Spectra Selling Solutions: a new player in contract sales organizations

Pharmaceutical CommercePharmaceutical Commerce - March/April 2016

New subsidiary of The Medical Affairs Co. hopes to fill gaps in CSO offerings


With the ramping up of new drug launches and generally better business conditions for US life sciences, hiring in pharma sales has also been on the rise, and now it appears that will carry over into contract sales organizations. A new venture, Spectra Biopharma Selling Solutions (Kennesaw, GA), is being set up by a pair of industry veterans as a subsidiary of The Medical Affairs Co., which itself is a leading provider of contract personnel in medical affairs and medical science liaisons (MSLs).

The Spectra founders are Brion Brandes, a former executive at Quintiles Commercial, and Lynda Parker, who has had leadership roles at Quintiles and inVentiv Health. (Those two companies are among the leaders in the CSO space in the US.) The news is all the more encouraging for pharma rep talent, because another of the leading CSO companies, PDI, recently sold off its CSO business to Publicis Touchpoint, to concentrate on commercialization of medical diagnostics technologies.

In an interview with Pharmaceutical Commerce, Brandes cites three factors that he feels will differentiate Spectra from others: a focus on small- to medium-size emerging biopharma companies, who are often looking at the complexity of developing an in-house sales force as an impediment to an eventual Big Pharma buyout; the potential to engage in risk-based contractual arrangements with clients, which would necessitate Spectra putting capital into play; and the close relationship with The Medical Affairs Co., thereby offering some clients a continuity of service from clinical to commercial. “We’ll take on a Big Pharma client—there are opportunities there—but by concentrating with a laser focus on a limited set of smaller clients, we feel we’ll be in a better position to serve them,” he says. There are no signed-up clients as yet, but as Brandes notes, “We’re only a week old and we’ve got multiple proposals in the works.”

The shared-risk arrangement is intriguing but challenging. Other CSOs in the past have attempted such efforts, necessitating the self-funding of a sales team in return for a bigger share of revenues, but the practice is not widespread. Brandes says that the company will have access to private capital and other sources that could support this model. He also notes that many investment firms that closely track emerging biotechs encourage them to develop a full-blown commercial operations practice, but behind the scenes some of them also discourage it as a distraction and impediment to getting to a buyout stage—making an outsourced option attractive. “Above all, a CSO arrangement provides flexibility to the client, to be able to ramp up or down operations at certain stages in the product life cycle.”

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