer of Stemline Therapeutics, he led the company’s go-it-alone strategy – i.e., launching the brand and commercialising ELZONRIS® (tagraxofusp) themselves – taking Stemline from a clinical-stage entity to an organisation with full commercial capability, leading to its acquisition by the Menarini Group. Now, as CCO of SELLAS Life Sciences, Robert has further opportunities to demonstrate his leadership skills and vision.
Robert joined us on the Venari Podcast recently, where he spoke about his professional journey and experience to date. He has been in biotech and pharma for over 25 years, working across all stages of products’ lifespans as well as leading and building out full commercial teams. Having worked on a number of launches throughout his career, Robert has learned to be ‘very lean’ in his operational approach, developing his skillset ‘to collect a lot of information from the competitive environment’. He has also found out ‘what not to do’, noting: ‘Something that has benefited me in my career is understanding how to get to the key answers without going overboard on collecting the information. And I think that’s the area that has made me more successful in recent years.’
Robert’s experience in Big Pharma was an asset when it came to pushing Stemline’s go-it-alone strategy forward. The initiative certainly paid off: a recent report by ZS Associates showed that go-it-alone launches resulted in the highest stock value growth of all launches over a 10-year period – and Stemline reported the largest growth of all companies surveyed. However, success is not guaranteed, and having the right people is essential for strong results. ‘I’ve had the blessing of working with very talented people over the years’, Robert notes. ‘I think commercial needs to be involved right at the get-go [...] Big Pharma always employs commercial staff at the earliest stages. So, I always would tell everybody to bring on a commercial entity to help inform that.’
Go-it-alone is not for the risk-averse, or the faint of heart. ‘It’s very scary, but boy, is it exciting’, Robert admits. ‘And when you nail it and you do it right, it’s even more rewarding.’