Dr Michael Anstey brings inside track big pharma knowledge to the Cambridge science & technology cluster with his appointment by the UK ‘patient capital’ funder. His rationale for leaving a dream job with BCG should give the whole Cambridge life science community a shot in the arm.
Dr Anstey said: “I must admit that eyebrows were raised and people questioned why I would leave my position at BCG, which was prestigious and internationally focused, to come to Cambridge.“But we are on the cusp of something fantastic here. It’s exciting to be part of an opportunity in a growth phase and I think it’s the perfect time to join this world-class team and build something great.
“I believe that we are at a tipping point in Cambridge and if everything comes together then the profile and prosperity of the area will explode in a really positive way.”
Anstey was a principal in the BCG’s healthcare practice anchored in Toronto; BCG is acknowledged as one of the top management consulting firms in the world.
He brings experience in advising multinational healthcare businesses across North America, Europe, India, and Japan on a broad range of topics, including corporate strategy, sales and marketing, new launches, R & D and medical strategy and M&A.
Anstey is also a co-founder of Proteorex Therapeutics Inc, a Canadian biotechnology company developing small molecule drugs that target protein-protein interactions in disease. He joins CIC as an investment firector specialising in healthcare investments.
Diversity is strength and Anstey, with his knowledge of the requirements of Fortune 500 companies, brings a different perspective to the Cambridge-based investment company, increasing the scope of support for its portfolio companies.
He said: “At BCG I advised over 30 multinational pharma companies on their most challenging issues to help them to win in their market.
“It’s like putting the pieces together for a complex jigsaw; if you want to win in oncology then you need to focus on this type of technology, partner with this institution, acquire this company and so on.
“Each big pharma has its own culture and I have a good sense of how they work and the differences between them.
“Many of our portfolio companies aspire to become successful on this scale or are looking to sell to, or partner with, these companies. I have a good sense of what small businesses need to do to be attractive to them.
“Being customer-driven is important. It is natural for a young company coming out of academia to be solely focused on the science – which might be brilliant, elegant, and innovative – yet may not be quite what the potential customer needs.
“At CIC, we can provide that reality check and, more importantly, provide the support to these companies to successfully go from science and discovery to commercialisation.
“Partnering with multinationals early on can be a great way to bring in deep pockets as well as the specific expertise and credibility needed. Support from a big pharma will help the company focus on what is truly important to be successful and what is not.
“To give an example, Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation (JJDC) supported the launch of Inivata, a CIC portfolio company with an innovative ‘liquid biopsy’ technology that is aimed at transforming cancer treatment.
“JJDC invests in areas that are aligned with the core business focus of its operating companies; for example a key area of interest for Janssen Diagnostics is enabling better strategies to intercept and inform treatment decisions in cancer.
“For cash intensive businesses, having multinationals come on board can be essential and we can help broker this arrangement.”
He said going international was a necessity for many Cambridge companies and Anstey believes he can provide valuable insights as to what will work and what won’t hit the sweet spot for big pharma.
“If you’re in the very scientific stages then of course you can operate remotely, that’s absolutely fine, especially given the often small team size. However, operating remotely can often get you only so far, and it soon becomes critical to have people on the ground, building relationships with regulators, potential partners, and other key stakeholders.
“You can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. If I think of Japan, for example, the second largest health care market in the world, it’s quite a different process to go through clinical trials than it is in the United States.
“One could argue that you can outsource all of the work, but you do need to have local expertise to know what’s happening and ensure the strategy is the right one.”
CIC has money to invest in companies with disruptive technology and Anstey believes that many Cambridge companies have achieved incredible things on relatively small amounts of cash.
“Although there is more money in the United States, there have been great success stories in the UK where impressive feats have been achieved on less money. I think we should celebrate that; Britain is quite unique and we don’t need to replicate the US. The UK has its own special abilities.
“Cambridge Medical Robotics is an interesting example. They are in a huge potential market with some stiff competitors who are spending more on development, but CMR has the best technology and is leading the way.
“However, there is usually a need down the line for large sums of money, and we operate in a global environment. Overseas investors can bring access to new markets as well as new funds.
“Cambridge is arguably the hottest spot in Europe for startups so there is fantastic deal flow coming through. We have money to invest so we are looking for the best opportunities – we are expecting many successful years ahead!”