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Mantell Associates Network: Q&A with Harry Rathore

As part of the Mantell Associates Network podcast earlier this year, CEO Alessandro Mantell spoke with Harry Rathore.

As part of the Mantell Associates Network podcast earlier this year, CEO Alessandro Mantell welcomed Harry Rathore. Harry is an executive professional in the Pharmaceutical and Life Science space, with over 35 years of experience across Senior Level positions. Ranging from VP through to CEO, Harry has directed strategy and managed large teams across organisations including Lonza, Alcami Corporation and Callery, LLC. In this episode, Alessandro Mantell speaks with Harry Rathore about the past year and the challenges presented by this global pandemic. He also speaks about the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, good leadership and offers advice for other business leaders in the industry.

Alessandro Mantell: Thank you very much for joining me for episode number 13 of Mantell Associates Network. I am joined by a man who needs no introduction, Harry Rathore who is ex-Lonza, ex-Alcami and has also been a CEO in a number of organizations, sitting on the board as well. Harry is extremely busy at the moment in terms of sitting on the board in different businesses, consulting and also advising different organizations on the forefront of COVID-19. Harry, absolute pleasure having you on today, I know that we were connected for a little while and had a lot in common in terms of the market and things like that which is brilliant. I wanted to start off with and go straight into it really, I wanted to get your kind of personal opinion on COVID-19 how you see it from your perspective and everything around it.

Harry Rathore: Well thank you Alessandro for inviting me to this podcast. It is my great pleasure to be here talking to you and connecting with you. We have never met before but nevertheless this is our first virtual meeting and I'm glad that we connected. Regarding COVID-19 as you just introduced me. I have a long career in pharmaceuticals and I can tell you that I cannot be more proud to be part of this fraternity and what it has delivered in 2020. I must tell you should never let a good crisis go to waste and that is very important. Any leader, any business leader should never let a good crisis go to waste. I'll tell you a little bit of a story. I sold the company Italian Callery LLC to Acensus and in January we were traveling to Asia with myself and the executive team of the new company. We first landed in Singapore and that's the first time we saw the news coming out from Wuhan in early January. Then we were in India and everybody was talking about the end time anti-virus because India is a big producer of antivirals, 90% antiviral particularly for HIV and the vaccines come from India and everybody was in the mosque. By the time we turned around and we came back this became a much bigger thing, at that time it was an epidemic but now it is a pandemic. It basically spread so fast but nevertheless the science and that is why I see the pharmaceutical industry just to think about the collaboration in the pharmaceutical industry. It started in Wuhan, the Chinese scientists basically did the whole genome sequence of the whole genome of COVID-19 and they basically published it generally in the pharmaceutical industry confidentiality is so important. However, they published it and once they did the whole world knew about it, this is the sequence. So everyone knew the sequence so they could develop a vaccine which gives you the antibodies. Oxford came out with one technology and Biotech in Germany also developed one as well as Moderna here. They came out with a messenger RNA which I have never seen in my life. A vaccine was developed so quickly within 12 to 15 months, this is a collaboration and is why I am so proud to be part of this facility which has delivered. It is not over yet but nevertheless I am very positive that the whole thing will be behind us by the middle of 2025.

Alessandro Mantell: Thank you so much for that. It is looking really really promising and I am with you 100% in terms of the speed and how everything has gone. I heard you say 12-15 months from now rolling out a vaccine, that is crazy. We had a gentleman called Terry Novak, the CEO of Celebrant CDMO come on the podcast last and he mentioned that he thinks this is going to become more common. Drugs are going to be sped up in terms of how they come to market. Everything is going to become more efficient and what they have shown through vaccination and through rolling out the vaccine is that it is going to have a positive impact not only on COVID but also on many other diseases and the speed. What are your thoughts on that?

Harry Rathore: The pneumonia vaccine took almost 20 years to develop, HIV has no vaccine so far and it has been many years. What we are now seeing is the platform, the messenger RNA platform has been developed. That platform could be utilized for the speed up in developing the number of other vaccines in the future. Not only that this messenger RNA platform could be used for a number of other therapeutic areas, particularly in the oncology. But there are a number of drugs if you see the pipeline of the Moderna and others that are in the area of oncology as well, so I have to tell you the technology platform the signs ultimately won in combating this virus.

Alessandra Mantell: Incredible, incredible. Everything linked to it has been absolutely crazy and there have been a lot of decisions. I guess with lockdowns and things like that where Governments haven’t done it right and the UK Governments is a prime example of giving people one day’s notice and doing it wrong. But science has been phenomenal in terms of everything. I wanted to pick your brain as much as possible. You are a veteran in the CDMO space and working in the CMDO space across active pharmaceutical biologics is what you have done throughout your career. What sort of market trends like outsourcing do you see in the CDMO space?

