Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the January 7, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
When Smaller is Better: Biovid
Strictly speaking, Andrew Aprill didn’t land on his feet
downsizing – he walked away from a big company while it was still
doing well. But he had always planned on running his own shop.
Now the 40-year-old Aprill is president of Biovid, a four-year-old
boutique pharmaceutical service firm at 5 Vaughn Drive. Recently
expanding to 4,500 square feet, he has 10 full-time employees,
including three other principals, and he expects to grow to 14 people
by the end of the year. Though he has doubled in growth every year,
getting very big is not his goal.
"Growth is market validation. It tells us we are on the right path,"
says Aprill. "The challenge is not to let the growth be the driving
principle. Our goal is to be the most sought after and not the
Consolidation of larger firms, he believes, has created an opportunity
for the smaller boutique firm. "We consider ourselves to be Ferrari
and not GM," says Aprill. "No one ever questions whether Ferrari can
build a better sports car."
Comparing his company to Total Research and Migliara Kaplan, he says
he has a slightly different approach because he puts senior level
people on every phase of the project.
If too-big can be at a disadvantage, so can a too-small company. "We
don’t ever want to have our clients see our size as a disadvantage,"
says Aprill. He is taking steps to eliminate the perception of Biovid
as being too small:
$20,000 web-based project management tool that lets team members in
Princeton and Turkey work, literally, on the same page. "If your
strategic decision is not to be the largest, you need to be sure that
your infrastructure has as much weight as the bigger companies."
an organization of this size," claims Aprill. It includes Robert F.
Bernstock, who is president of Scott’s Company (the lawn care firm);
Maxine Champion, formerly vice president of government and
international relations at Nestle International; Roger W. Davis,
formerly senior vice president of global marketing at CIGNA
Corporation; and Thomas Maeder, senior advisor for scientific
strategies at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.
brochure, Aprill chose Robin Nally because he liked the advertisements
she ran for her own company. His nifty brochure, with wrapped O-ring
bound cover on heavy stock, has quotes ranging from John Lennon to
Carl Sagan and Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi, and it features intriguing
tabbed pullouts for the team bios, board bios, and case histories.
"Andrew wanted something completely different so that when people
received this piece they would take the time to look at it," says
Nally. "He gave us creative license. I believe that Andrew’s thinking
is outside of the box and this piece represents that."
Aprill’s grandfather was a farmer, and his father had a sandblasting
business that required the family to move frequently, but he went to
high school and college in Nebraska, graduating from Kearney State in
1985. He earned his PhD in social psychology and statistics from
Temple at the Institute of Survey Research and has taught market
research in China and Spain. He and his wife, Tricia, who formerly
worked at Wyeth, live in Bucks County with their 2 1/2 year old
daughter and 10-week-old son.
Aprill’s first jobs in the pharmaceutical industry were with small
firms, including Data Tactic, which surveys doctors and patients, and
then he spent three years at a very large company, the NOP division of
Market Measures in Livingston. "I was recruited by a new CEO, Elaine
Riddell, as a change agent, part of a team formed to reposition the
company," he says.
Another of Biovid’s founders, Douglas Moore, was Aprill’s PhD advisor,
but Moore has also been a shipyard welder and diver in Seattle and a
business journalist in London. The other principals are Julie Leberman
(a Temple classmate of Aprill’s who had been at Total Research, now
Harris Interactive) and Joel Schindler (a molecular biologist with
market research experience). Anil Anand, the CFO, is an MBA from New
The five had their picture taken under a piece of conference room art
called "The Boardroom," which shows one man strongarming another.
"We’re a bunch of PhDs who take what we do very seriously," says
Aprill. "It reminds us to have fun. To provide the greatest value, we
have to be very creative."
Leberman, an expert in projective techniques, handles the "soft" or
qualitative surveys. For a project on smoking she had consumers create
collages on what it felt like to be a smoker and how it would feel to
quit smoking. "People aren’t always able to articulate how they feel
about being treated for that condition," says Aprill. "Our
non-standard technique is helping to develop messaging – what are the
key themes to use when talking to patients."
