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‘You can never be prepared enough’ – Biopharma launch lessons with Cathy Collis

Vibrant Gastro’s Chief Commercial Officer spoke to the Venari Podcast about product launches and building commercial functions.

‘I really got my start on the payer side of the business,’ Cathy Collis notes. ‘And actually, I think the payers become such an important part of the equation.’

Cathy has enjoyed a varied career, with commercial roles in Big Pharma firms Merck and Novartis prior to eight years at Ironwood, where she led their US & Global Marketing Function. Now CCO at Vibrant Gastro, she is building the firm’s commercial team and strategy. Joe Knight, our Life Sciences & Healthcare Commercial Lead, spoke to Cathy on the Venari Podcast recently, where she spoke about her experience launching and building commercial teams.

Cathy’s experience of brand building at Merck and Novartis served her well to move into more innovative and entrepreneurial functions. As her career progressed, this led her to medium-sized and – now, at Vibrant Gastro – smaller businesses ‘with the potential to build something that could be equal in size, in terms of revenue’, to larger organisations. Vibrant Gastro’s innovation for drug-free chronic constipation treatment is a case in point: ‘It really represents a trend in electronics jumpstarting innovation in the device space.’

The launch process for this treatment – which recently received FDA approval in the US – is currently underway, and Cathy has picked up plenty of wisdom about introducing new products over the course of her career.

‘You can never be prepared enough for a launch,’ she says. This includes preparing the market, not to mention your brand and, finally, the organisation. ‘You have to build a team, and in our case we have to be able to scale that over time. So we’re thinking about what are the capabilities we really need from a people perspective, from a process perspective, and from a technology perspective.’

For Cathy, innovative products and commercial models go hand-in-hand – but you must have the right talent on board. ‘You need to bring in people who have had experiences in the old pharma model, but you also have to sprinkle in people who are complete disruptors’ – a mix that can yield ‘some really interesting and innovative marketing ideas’. Cathy advocates bringing in commercial teams at the R&D stage: no matter where you introduce your product, ‘you must have something that is differentiated, and that has a unique value proposition [...] otherwise, you are not going to get payers to pay for you.’ In Cathy’s view, involving commercial voices early on ‘is an important part of the overall corporate strategy [...] it certainly has implications at every stage of development.’

Joe Knight spoke to Cathy Collis as part of our Chief Commercial Officer podcast series – catch up with the other episodes here.

If you would like to discuss commercial strategy for your life sciences business, please reach out – we’d love to help.


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