Global Government Relations and Public Affairs in Life Sciences

Exploring Government Relations in Life Sciences: An Interview with Frank Farnel

A Conversation between Frank FarnelHead Global Government Relations and Public Affairs at Tilray Brands Inc. and Advisory Board Member Morgan Philips Group Global Life Sciences Practice and Elyas Bozan, Global Practice Head Life Sciences and Managing Director at Morgan Philips Germany.

In the highly regulated and ever-changing industry of Life Sciences with Pharma, businesses face significant impacts from changes in legislation, compliance requirements, reputation, relations, and the sector as a whole. The role of governments and policies in company growth has evolved, requiring organizations to adapt. Continuous monitoring, analysis, and direction are necessary, even before launching a new product.

The Public Health System is governed by European and International laws that are constantly being reconstructed and modified. The decisions regarding cost containment in insurance policies, business compliance requirements, and legal bills have a notable impact on Pharma and MedTech.

Communication is also crucial. Government Relations and Public Affairs go beyond PR and lobbying, playing a vital role in political, social, and economic growth.

The dynamics within the sector have changed, and staying competitive now involves adhering to different rules.

Elyas Bozan:

Frank, you are the Head of Global Government Relations and Public Affairs at Tilray Brands Inc. Government Relations and Public Affairs in Life Sciences, especially Pharma is challenging. Can you explain to us why?

Frank Farnel:

Navigating the intricacies of Government Relations and Public Affairs, Lobbying, influence, and reputation can be a complex and ever-changing task, especially in a tightly regulated market.

In recent years, the Life Sciences Sector, particularly Pharma, has undergone significant transformations. Companies are now going global and going public, requiring a new set of skills and tools to effectively introduce, sustain, and sell their products. Market access specialists and regulatory personnel are no longer sufficient; companies need managers and consultants with specific expertise.

Moreover, success in this field requires a shift in mindset. Companies must now focus on not only the product itself but also on market sensitivity, ESG strategies, patience, and stakeholder considerations. They must actively shape the market and establish themselves as thought leaders.

This is so true that the functions of influence, government relations, and public affairs have greatly evolved, and when used properly with professionals in the field, they actively contribute to the growth of the organizations they represent. These optimized functions are not only capable of building networks of alliances for the company they work for but also of developing business by treating governments as customers, with the ability to navigate even the most complex political systems. This concept of “market shaping” embodies the growth of our function while simultaneously upholding the organization’s reputation.

Elyas Bozan:

How has this sector changed?

insightful conversation between Frank Farnel, head of Global Government Relations and Public Affairs at Tilray Brands Inc., and Elyas Bozan, Global Practice Head Life Sciences at Morgan Philips Germany, as they dissect the complex landscape of Life Sciences and Pharma, revealing the crucial role of government relations, public affairs, and thought leadership in shaping the market. Understand the power of strategic communication and the delicate balance between local and global considerations in the evolving world of business diplomacy, particularly in the highly regulated Life Sciences industry.

Frank Farnel:

The environment in which participating groups operate is becoming increasingly organized, with a focus on sustainability. Advocacy groups, including patient associations, play a vital role in this landscape. Patients are organized based on disease areas, sectors, cities, regions, countries, and even internationally, with a voice at the UN. They are actively involved in debates and the healthcare industry, seeking to contribute to protocols. Gone are the days when they remained silent in the background. Today, they express their opinions and play a significant role in shaping the industry. Furthermore, the shift toward personalized medicine is underway.

To truly make an impact, it is essential for stakeholders to come together at the table, contribute to agenda-setting, and share knowledge in the best interest of all. The market is becoming more democratic, with increased communication opportunities and a growing demand for transparency. The Life Sciences sector faces a challenge in adapting to these changes in an innovative and creative manner. This cannot be achieved by relying solely on regulatory individuals; it requires a broader, multi-, and plural-disciplinary approach.

Elyas Bozan:

Can you give us a job description considering that you work both on a local and global level?

Frank Farnel:

These functions are about navigating and influencing the complex world of business diplomacy to drive organizations’ growth and success on a global and local scale. Building a strong reputation is a crucial part of achieving success.

To accomplish this, one must leverage the power of thought leadership and market research to shape politically related activities in the best interest of companies. Communication plays a vital role in thought leadership, akin to storytelling. It is influenced and shaped by cultural and societal backgrounds, encompassing both local and global elements. To succeed, one must adapt their communication strategies, accordingly, balancing regional and global considerations. The concept of “global” emphasizes the inseparability of these two perspectives. Regionalizing communication and lobbying are keys to achieving success, as it is impossible to separate the local and global influences.

The function will assist businesses and advocacy groups in utilizing these tools to advance their goals and drive growth. Specifically, in industries like Pharma and MedTech, it is vital to have political, bureaucratic, and business strategies that align with government requirements for goods and services. This entails identifying what a business has to offer and aligning it with specific operational needs expressed by government departments. The ultimate goal is to have the government become an advocate for your organization. Connecting regulatory legislation with product development is crucial for success.

Elyas Bozan:

Can you give us a concrete example of how to create thought leadership in Life Sciences?

Frank Farnel:

Unlocking thought leadership requires a strategic and creative approach to communication. By thinking outside the box and embracing humility and realism in our efforts, we can achieve remarkable success. One shining example of this is the groundbreaking partnership formed between GE and the Regions of Europe, which has become a global best practice feature at COP conferences.

On a tactical level, careful selection becomes crucial. For instance, a thought leader in the field of cancer could make a significant impact by participating in relevant conferences. The key is finding a specialized niche for the thought leader to occupy. By establishing ourselves as thought leaders, we can elevate conversations, become spokespersons, and gain a competitive edge. However, adapting and aligning with the cultural context is of utmost importance. Upholding ethical standards, fostering authentic relationships, and sharing real stories should always be prioritized.

Elyas Bozan:

You accompany the process from the very beginning?

Frank Farnel:

The degree of integration of government relations or public affairs activities within an organization determines the impact they can have. It is preferable for these activities to be included in the company’s growth plan and product specifications from the very beginning of the process. There are several reasons for this. In terms of market shaping activities, it allows for the creation of the necessary environment for market development, which can take time. Another reason is that the earlier you intervene in these processes, the lower the investment costs will be. If, however, you only address these functions in an emergency, it becomes crisis management, which is more expensive and difficult to optimize. Choosing the right collaborators in government relations and public affairs is crucial. That’s why you need the expertise of a group like Morgan Philips, who has both global and local knowledge.

Elyas Bozan:

Is there any particular challenge to consider in Life Sciences with respect to other areas such as IT or Finance?                                                                                                                                                                            

Frank Farnel:

Life Sciences has always been a fascinating field for many, offering both challenging and rewarding opportunities. With the ever-changing medical landscape, Life Sciences professionals must stay up to date on new developments in their fields and be able to think quickly when faced with difficult situations. Unlike other areas such as IT or Finance, Life Sciences offers unique challenges that require creative solutions.

One of the greatest challenges within Life Sciences is its highly interdisciplinary nature. In order to get an idea off the ground, it requires input from multiple experts across several disciplines including biology, genetics, chemistry, and physics. This can often make progress slow due to conflicting opinions about how best to proceed or disagreements between team members on which direction is most beneficial for any particular project. Additionally, these projects often have strict timelines in place due to regulations concerning clinical trials or government funding requirements so being able to work efficiently together while still achieving high standards of quality is critical for success in this field.

Elyas Bozan:

Thank you for this conversation.

Challenging and very interesting.

We will get deeper into the single aspects and tools of this subject in a follow-up interview with Frank Farnel. Stay tuned!

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