Then she had physicians do the same task to find out if there was a
disconnect between how a physician thinks about the treatment and how
the consumer thinks. "This has to be addressed for the communication
to be effective," he says.
Marianne Yeager, a new hire who heads the quantitative methods team,
does forecasting of how many dollars a market is worth on a global
basis. "She is finishing an 11-country study and is going to do a
12-country study of both consumers and patients," says Aprill, who
points out that the methodology they use depends on the country. "In
Turkey, they fill out questionnaires en masse in an auditorium. In
Japan we do it with them one on one."
As a small firm, they farm out the in-country surveys to their
partners, but Aprill hastens to add "We are there in the auditorium in
Turkey. That is a `value added’ on our global work, that we get on a
plane and go to a location. There is no substitute for having feet on
It is a challenge for Aprill to balance his personal life with the
need to travel and still be a rainmaker for his young company. Aprill
started the firm in 1999, moved to Vaughn Drive in June, 1999, took
more space last October, and is hiring.
One way he tries to help himself and others balance their lives is by
making the workplace convenient (next to the Princeton Junction train
station) and comfortable. He hired a designer and bought high-end
Herman Miller wrap-around desks. Dotting the walls are black and white
photographs of exotic locales, taken by Aprill when he was on business
trips. The boardroom converts to a small focus group room, complete
with one-way window.
All this expense is more for the workers than the clients, who rarely
visit here. "We spent some attention on what kind of look and feel we
wanted for the office," says Aprill. "We spend more time at work than
at home, and I wanted to focus on making the workplace mean something
to people. When it comes right down to it, we are in competition for
talent, not for clients. If we build the right team, clients come to
us. Everyone here is part of creating a culture that the best and the
brightest want to come to."
One big danger for a small company is the temptation to grow too big
too fast. "We must be careful in the amount of work we take on," says
Aprill. "It is seductive when clients ask more and more of your time,
and you run a risk of failing to deliver the expectation of the
Aprill says what he learned from his grandfather, a farmer, that if
something is worth doing, it is worth doing right, and that the best
reward for a full day’s work is looking back over your shoulder to see
what you have done. "I have been in companies where they lost sight of
that," he says. "If you have very talented, creative people and you
don’t let them do a job at the level they can do it – they are not
proud of that. It’s the individual that drives the business."
08540-6313. Andrew D. Aprill, president. 609-750-1400; fax,
609-750-1466. Home page: www.biovid.com
New technologies will cause major evolutionary shift in marketing
models, predicts Andrew Aprill, president of the expanding Biovid
Corp. "Everyone’s talking about advances of genome based science. and
though it represents ultimate promise, individualized medicine is a
long way off. But diagnostic technologies will change in the near
future." Take pain medication. One patient may react well to brand A
but not Brand B. "Patients can have idiosyncratic responses to
therapy," he says, and these side effects can be serious."
Genome-based medicine will make it easier to predict who will suffer
the side effects:
rare side effect, it might not get approved. "But if the drug comes
with a diagnostic with predictive abilities, you can make that drug
monolithic market. Instead we have fractionated and splinter markets,
and this will change the promotional approach for products."
have a better idea of what drugs will work with what patient types."
For instance, some rheumatoid arthritis patients thrive only with the
most expensive medication. "Instead of holding drugs back and trying
less expensive therapies first, there will be a mandate to use them
for that patient type," says Aprill. "In certain categories this will
happen sooner, conditions with a narrow therapeutic window such as
oncology, where there is significant downside risk to delaying
"Some research is going on now but it will be widespread in five
years, and it will have an impact on how our clients market to
physicians," says Aprill.
Often the doctor must choose between ibuprofen or a brand name drug.
If a physician gives a test and says the generic won’t work, it’s a
quadruple win – for the patient, the doctor, the insurer, and the
manufacturer. The patient improves rapidly, the doctor gets the credit
for it, the insurance company is not required to spend resource on
therapies that don’t work, and the pharmaceutical company proves that
its therapy does work.
How will the pharmaceutical industry respond? "That will be a
challenge," says Aprill. "We are thinking about how to best make that
transition when it happens. We need to rethink how to define markets."
Corrections or additions?
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