Expert Provider Problem:
From Chris, a 25 year veteran of regulatory and clinical operations at Pfizer/Novartis/J&J/Amgen/Merck [one of these]: “I had a former colleague who took a role as Director of Regulatory Operations at Roche/AstraZeneca/AbbVie/GSK [one of these]. When she heard I became an independent consultant she called me right away for an eTMF inspection readiness project, which I was perfectly suited for. It was going to be approximately 500 hours over the course of 18 months, possible 10-15% up or down, hours-wise.
Unfortunately, she found out she wasn’t allowed to contract me directly, her Procurement group wouldn’t allow it. We had to find a consulting company third party, who would then subcontract me. It took a few months to find a consulting company and then for that consulting company to put an MSA in place with them. I got so tired of waiting around I threatened to walk away. The consulting company stopped dragging their feet and finally put it in place- that was 4 months after introduced.
I finally got onboarded. Time went by and my friend and I were having a late night project call. She said something about running out of budget. I said really, already? Having been 25 years at a drug sponsor, sitting in her job title, hiring people like me, I was very surprised this was an issue, as my hourly rate of $150 was, I thought, extremely reasonable. My jaw nearly hit the floor when she told me what the consulting company was charging: “Chris, the consulting company is charging $300/hr for you”
It gets worse. I went back to the consulting company and said hey guys, you never would have had this MSA without me. You now have the ability to get a lot more business from this drug sponsor. I’d like you to share some of that [100%] mark up with me.” They flatly refused.
Now I have to continue working with this group of people, knowing they’re making exactly as much as I am, but I’m doing all the work, all they’re doing is paperwork. I can’t wait until my contract is up so I can move out of this terrible situation. I am going to tell my friend she’s going to have to find someone else.”
Hiring Entity Problem:
Hiring Entities (HEs) say that talent is scarce. The truth is, full time employees are scarce. In life sciences R&D they always have been scarce. Now the Great Resignation has amplified the issue to titanic proportions. Great talent has “left the workforce” in order to have greater control over the projects they choose and work-life balance. The good news is, they are still available. The bad news is, not as full time employees.
“When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Drug sponsors have yet to adapt to this new reality. At most companies, there is a far greater comfort zone with full time employees (FTEs) than with non-FTEs. Although many companies have embraced “contingent” labor, workforce strategies assigns the majority of work to FTEs, especially critical and strategic tasks. And “contingent” labor is simply FTEs in disguise- usually these are long term, roles-based 40 hr work weeks, it’s just that some other third party pays the benefits. That seems like an easy solution until you consider that cost of the third party comes directly out of the pocket of the expert- there’s only so much the drug sponsor is willing to pay. Also, these days employees are smarter than ever. Continent laborers don’t have access to drug sponsor stock options. This makes a difference to quality talent.
HR systems are not small business systems: If more and more talent is available as non-FTEs, workforce strategies and the systems that support them need to be in alignment with this new reality. Take the common practice for drug sponsors to insist on paying by w2. This is to inoculate against “worker classification risk”, i.e. the chance that a temporary worker is going to sue the employer for employee benefits. This is why contingent labor looks and feels so much like FTEs- it is all predicated on the belief that all worker desire to be FTEs. All workers want the safety, comfort, stability and benefits of full time employment.
This is false. It was false even before the Great Resignation, but even more so now. When someone chooses to decouple from the corporate ladder, they embrace the “risk” of paying for their own employment tax, their own benefits and take responsibility for their own utility by having multiple clients. One big item is taking control of their taxes. Being paid by 1099 they enjoy all the tax deductions that a business deserves. Being paid by w2 denies them those benefits for that chunk of money flowing into that small business.
LifeSciHub’s mission is to help HEs evolve towards this new reality.
How do we solve the problems?
LifeSciHub solves problems on two sides of the aisle:
- LifeSciHub helps Hiring Entities (HE) compliantly engage vetted and qualified Expert Providers (EP)
- LifeSciHub provides EPs access to provides (business development support), total transparency of all fees, business administration support, community, resources, and profit sharing.
- For both parties LifeSciHub is a strategic response to the Great Resignation.
How do we do it?
Community Vetting- When Word of Mouth Isn’t Enough: Word of Mouth is a the original network tool. As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. But sometimes, that’s not enough. Sometimes the work doesn’t get done because you don’t know the right person to do it. Sometimes the phone stops ringing for a while. And, in 2022 and beyond, the work is getting bigger, faster, more complex and more demanding. This is the gap LifeSciHub fills- a trusted platform that is just one step beyond word of mouth. Not as good as word of mouth- nothing ever will be, but as close one can get to a trusted relationship, short of having actually had that relationship yourself.
LifeSciHub’s ideal EP has been referred to LifeSciHub by other trusted members. “Trust” is established by a firsthand witness of the new Member’s previous work product. In other words, we prefer someone we know to have actually worked with the EP before, have seen them in action, and know they’re good.
LifeSciHub vets HEs too. In a world where Talent is scarce, HEs need to compete to make themselves an attractive place to work, and a good team to work with. This is challenging under any circumstances, but working with non-FTEs is even more challenging. LifeSciHub endeavors to bring only HEs to the EP Community that have embraced strategies aligned towards working with non-FTEs. This is a work in progress!
Platform technology: Originally based on Upwork, LifeSciHub has evolved since 2019 to build an online platform presence suited for life sciences R&D. Our main goal is to deliver transparency and trust to all members.
On the EP side, LifeSciHub serves as business administration support. If an EP could have 5-10% of the most perfect secretary imaginable, this is the goal LifeSciHub aspires to. We also have a free Time Tracker, available to all members.
On the HE side, a common complaint we hear: “I never know what the consultant is doing. At least with FTEs it’s clear what their role is supposed to be. Also, I have totally lost track of the budget, there are too many invoices to keep track of and account for.” The LifeSciHub platform provides real time access to all EP hours, SOWs and Agreements in a single dashboard interface designed to bring order and clarity to the non-FTE experience.
Strategic Business Administration: LifeSciHub’s goal is to have a single MSA with each drug sponsor, which would provide the HE compliant access to all LifeSciHub members- EP small businesses of 1-10. At present, for any mid sized drug sponsor or larger (and an increasing number of small pharma as well) there is a tendency to favor large vendors. This is in the name of risk mitigation. But large does not equal quality or innovation, those are characteristics of small business. By operating on flat rates, total transparency and profit sharing, LifeSciHub consolidates access in a way that is appealing to that small business community, leading to a higher caliber of talent in the LifeSciHub membership.
LifeSciHub also believes, strongly, that negotiating legal terms such as mutual indemnification should never add months to drug development. This task should take place upstream, not in the heat of the clinical trial moment. There are tremendous hidden costs to the current in-series, traditional approach to business administration.