Industry Trends

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

from a

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

largest."

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:

Investing in "a world class infrastructure," such as the

$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."

Set up a superior advisory board. "Ours is exceptional for

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.

Commission high-end graphics design. For his new logo and

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

York University.

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

the ground."

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

client."

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."

Biovid Corp., 5 Vaughn Drive, Suite 111, Princeton

08540-6313. Andrew D. Aprill, president. 609-750-1400; fax,

609-750-1466. Home page: www.biovid.com

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Industry Trends

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:

More drugs may be made available. If a drug has a serious but

rare side effect, it might not get approved. "But if the drug comes

with a diagnostic with predictive abilities, you can make that drug

available."

Marketing models will change. "No longer do we have a

monolithic market. Instead we have fractionated and splinter markets,

and this will change the promotional approach for products."

Insurance coverage will change "Doctors and insurers will

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

appropriate therapy."

"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."


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