How Scientist/Founders Lead Successful Biopharmaceutical Organizations: A Study of Three Companies

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Langer, Lynn Johnson
biopharmaceuticals industry; pharmaceuticals; scientists; founders; management; leadership; organization theory; organizational behavior; case study; success; healthcare industries; Business Administration, Management, and Operations; Medicine and Health Sciences; Organizational Behavior and Theory
thesis / dissertation description
The purpose of this study was to determine how the leadership of scientist/founders of biopharmaceutical companies affects the success of their organization. Over half of all biotechnology firms are founded by scientists, yet for every start-up biotech firm that succeeds, 15-20 fail and eight out of 10 drugs fail in clinical trials (Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 2007; Stanford Graduate School of Business, n.d.; Zhang & Patel, 2005). To bring a biopharmaceutical product from the research bench to the consumer costs more than $800 million (Tufts, 2007). This dissertation research explored the leadership practices of three successful scientist/founders and how their practices form the organizational context that leads to success. Based on the results of this study, there are a number of important factors that lead to success. The most important factor is that the leader must be adaptable and able to lead effectively in a highly dynamic environment. The leader needs to consistently articulate his or her vision throughout the organization. The leader needs to be a strategic decision-maker and be flexible enough to allow the strategic vision to adjust to the culture and the environment. The leader needs to be able to communicate effectively and create an organization where communication flows efficiently at all levels. The leader needs to recognize that clear cultural differences exist between functional groups. The leader must not give in to the common temptation among both scientists and business people to downplay the importance of these differences. Finally, organizational leaders need to empower their employees at all levels to make strategic decisions; but at the same time, the leader needs to know which decisions must be retained as his or her sole responsibility. The paradoxical nature of leading biopharmaceutical organizations in the 21st century requires leaders who are able to adapt their style and create learning organizations. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center,