Harry Rathore: The CDMO space is continuously going to be growing there are some other positive things I do want to tell. For example, while the whole pharma industry was focused on COVID research, other programs did not suffer. In 2020, 53 FDA, USFDA approved 53 new chemical entities, new molecular entities, whereas in 2019 it was only 48. So the other programs are still running and because of the other programs I mean it will ultimately be everybody looking at what there core competencies are. Take an example of COVID-19, my previous company Lonza is the biggest producer. They are going to be producing right now from Portsmouth as well as Switzerland. More than 300 million dollars were put on the Moderna vaccine. Their ambition is to produce a billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccines so what is happening is the biomanufacturing assets are getting tied up with the production of these vaccines and rightly so. But what is happening is the number of new entities are coming up, new entities, new contract manufacturers are coming up which ultimately will be adding more capacity. So to answer your question, will the outsourcing trend continue to grow? Yes, biologics is the area which people should be in. The CDMO will grow more rapidly than the small molecule and the third the biomanufacturing capacity constraint will continue as it was in 2020, they will continue in 2021.

Alessandro Mantell: Incredible and it seems like a really exciting time for the CDMO as a whole and with a lot of deals that are coming up. Of course you mentioned Lonza, that is absolutely incredible the amount that they've had. I guess when everything is being done at such speed and at such volume, with such accuracy as well it creates on the other side a lot more stress. In particular for leaders of organisations who are at the moment having to make, especially those by the way in companies that you've been a part of, and CEOs of where they're having to make quick fire business and health decisions at rapid speed. Their decisions can impact the fate of the business for the short and long term so it's really more pressure than ever before and more spotlight on CEOs of biologics, vaccines and viral vector manufacturing organizations. What challenges and what opportunities do you see for leaders right now and post COVID-19 as well?

Harry Rathore: The CEO of the pharmaceutical CDMO, I believe the business leader's life has to be a balance of ambition and compassion. I will give you an example: everybody has an ambition to be in Lonza. I was there with Lonza when they first invested half a billion dollars in Portsmouth to start biologics. There were a lot of my peers in the industry that basically shouted what a stupid idea Lonza had. I am talking about in the early 80s, late 80s and now today, London is a very respectable and one of the largest CDMO industries both in the case of small molecules as well as large molecules. So what are the CEO’s challenges, I think that it is more in your area because you see a lot of scientific talent that has been tied up and there is a real need for the scientific talent. If you have to bring the discovery fast enough you need good business development people. Ones who can ultimately convince the sponsor of the pharmaceutical company that you can speed up your development and bring this drug to the market by outsourcing the staff which are not your core competences. Secondly, we need scientists who can develop it quickly enough, so from the employee growth perspective as I see in the future is going to be a scientist, quick adaption and thirdly, business development.

In the corporate environment and in the board where I sit, our biggest challenge is business development. People cannot be on the plane because you have to see face to face to create your value proposition. Now you cannot be face to face. Although it has given a rise to digitalization digital, we are talking on zoom, internally you have a Microsoft teams, it works don't take me wrong. It works very effectively but nothing can replace a face to face because you need to read the body language of a person with whom you will be setting up and putting your billion dollar molecules in the hands of that CDMO.

Alessandro Mantell: Absolutely couldn't agree more and it's interesting the different discussions that we've had with different leaders. Every single person agrees that face to face is absolutely king in terms of business, in terms of trusting a person, getting a feeling for a person. However, a lot of people have also said that of course, the time that they spent flying, the cost of the flights, now they're able to spend more time on different zoom meetings and different conversations which in turn can generate more. So I think it’s somewhere in the middle, a good kind of mixture is going to be key. I love what you said about adaption and for CEOs it's about being able to adapt at the moment and adapt quickly. What areas do you feel they're having to C-suite individuals, leaders in the pharmaceutical industry. What do you think we're having to adapt to?

Harry Rathore: A couple of things I will mention and COVID-19 has definitely taught us that digitalization is not new. The industry was moving into digitalization anyway, COVID-19 has helped facilitate that. Believe it or not I am in zoom meetings every day and I have to tell you it works very very well. It increases productivity and all kinds of things but other opportunities decline. For example, we had a program where you take a university graduate in their 3rd or final year and give them a training internship programme. However, these were all cancelled, these people are the future of the workforce of the company. The second is localization, if somewhere a CDMO is sitting in India and wants to have an ambition to go into European sales, you cannot send an Indian sales or business development person very effectively to go to UK or Europe, Germany to do business. You have to have localization, you have to hire the right people who are in the same location, geographically located. Those are the things we are missing due to COVID-19. I 100% agree with you, I think after COVID, in a post-covid world, there will be a hybrid strategy that you can have digital, the zoom all of those things. You won’t have to come to the office everyday but nevertheless you can work and focus more from a tactical point of view instead of a tactical focus more on the strategic project. So, if you ask me what COVID has given me, there are two things. I used to travel 50% of the time, but I haven’t travelled in the last year. It has given me time to focus on planning for the strategic projects. I am spending more time on projects and as things will be going hybrid, CEOs will be having a little bit more time to spend more on the strategic focus for the future, guiding the future of the company. Second thing is the leadership, the first layer, second layer and the third year. The leadership team, the pyramid, has to be very strong because a good leader has to ultimately make himself redundant to be able to give the second guy an opportunity otherwise he will never develop.

