eLabBlog

To Succeed in Biopharma R&D: Information Flows and Planning Ahead

By Simon Delagrave, PhD 4 min read 13 Jun 2024

Effective communication within a biopharma R&D organisation can significantly enhance your and your team’s efficiency. In the spirit of fostering greater efficiency, this article will explore the curation and transmission of information in an R&D environment. Clear and well-documented scientific and technical results prevent misunderstandings within R&D teams and save time, boosting overall productivity. Preparing for key moments by appropriately formatting and curating information will increase the likelihood of successful interactions with internal and external stakeholders, such as prospective investors and regulatory authorities.

Below, we discuss the typical roles and responsibilities in R&D environments, the standard formats used for communication, and how they can be improved.

Roles and Responsibilities in R&D

As shown in Figure 1 below, R&D involves various participants with different roles, responsibilities, and levels of understanding of technical details. 

Figure 1.  Information shared at different levels of a biopharma R&D organisation needs to be curated for efficient communication. Arrows are colour-coded to indicate the level of technical detail in communications. Not all company functions are represented.

Due to these differences, it is crucial to format and choose the information you wish to communicate in a way that meets your audience’s needs. For instance, the chairperson of the board of directors generally does not need to see a notebook entry describing an important experiment or raw, unprocessed data, but they do need to understand the significance of experiments in relation to the company’s goals and funding needs. Conversely, the department (or team) head might need to find a notebook entry to prepare a slide that accurately describes experimental results and their significance. These examples illustrate the need for different types of documents to present and preserve the information the company and all personnel generate.

Common Communication Formats for Biopharma R&D

Whether you’re sharing recent findings or aligning stakeholders on a project’s milestones, conveying experimental rationale and results is essential. Here are a few common ways that information flows through biopharma organisations and some of the complications that can occur when it does. 

Notebook entries

While lab notebooks are intended to store detailed experimental methods that enable reproducibility, managers or investors may not have the time or technical skill required to interpret experimental rationale, locate data, and analyse data independently. This is why the information in a notebook must be extracted and formatted in such a way that best suits the target intended audience. 

However, this process carries risks. If the presented data are not linked to the written record of their acquisition, it may be challenging for future members of the team who prepare an Investigational New Drug (IND) application months or years later to validate that past experiments support assertions made in the IND filings. Technical reports provide a systematic way of recording key results, presented in the same style as a peer-reviewed scientific paper. They also link these results to the notebook entries that initially reported them.

Team meetings and slide decks

Slide deck presentations at weekly check-ins are another primary method of communication at all levels of biopharma companies and are a familiar nexus in biopharma R&D life.  

However, not all biopharma personnel are trained in presentation skills or best practices, and this format presents a significant opportunity for miscommunication. There are also numerous inefficiencies in how regular meetings are organised. Many resources, including books and podcasts, offer practical advice on managing these events. Managing such meetings involves understanding their purpose and having a clear agenda beforehand. Setting expectations early regarding how data should be presented in slide decks at routine meetings can simplify and accelerate the preparation for more significant presentations.

Milestone meetings

Regular meetings with colleagues or managers require preparation, but some less frequent meetings can have much higher stakes. Milestone meetings may involve sharing information with internal or external parties and can be “make or break” moments in a company’s journey. 

The importance and amount of preparation for these events often correlate with the amount of money involved in the decisions resulting from them. Board meetings will preoccupy the C-suite for weeks in advance, and functional heads will need to create slides that are visually pleasing and convey information efficiently. 

This preparation is time-consuming, especially if graphs or figures must be redone to meet basic scientific rigour, aesthetics, and clarity criteria. In addition to informing company leadership, slides intended for prospective investors must be prepared and presented or deposited in virtual data rooms for their inspection.  

Conclusion

With several common communication formats and many different communication styles in the biopharma R&D environment, aligning and standardising communication across such diverse and busy organisations can be challenging.

The solution to these problems is to templatise various communication formats with rules and requirements for processed data (e.g., graphs, charts, etc.), presentations, notebook entries, and more. Taking the time to be controlled and systematic in scientific communication is an integral part of working in a biopharma R&D environment. It can significantly increase efficiency and mitigate the risk of a costly miscommunication. Such efforts will yield results later, both in terms of successful fundraising and regulatory filings. 

Digital lab platforms, such as eLabNext, can help streamline the standardisation process for notebook entries and other communication formats. Contact us to learn more about how eLabNext can help.

Delagrave Life Sciences, LLC

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