Nancy Lurker is CEO of PDI, Inc. and a member of the company’s board of Directors. Ms. Lurker has more than 25 years of experience in pharmaceutical sales, marketing, and commercial operations.
1. How did you become CEO?
I became CEO because I am willing to take prudent risk and drive innovation to effect change and deliver results. That’s really how you become a CEO.
Companies expect it and if you can’t deliver on that promise, you won’t last long in the position. That is why we see the tenure of CEOs continue to shorten, particularly in the rapidly changing life sciences industry.
I had been CEO at Impact Rx, a small VC-backed information company before leaving them to return to a major pharmaceutical company in the position of Senior Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer for Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. So I knew what I would be facing when I stepped back into CEO role. The position of CEO at PDI particularly appealed to me because as an outsourced provider of sales and promotional services, they were in a position to effect change in the commercialization model and go-to-market strategies within the biopharmaceutical industry.
2. What would you like people to really think about PDI?
PDI is really on the leading edge of change in the biopharmaceutical industry.
We are part of the evolving model for outsourcing within the pharmaceutical industry that began first, with the outsourcing of research to contract research organizations (CROs), continued with outsourcing of manufacturing (CMOs), and then with sales and commercial outsourcing (CSOs). We have actually evolved the CSO model further by becoming a premier provider of full commercialization services. Not only do we supply contract sales teams and digital outreach, we also offer go-to-market services for companies who have a product but are not capable, or are no longer willing, to handle its commercialization.
3. What makes PDI stand out from other companies in New Jersey?
Honestly — we’re growing! There are a lot of companies inNew Jerseynot growing and many are downsizing, so we are very pleased with the growth trajectory we have shown since I became CEO in 2008. 2011 revenues are expected to be up about 13 percent over 2010 following an increase of 2010 revenues of 80 percent over 2009.
4. What qualities do you feel are important for a leader to have in the life science field?
Certainly the attributes I discussed in response to question one are important to leadership: the ability to drive innovation, effect change and provide prudent risk management. You must have the drive and ego to do this, but the ability to put the ego aside to engage and inspire your customers and employees. However, leadership in the life science field requires a bit more. I believe a firm foundation in the life sciences is important as it puts you ahead on the learning curve and allows you to make decisions more readily. That is not to say that there aren’t effective leaders in the industry who do not have this background, but having it is certainly a plus.
Finally, I would say in the biopharmaceutical industry, leaders need to come from within the industry. There has been a lot of debate on this subject over the years. However, the complexity of this industry, with its highly regulated environment and long cycle times, calls for management with industry experience, whether it is for the commercial, manufacturing or research and development side of the business. I have seen leadership brought in from the outside, but I have not seen them be successful on a sustainable basis.
5. What is your passion besides work?
Let me put it this way, I will never have trouble keeping busy down the road in retirement, as I have many interests. First and foremost is my family. I thoroughly enjoy being with them. I am proud of them. I invest a lot of time in particular making sure that my two girls will grow up to be successful contributors to society — and I have fun with them! I also like to snow ski, water ski, exercise, hike and mountain climb. I recently took up piano again after a long hiatus, and I am a voracious reader.
6. What do you and/or the company do to promote life sciences to students?
We need to encourage people to help students learn about science. It is very important to our future as a country, and helping non-profit organizations like
NJTC and Students2Science is critical. We support Students2Science (S2S) in particular because the organization’s mission is to introduce middle-school children in mostly poor or under-resourced communities with a hands-on and practical introduction to the world of science and the career possibilities that exist. I’ve been there when the students are brought into the lab for the first time and watched them as they work through their experiments. As someone who began her career with a major in Biology and Chemistry, it is wonderful to watch a passion for the field ignite right before your eyes in these kids.
7. How can life science companies be more successful when it comes to sales and marketing?
Overall we need to engage with our customers. In the biopharmaceutical industry that means we should be engaging with the doctors, not just selling drugs. When we engage, providing value comes first, sales comes second.
8. How has the NJTC helped PDI?
NJTC has helped PDI in a few key ways. It has broadened PDI’s understanding of the state’s commitment to technology, and more importantly, to the growth of business in NJ. Many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have headquarters and/or a large presence in the state of NJ. PDI’s goals are to drive more revenue and sustain pharmaceutical product growth for these companies. NJTC has also provided PDI a vehicle to demonstrate the impact of innovation and technology in the life sciences industry. In some areas the pharmaceutical industry can be slow to come up the technology curve but as a provider of flexible, outsourced services to the industry, we can deploy leading edge technology solutions to drive our clients’ business growth. NJTC allows PDI to expose theses successes to other businesses in NJ and to promote the advancement of technology in our state.
9. How important do you feel networking is?
First of all I must say that I don’t like the word networking. It has a negative connotation in that it implies work and I think is intimidating to people who are in early or mid-career. They see it as a need to mingle with people they don’t know at an event and boldly introduce themselves. Having said that, there is a vital need to interface with people who are helping to drive the advancement of the life sciences throughoutNew Jersey. Why? We are an ecosystem and to be successful we must be part of it, gaining the results that come from acting as a whole rather than an individual.
10. Think ahead. Where do you see PDI in the next five years?
I really believe PDI will be a core spoke of the biopharmaceutical industry. As this industry disaggregates its non-core commercial areas, PDI will be integral to the emerging business model. There have been many articles written on where the pharmaceutical industry is heading, but many believe it is moving to a business model similar to the automotive industry where non-core functions are outsourced and strategic and core functions remain. With this thinking, many commercialization functions can and will be outsourced, and PDI will step in to fulfill those functions.