A Healthy Business—Trinity Partners' Dave Fitzhenry talks about trends in life science consulting


Trinity Partners is a strategy consulting firm that works with life science companies in the pharma, biotech, medical device, and diagnostic space. And business has been, well, healthy. Trinity appeared as No. 38 on our list of Fastest Growing Firms last year, notching an impressive 61 percent revenue growth. Trinity’s back on this year’s list as well, and its ranking will be unveiled later this month. Consulting caught up with Managing Partner Dave Fitzhenry to talk about trends in life science consulting, how the firm helps pharmaceutical companies bring their drugs successfully to market, and some of the big obstacles their clients face along the way.

Consulting: What are some of the big trends in life science consulting?

Fitzhenry: The IPO and funding market for biotech was amazing in the 2012-2014 timeframe. What that enabled was a whole bunch of companies, probably more than ever in the history of the industry, to have a whole bunch of dry powder to develop drugs and take them further than they have historically in development. When you compound that with the fact that a lot of these drugs are for specialty indications, smaller populations, the companies really feel good about self-developing them to maximize the value they get from those products down the road.

What ends up happening with those companies is they become experts on the clinical side but they need to fill in a lot of gaps with outside help. Whether that’s regulatory, clinical development or especially commercial strategy and launch preparation, it’s become a pretty big opportunity for specialist firms like Trinity to be able to come in and bring real expertise to the table while the team gets ramped up internally at the biotech company. That’s one of our largest growth areas. We’re launching a new product related to launch planning and all of the work that needs to get done around getting ready for a launch, which has been a big growth driver for us.

Consulting: What’s involved in bringing a new drug to market?

Fitzhenry: There are four main phases. Understanding your market and what the market structure is and how you’ll fit into it. Number two is understanding your product in a lot of detail, and thinking about all the positive and negative attributes of your product and how they’ll fit into that market architecture and what else you can do from a clinical point of view to maximize that opportunity.

The next part is to think about how you’re going to communicate that to the market, so there’s a lot of work that goes into the communication strategy to the stakeholders, whether that’s patients, physicians, payers, so on down the line. Finally, you have to do all that really detailed work around activating on that—hiring the sales force, bringing in the marketing team, the payer teams, the strategic account teams. We help the marketing team with the overall process and handle about 70 percent of the detail work that needs to get done for the company to get a product ready for launch.

Consulting: What are some of the hurdles clients have to overcome? 

Fitzhenry: One of the biggest hurdles is pricing product appropriately and getting reimbursement. We also believe that demonstrating the value of your medicine is one of the most important things a company can do. Companies are getting a lot better at this than they have historically. I think everyone has realized that payers are a really important consideration when you’re thinking about the commercial success of a product. It used to be if you had a really good drug and got it approved it would be a success. Hurdle two is communicating that message around value so you’re getting reimbursed. Trinity has an extensive array of approaches we take to help companies demonstrate value.

We have a primary market research group that does a lot of work with patients and physicians and payers to be able to inform our clients about how their stakeholders think about value. We also have an advanced analytics group that looks at longitudinal claims data, patient data, to understand the true cost of the disease and the true burden of illness. We combine those offerings to provide a full picture of how to communicate the value of your medicine, your intervention. I think that really is critical to support good pricing and good access to your product.

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