How to Develop Commercialization Strategies and Be Ready for Anything: Reviewing Dr. Brian Jahns Keynote

By: Sean Peel, OBIO, Director Program Development


During his lively and highly engaging presentation, ‘Strategic Marketing & Commercialization Plans for Early Stage Companies,’ Dr. Brian Jahns (Senior VP, Commercial and Business Development at Trillium Therapeutics Inc) discussed approaches for developing strategies and the importance of scenario planning.

Brian noted that a company’s strategy will primarily focus on either doing something better, cheaper, or faster than their competition, where competition is high, leading to blood in the water (the “Red Ocean” approach), or doing something new and innovative or providing a new experience (the “Blue Ocean” approach). In either case it is critical to identify the points of differentiation between you and the competition. These high-level approaches should then lead to developing strategies (high level plans) which address the area of focus.

The primary method of strategic planning discussed was “VMOSA.” This starts with considering the future Vision and current Mission of the organization. These then lead to identifying where are you at now, where do you want to get to and the pivotal challenges to getting there. These in turn inform the key Objectives you need to achieve and when you need to achieve them. From the objectives you can identify your Strategies to achieve the objectives. These strategies then lead to the Actions that must be:

  • Specific

  • Aligned to Objectives

  • Time-bound

  • Measurable

  • Identify KPI’s

  • Subject to revision

An Objective could be “Secure a strong IP position for core technology” leading to Strategy of “Test additional uses for our core technology”. From that, the Actions might be “determine potential for core technology for use in treatment of X, Y and Z and file new patents for use in these treatments by December 2018.

Brian noted that it was critical during strategic planning to conduct scenario planning where you give thought to what you will do if something changes in the external environment or you were unable to achieve the action (or did better than expected). These might include the publication of new regulatory guidance, the successful IPO of a competitor, or failure to secure sufficient funding. He suggested beyond the base case which you develop fully that you should consider least 3 other relatively likely outcomes and then at a high level develop what potential responses you might consider if they occur. These might be adding additional clinical trial sites if recruitment is slow or licencing in related IP you previously identified if you can’t get additional new patents allowed.

There were a number of questions throughout the presentation which led to discussions including how to develop strategies in companies that have a mix of products, some of which are innovative and some of which are commoditized, or how to decide whether to develop a quick-to-market, high-competition product, or a higher regulatory burden product which will require more time and more money.

The presentation itself and the presentation slides will be uploaded to the OBIO Members portal shortly and is well worth listening to if you didn’t get to attend.