Alessandro Mantell: Incredible and from a leadership point of view, when we first went into lockdown in March, Mantell Associates was a completely start-up business one year and three months in and it was a scary situation. But I think through doing what we're doing today and of course a lot of these vaccine viral vector manufacturers and all CDMO's and all pharmaceutical businesses are now more than ever looking to grow and expand their teams. Which means that they're doing interviews just like this, how they wouldn't have done before which meant that everything has been able to to move forward at speed as well which has created opportunities. I wanted to see from and kind of get your opinion on areas of value creation within CDMO right now, not only now but in the future as well, what areas do you see.

Harry Rathore: If you see that most of the innovation into the new drug molecules and all the therapies is coming from the small companies. Take an example of the vaccine. I’ll come back to COVID-19. Bio and Tech is a small company in Germany, they were not able to bring this drug into the market. Oxford was not able to bring the drug into the market so they needed the muscle power of AstraZeneca who has a core competency from the regulatory running of clinical trials and distributing the drugs. What will happen in the future? The drug will continue, the innovation will continue to come from the smaller companies but they will need partners who ultimately will bring that drug to the market. It will be a synergetic relationship so that one driver is going to happen. The second driver that is going to happen in my opinion is that there will be more vertical integration, forward integration. For example, COVID-19, Pfizer was able to launch the drug much faster than Moderna because Moderna had to make the active drug at Lonza and then there is a formulation at Catalan. So there was a delay involved, so CDMO leaders will be looking into more vertical integration, one stop sharp so they can produce the active as well as they can produce the formulation.

Alessandro Mantell: Incredible and a great perspective and something I've not heard before. I guess something which is hugely important as well for different people at this point in time, running companies, running divisions inside manufacturing companies where people are under pressure like never before. What advice would you give to CEOs across the board?

Harry Rathore: I think COVID-19 has taught CEOs, the leaders that sometimes while shareholders are important, numbers are important but you have to have the empathy and the compassion for the people. For example, in the board I sit on, we have so many discussions about working mothers. When COVID-19 hit, schools closed down, the children couldn't go to school, mothers had only two choices: either quit there job and take care of the kids or work from home. So they need flexible working hours and if the leaders are not empathetic enough to accommodate these kinds of things, you cannot buy loyalty. I am a firm believer that if you do those gestures, the productivity of those employees are going to be with the company for a very long period of time and they will remain loyal and productive for a very long time. I think that the industry is recognizing this, empathy in the leadership. The second thing is these leaders, the CEOs that are used to sitting in the corner office. They are becoming more and more the chief people's officer. The assets of the company are your people and your sides and that is what leaders have to focus on, these two aspects of it and then develop the second and the third layers who ultimately provide the continuous growth of the company.

Alessandro Mantell: Absolutely love that and Ram S.Upadhayaya who is the CEO of LAXAI, amazing amazing guy. He basically said the same thing, chief people officer. That's the role, your role is to serve and to look after people but also to to make sure that the company is following the direction that they wish to go in. I guess that it is always hard to have that empathy and that human touch especially during a time like right now where there's more pressure for results and speed than ever before so it's a really really hard balance. I wanted to say as well, your quote that you said at the start of this, never waste a good crisis. It's a quote from Winston Churchill and I actually put it in an article I put on LinkedIn a little while ago and I think it has to be said that across the board, across the pharmaceutical world, across everything this crisis hasn't gone to waste has it?

Harry Rathore: I agree with you, I think all of the leaders, keeping the politics out of it, have ultimately stepped up and they delivered. I think this is what leadership is all about, leaders have a social responsibility, they have a social responsibility for their employees, for their stockholders, stakeholders, as well as for their communities. I think that is what today's leaders have done and as I said in my opinion, I am fortunate to have been in this industry a very long time, 30 plus years and I'm very fortunate to have that opportunity to be a part of this amazing fraternity.

Alessandro Mantell: Amazing, Harry thank you so much for all of your advice all of your thoughts on everything. I highly appreciate it and thank you so much for coming on Mantell Associates Network. It has been brilliant having you and we'll talk really really soon. Thank you!

Harry Rathore: Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity, pleasure, bye for now.

If you missed Harry Rathore original podcast and would like to listen, please click here!

Mantell Associates is a specialist Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Recruitment organisation founded by CEO Alessandro Mantell in January 2019. If you would like to find out more about how we support finding you the right talent or the right opportunity, contact us on +44 (0)20 3854 7700.