Pharma R&D is one of the most booming industries that always supported the world even when the pandemic hit it; thanks to its bloodline, the leaders of lab supply chain companies have always kept it running. In the last few years, the biotechnology industry has witnessed digitalization and enhancement of technology in its every code of conduct as people are looking for an advanced way of coxswaining everything.
The demand for digitalization in the biotechnology supply sector is very high as many are still following the same outdated method of purchasing lab supplies with catalogs, fax, telephones, and so on, and buyers are looking for a better alternative.
To fulfill this need of the biotechnology industry, one of the prominent leaders Natalie Bartlett, the Chief of Staff of ZAGENO, has worked very hard to solve many issues through the company’s in-depth solutions. These include online monthly spending data, comparison of products, best alternatives, tracking order status, etc., making the industry’s procedures extremely convenient. Also, by eliminating various steps, Natalie Bartlett has given her best to save her client’s time and money potential by developing the company’s top services.
In the following interview, Natalie tells us about the various challenges she sailed through to provide ZAGENO’s clients with excellent services. Following are the highlights of the interview:
Give us a brief overview of your journey through your role at ZAGENO, and also tell us what inspired you to venture into the biotechnology sector.
I started working in venture capital and focused on early-stage startups within life sciences and software. Growing up in a family of healthcare providers, this was a good fit because I always had an interest in the space. While at General Catalyst, I sourced and invested in ZAGENO, a startup reimagining life sciences commerce with an initial focus on R&D supplies.
I found myself intrigued by how outdated purchasing products for lab supplies was and how a team and technology like ZAGENO’s could help solve this. I decided to roll up my sleeves and help make a direct impact on myself. My first role was as Chief of Staff, but eventually, I moved to the customer-facing side of the business. Today, I work on ZAGENO’s enterprise business development team, focusing on helping large pharma organizations improve their research efficiency when ordering supplies.
Tell us more about ZAGENO, its vision, and the key aspects of its stronghold in the global biotechnology space.
ZAGENO’s vision is to accelerate the time between scientific milestones. While simple to articulate, it is quite complex in executing this vision. It begins by completely rethinking the industry’s lifecycle, which begins with identifying where other business markets have successfully transformed, modernized, and automated. We sometimes take the kernel of other innovations and customize them for biotechnology.
Our interpretation of the well-established subscriber model is experienced through ZAGENO’s marketplace and services. Through it, our subscribers benefit from various unique advantages such as data on historical spending, detailed product comparisons, and alternatives to products on backorder or with long lead times.
At a high level, ZAGENO seeks to democratize the buyer-seller relationship through lab supplies – the very lifeblood of scientific discovery. Historically, this part of the industry was dictated by manufacturers and distributors. Without an alternative, scientists had little choice but to accept this status quo. But just as the subscription economy has redefined the buyer-seller relationship in consumer markets, so is it changing these relationships in biotechnology.
The future of the industry will be a more harmonious one, equally dictated by manufacturers and users. Because ZAGENO provides a platform to support this evolution, we are at the epicenter of this change.
From the business development perspective, what is your opinion on the impact of the pandemic on the biotech space? How did you aid your organization to overcome the challenges rooting from the pandemic?
From ZAGENO’s perspective, the pandemic has divided the industry into groups of haves and have nots. The thing that is often overlooked is the running cost of biotech, which can range from $10,000-40,000 per day. So, any downtime in productivity can have profound business implications to the bottom line.
COVID’s impact on the supply chain caused some labs to go dark and their scientists to be furloughed. But biotechs that subscribe to ZAGENO benefit from access to a marketplace where they are able to forecast accurately and manage supply levels and face challenges like backorders and extended lead times with suitable alternatives to ensure labs remain open and productive.
What is your opinion on the necessity for biotech companies to align their offerings with newer technological developments, especially when catering to the ever-evolving healthcare needs?
While focusing on investing in early-stage startups at the intersection of life sciences and software at General Catalyst, I witnessed the burgeoning of startups looking to accelerate the drug discovery process from R&D through clinical and beyond.
In my opinion, the software has not impacted the life sciences field in the same way it has in other industries, so the opportunity to accelerate the drug discovery process (which today averages ten years) through the use of the software is immense.
For R&D purchasing in particular (ZAGENO’s focus), a vast majority of research scientists are still purchasing supplies in the same way consumers purchased goods in the 1970s! They are still phoning and faxing in orders via paper catalogs. While today’s consumers can buy groceries in one click and have them arrive the same day, scientists spend 4-8 hours just finding and purchasing supplies. If technology can reduce wait times from weeks to days and even hours, imagine the savings potential, both in time and money, of the drug development process at large!
Through your role as Chief of Staff, what efforts did you and your team at ZAGENO take during the pandemic to sustain operations and ensure the safety of your employees at the same time?
As you may imagine, the demand for R&D supplies during COVID has been immense. As our team transitioned to a work-from-home setup, our order volume simultaneously skyrocketed.
Personally speaking, I cannot imagine starting a new role or even a first job completely remote! But with half of ZAGENO based in Berlin, we were already accustomed to remote collaboration through video meetings, slack, and other web-based tools. To further support a work-from-home environment, our team also focused on several initiatives, such as new daily and weekly stand-up meetings.
We also provided our leadership with resources for remote management and guidelines for remote work to all employees. To provide additional support for new employees, we established a buddy system so that new hires had a dedicated ZAGENO alum as a resource. For all employees, ZAGENO also sent care packages to ensure everyone had proper at-home office and technology setups.
Despite a majority of ZAGENO never having met one another, as a company, we have been quite productive, which is evidenced by a doubling in revenue over the past year.
In your opinion, what could be the future of the biotech sector post the pandemic? And how are you strategizing your organization’s operations for that future?
We have witnessed a few trends during the pandemic for remote lab work, which I believe will continue in the future.
After the initial closure of research labs, we saw that research scientists began to return for critical work only, splitting into teams to reduce risk and performing all operational management remotely.
It became even more critical that supplies were there for research scientists when they did spend time in the lab, especially amidst an increase in product backorder rates. I believe that remote lab management will be a long-lasting effect of the pandemic, even beyond just ordering supplies.
ZAGENO is strategizing its operations to enhance these capabilities through mobile optimization and integration into inventory management solutions. Meanwhile, our operations and customer success teams are equipped to support research scientists whether they are at the bench or at home.
As an established leader, what would be your advice to the entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into the biotech space?
For entrepreneurs looking to build software companies in the life sciences space, in particular, my biggest advice would be to create a well-rounded team with experience from both the life sciences and software industries.
Given that startups in this space are still emerging identifying and hiring individuals with blended expertise is quite challenging. However, there is unique knowledge from both sides that needs to be combined in order to build a successful company, so instilling this balance through your team from the start as well as while you grow is essential.
How do you envision contributing towards the goal of sustaining your company’s stronghold in 2021?
I have recently taken on a role in enterprise business development, with a particular focus on enhancing their purchasing experience for the industry’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
In this time, I’ve witnessed the huge trend happening across pharma R&D to provide a superior user experience, consolidate buying channels, and drive digital adoption for both time savings for research scientists and cost savings for the research team at large.
Building supply and demand are crucial to winning the market with any new subscriber service (e.g., a marketplace). I believe that working with large pharma will not only drive our stronghold within the market to realize our company’s full potential but will also simultaneously bring efficiency to the lengthy R&D drug development process. It’s a true win-win, which aligns with ZAGENO’s greater mission to accelerate life sciences.