Welcome to First 90 Days, a series dedicated to examining how pharma executives are planning for success in their new role. Today, we’re looking at how Dr. Sy Pretorius, Eversana’s new COO and president of outsourced solutions, is tackling fail rates and more in commercial operations.
Dr. Sy Pretorius has arguably seen it all and done it all during his almost three-decade career as an executive driving change throughout all phases of clinical operations. Before taking on his new role as chief operating officer and president of outsourced solutions at Eversana in November, Pretorius spent almost 26 years at Parexel, most recently as chief medical officer and president of clinical development.
“I really like the commercialization market segment. It’s a large market that’s going through a fairly radical transformation, similar to what we’ve seen on the development side over the past decade,” he said. “Transformation in that we will continue to see significant increases every year in the outsourcing penetration and in terms of consolidation of the large number of providers in the space, which is still very fragmented. Eversana was the first provider that built an end-to-end commercialization platform, which is very attractive not only to biopharma clients but also to investors, hopefully the patients and, to be frank, to me.”
Pretorius is all too familiar with the fail rates during the development process, and he is looking to apply the learnings from those experiences to the commercial launch phase, which has its own complexities that limit success.
“I was surprised at how many drugs fail during the commercial launch phase — almost 40% of drugs and even more miss expectations by more than 20%,” he said. “That’s a huge number.”
Here, Pretorius, a PharmaVoice 100 honoree, shares his perspective on the shifting outsourcing landscape, what it means to be a servant leader and his short-term strategic vision.
This interview has been edited for brevity and style.
PHARMAVOICE: After 26 years in clinical development at Parexel, why shift gears now?
DR. SY PRETORIUS: Eversana has an incredible business with a lot of momentum. Combine that with a wonderful culture and the leadership team, including Jim Lang, who I really like working with, (and it was) an obvious choice for me.
This is a new role within Eversana. What is your operational remit and how are you going to make the role your own?
Throughout my career, starting as a physician, my ‘why’ has always been to help patients. Eversana is doing this in so many ways and in a market segment that I am eager to learn more about. I hope that my experiences over the past 26 plus years, leading operations globally and at scale will help bring even more value to our team here at Eversana, especially given how quickly the company is growing and expanding globally.
I have a large group of direct reports. These include services for all of the outsourced solutions — deployment solutions which are, in essence, field services — sales representatives, MSLs, patient support leads, etc. It also includes all of the patient support services, logistics, third-party logistics, all of the regulatory aspects. It also includes more broad functions that are corporatewide, IT is part of my remit, business transformation, and then we have a fairly sizable operation in India that I take care of as well.
You noted that the commercialization space is going through a similar outsourcing transformation that happened on the development side, can you explain a little bit more what that means?
Outsourcing penetration on the development side was in the low 20s a decade ago. It gradually went up to about 57%. This is the latest number from Jefferies that I saw for 2022.
On the commercialization side, outsourcing wasn’t that big of a thing. In essence, Eversana created this market segment, so it has started to pick up, and is around about 18%. It goes up every year; all of the large pharmas are continuing to push toward outsourcing as they evolve.
Additionally, smaller biopharma companies are now taking their compounds all the way to commercialization. Of course, it’s difficult for them; they don’t have their own global salesforces for a single product. They are also helping drive outsource penetration in the commercialization space.
“I’m a huge believer in servant leadership and will continue with this approach here at Eversana.”
Dr. Sy Pretorius
COO, president, outsourcing solutions, Eversana
Also, similar to what we’ve seen on the development side, pharma companies, in particular their procurement departments, are pushing consolidation among the providers that they use. Large pharma companies don’t want to work with 600 providers in a space, I saw that play out first-hand on the development side. And the same thing, in essence, is happening on the commercial side. Pharma companies are pushing for fewer providers that can provide broader services across this space.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m a huge believer in servant leadership and will continue with this approach here at Eversana. I believe in the power of leading others by example, and the power of operational excellence by doing hundreds of relatively small things exceptionally well every day. It’s not rocket science, but does require discipline, focus and buy-in from the entire organization combined with good processes and enabling technologies. We can never lose sight of the fact that patients around the world depend on us.
What are your short-term goals?
In essence, Eversana created this market — the outsourced commercialization market and we continue to grow rapidly as a result. Such aggressive growth and global expansion are both exciting and challenging. Add to this the growing importance of data and the digital transformation that is happening everywhere, and you have an intriguing puzzle. Prioritizing appropriately and investing in the right resources and opportunities is sometimes tricky, but (is a) great challenge and one that I embrace. We have a great road map ahead.