Curious about who FerGene is and if it is a good fit for your next MSL Career? Check out this interview with Brad Hartman from FerGene to learn more about the company culture and what they are looking for in candidates.
Tell us more about FerGene. How big is the MSL team and why do you need an MSL team?
FerGene is a brand-new company that was formed late last year in the end of November, between the partnership between Ferring Pharmaceuticals, who had this really cutting-edge gene therapy asset in non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, and Blackstone, which is one of the largest private equity firms in the world. The two of them combined have committed over $570 million of initial capital into the company.
Just after the company was formed in the beginning part of December, we announced some truly remarkable top-line results in our phase III trial that showed some really impressive complete response rates for patients with high-grade, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. To give everybody context, there hasn’t been a major treatment advance in non-muscle invasive bladder cancer over the last 20 years. So to have such remarkable Phase III trial results from this gene therapy is really exciting. We have submitted our BLA to the FDA and it’s under consideration right now with a PDUFA date in May of this year.
As we’re going through that process with the FDA, we’re concurrently building out the entire FerGene organization including medical affairs. We’re blessed to have a couple of field medical team members on board already, but we’re looking to build out a team of 10 total medical science liaisons, so we have seven current openings on the team.
We’re really looking for individuals that have incredible scientific acumen who can be the face of this tremendously innovative science to the medical community and a really great partner to them in introducing the nadofaragene investigational therapy to them. We also want people who can also be able to walk them through not only the mechanism of action, but be able to introduce the company to them. Then more importantly, longer term, we want to be able to work with those investigators to understand what great ideas and research they’re thinking about and where our MSL team will really be a conduit for bringing those ideas back into the company.
What is an ideal candidate for you? What are some of the other characteristics that you’re looking for in applicants?
This is true for almost any MSL position, but, a high degree of scientific acumen and a very strong focus to their communication skill set. So, somebody that not only is very sharp in terms of their understanding their knowledge and their continuous learning around science, but somebody that can also take that very complex and detailed scientific information figure out how they’re funneling it in a very focused way, as they’re working with customers or with clinicians. Then third skill set, obviously, is relationship building. This has to be an individual that can very quickly build relationships with physicians out there, to be able to get their time to be able to engage with them and to be able to continue to have ongoing and meaningful scientific dialogue with them. Then be a great conduit for those research ideas and customer interactions back into the into the company.
The other thing that I think is really important for people who are coming in here is to realize this is a ground floor opportunity, this is a chance for somebody to really be a part of helping to build a field medical affairs function. There’s a lot of opportunity for people to come in and take their experience and ideas of, “Hey, this is how it worked in my last company, but I always thought it could work better.” They get a chance to come in here and to bring those ideas and creativity as we see the department and see the ways that we do things take shape. That being said, it’s also important that candidates realize while that great startup opportunity exists, it also means we’re building the ship as we sail it.
We’re not a mature operating company in terms of how we exist today, so candidates have to be comfortable dealing with a degree of ambiguity in terms of our infrastructure and our operations. They get a chance to be a part of that, which is really exciting. But it also means that unlike the larger company where an issue comes up and you blow your trumpet, and calvary come rolling over the hills to help because they just have a lot of infrastructure and support, you blow your trumpet here and you’re the Calvary. You have to be able to be a self-starter, you have to be able to sort of see business needs and reach out and sometimes seize them and sort of move things forward. And then also, again, be comfortable knowing that some of that infrastructure it’s just going to take a little time to get in place since we’re trying to build everything so quickly.
Are there other characteristics or skills that are going to be most important for successful applicants? Anything else that you want to highlight?
Since FerGene is a new enterprise and we’re moving so fast, we really need people that are phenomenal in terms of their teamwork, both within the medical affairs field, medical affairs team, how they’re triaging issues or opportunities within the team/company and reaching out to colleagues around ideas or ways that they can be supportive or helpful.
So, again, people who are nimble, who are agile, who have an entrepreneurial spirit, who are really passionate about building a company from the ground up.
Last but not least, and I say this to everybody I meet when I’m talking about the culture we’re trying to create here at FerGene is, when I think about what do I want the company to be known for when people leave here as a graduate of FerGene at some point, I’d love people to spend their entire careers here at the company. But you know, 15 years from now, 10 years from now, five years from now, somebody steps into a great opportunity with a different firm, what do I want them to feel like FerGene is known for.
One is that we did a phenomenal job of bringing this cutting-edge gene therapy to patients and really making a huge impact in patients’ lives in the non-muscle invasive bladder cancer community. The second thing that I want clinicians, patients, whomever to know, is that this is a company of exceptional character. We want fantastic human beings. And frankly, not to say that we are going to sacrifice on excellence in performance or capability, but I’d much rather take a person who’s exceptional in character and maybe the silver medalist or bronze medalist on the performance side in terms of how their degree of where they fall in their particular field of capability. We are going to really ensure that we express our humanity and how we really ingrain the patient at the center of what we do in a meaningful way. Not just make it a check the box exercise where we’re doing it to be good “corporate doobies”. But because we really truly, and very deeply care.