Tips on the way to market

For many Swedish life science companies, the step into European and international markets is the really tough one, after years of research and development. What about marketing and enforcement? How will distribution be solved? And how should you think about pricing? As more and more Swedish life science companies succeed in making it all the way, as seen in SwedenBIO's latest mapping of the Swedish drug pipeline, the industry's need to navigate new areas of business development increases.

We asked Cecilia Bröms-Thell, CEO of FrostPharma, for some practical tips on how to do all this.

What are the key considerations for a market introduction?

– The simple answer is think about whether I have the skills and resources to sell the product and whether there is a recipient for what you have to offer who is willing to pay, otherwise the conditions for a successful business are not there, no matter how good and innovative a product is. Many focus on their product’s features but fail to examine whether they are marketable at the price you need to charge to make the deal work.

– The recipe for success for Frostpharma has been that we have succeeded very well in effectively scanning the market for business opportunities, quickly assessing whether it is something we can handle and then resolutely taking action. In our case, which provides a very broad portfolio of products, it is based on the ability to match a real need in the market with the right product and also to have the “self-insight” to determine whether the product is suitable for us based on our specific capabilities and competences as a company.

In the early stages of a company, much energy is spent on research and raising capital. How can the end goal in the form of a product on the market come earlier in the company’s business development without crowding out other critical elements? The day has only 24 hours.

– For us, who do not have our own research and development, it is slightly different but parallels can still be drawn. As important as it is to be out scouting new potential products and partnerships, it is equally important to limit the amount of time spent on projects that have little chance of flying. That is, we need to deal with the fact that we are a tight organization and we need to make sure that we put the right resources on the right things at the right time.

– Through our business model, we have been able to generate revenue at an early stage and have been able to reinvest it in the business, thus building FrostPharma to what it is today. In four years, the business has developed into a 15-person organization with a turnover of around EUR 165 million in 2020. SEK.

– Now that we have a larger costume, we are also more attractive to more pharmaceutical manufacturers who want to reach our markets and we aim to develop the business with products where we have a greater responsibility (MAH) and thus a larger price tag on the rights, which also means that we need to be ready to secure external capital if necessary, which is why we are also active when it comes to profiling FrostPharma towards various investors.

There are many different regulations to deal with, such as product registration, sales and marketing. How to find your way in the jungle?

– There are probably no shortcuts here other than to ensure that you have secured the business with the right skills and that all employees see and take their share of the responsibility for ensuring compliance with applicable regulations and laws. It becomes particularly complex when, like us, you have operations in several different countries where regulations and laws may differ. You need to know where to find the information, make sure you sign up for newsletters from relevant authorities. And remember, the easiest thing to do is to pick up the phone! Call or email the authority if you have a question – in my experience they are usually helpful.

Nordic cooperation in life science has been strengthened in recent years, not least by working together to promote the Nordic region as a life science region to investors and partners around the world. How to think about the Nordic region as a market. For example, are we moving towards a more common Nordic pharmaceutical market?

– I think there is a value in presenting the Nordic region as a cluster in relation to foreign stakeholders, as the sum of us allows us to be matched against other European or other foreign markets. At the same time, it is important that they also understand that it is complex precisely because there are significant differences, ranging from more complex distribution, different regulations to different languages and currencies. For us at FrostPharma, the very fact that the Nordic region is considered a rather complex region to enter is an important factor for foreign pharmaceutical suppliers – we have the competence to handle this complexity that they may lack themselves.

How important is it to learn to walk before running? Should you start ‘local’ for your market introduction or go wide in several markets in parallel??

– It may look different for different businesses, but for us it has definitely been an advantage to be able to grow as we build both the organization and the competence internally. In principle, we have all competence in-house (regulatory/PV, logistics, sales-market, finance etc.) which is an advantage and in connection with the company’s growth from being active only in Sweden to being present in all Nordic countries and Lithuania, all functions have also added country-specific competence in line with the development.

We may be a bit of an odd bird among all research-oriented companies, but hopefully that’s what makes us stand out a bit more.