Thriving from a recessionary footing means seizing opportunities from a sector’s bearish cycle
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Our outlook for Healthcare and the Life Sciences is as bullish as ever. But recent trends might lead some to feel otherwise. For the sector that has long been a stalwart of the global economy — offering steady growth and reliable returns for investors — recent shifts in the market have caused a collective rolling back on the heels.
The major factor contributing to this is a global shift to a recession footing. Rising lending rates and volatile geopolitical dynamics have made sector investors increasingly risk averse. In turn, organizations that had previously been on years-long hiring runs are now looking to tighten up operations with substantial layoffs and other rightsizing measures. But this is in no way limited to our sector.
Every space, the world over, is on high alert. Uncertainty is high. Safety measures are advised. For all that, there’s every sign that our sector is positioned better than most to ride out the pitchy waters ahead. For those willing to look past the caution tape, there are opportunities to be had and strategic moves to be made.
With the slowing economy, those deploying capital will be steering their investment strategies away from the boisterous funding rounds we’ve seen in years past, looking for more stable and predictable opportunities. The exact nature of those opportunities are still coming into focus (though some trends are becoming apparent).
Before we start leaning hard into the holiday season, we’d like to prognosticate some of the more significant trends we see being played out in the coming year. Catch your breath. Tune out the bear market. And bear with us.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS WILL LEAD FUNDING STARTS AND OTHER INVESTMENTS
As Biotech, Pharma, and other sections of the Healthcare and Life Sciences sector adjust to the new climate, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are likely to become an increasingly attractive option. A cooling economy won’t diminish the intensity of competition for new therapies and treatments, but it will encourage the smart money to embrace more proven endeavors.
With the emergence of new technologies and approaches to drug discovery remaining the focus, ambitious companies will look to acquire smaller firms with promising pipelines and cutting-edge research capabilities. This will allow them to quickly and efficiently access new technologies, intellectual property and clinical data, without having to invest significant time and resources into jump start and/or augment their own capabilities.
Another factor that will drive M&A activity is the need to address the challenges of an increasingly complex and regulated healthcare market. As the healthcare industry continues to face growing scrutiny and regulatory oversight, companies will look to partner with firms that can help them navigate these challenges and unlock new and/or emerging growth opportunities.
M&A can also be a useful tool for companies looking to diversify their portfolios and reduce their exposure to risks. With the rapid pace of change in the sector, companies are consistently under pressure to innovate and adapt to new market conditions. By acquiring firms with complementary products and services, companies can gain new capabilities and expertise, and better position themselves to respond to changing market dynamics — whether that market is cooling or heating up.
SLEEP ON NEXT-LEVEL TECH AND YOU MIGHT AS WELL NOT WAKE UP
The recent furor over bleeding edge AI technologies like ChatGPT is not overblown. This single example of an assistive AI tool has, in just a few short weeks, disrupted how we understand the future of entire fields of labor, industries, and of the viability of some of the most valuable products currently in existence.
OpenAI’s ChatGPT is mostly still an MVP and it is already being touted as the end of Google as we know it. The writing on the wall for search is being written by a bot, one easy to follow chat thread at a time. Programmers are using it to write and debug code faster and more efficiently than ever before. Non-programmers are using it to write apps from scratch, and run those apps, without ever having learned the first thing about Base 2. People are using it to write talk show-worthy jokes and compose original song lyrics. It is being used by academic researchers to pursue unique avenues of study, and allowing those avenues to be finessed and refined on the fly.
These are just a few of the thousands of uses people are finding for a single general purpose instance of this technology. Imagine what purpose-built tech of this ilk will do for Healthcare and the Life Sciences.
The mind boggles.
There’s no shortage of companies pursuing these very ends in the healthcare space. We are all keenly aware that AI is quickly becoming a force in the sector. There are AI suites designed to detect and identify aortic aneurysms, ones that can diagnose asymptomatic COVID infections from mobile phone recordings, and ones that can predict patient outcomes with unprecedented accuracy. These incredible applications are just the crest of a swell that will sweep us all up in its momentum. We know it’s the future.
The lesson of ChatGPT is that knowing the future isn’t the same as owning it. Not “owning” AI in the sense of property (although that would be a nice bonus). Rather, we’re talking about the act of internalizing that technology as an undeniable part of our particular organizations’ operational futures. What ChatGPT shows is that those of us who have been treating AI like something to be concerned with in the near future are already late to the game.
If we haven’t already figured out where assistive AI fits into our various pieces of the health sector pie, there’s no more time to waste. The future is already here. If we don’t figure out how to own our part of it, it’ll wind up owning us.
FIND TOMORROW’S SECTOR LEADERS TODAY
Even as health sector organizations are pressed to make difficult decisions around layoffs and other downsizing efforts, taking a parallel opportunity to invest in new executive talent may not be as counterintuitive as it initially seems.
Competition for strong executives in the Healthcare and Life Sciences remains fierce, in good times and bad. In past years, we’ve seen companies in pockets of healthcare casting well beyond the sector to find the top tier candidates needed to fill crucial C-suite roles. So it makes sense to capitalize on any opening in the market, even if the general thrust of the organization is set on letting people go.
The Life Sciences industry is complex and constantly evolving, and effective leaders are crucial for navigating these challenges and making the right strategic decisions. Investing in executive talent is a way to provide long-term benefits and ensure the success and sustainability of the organization, even through the most uncertain times.
Another reason to invest in executive talent is the need for innovation. The Life Sciences industry is highly competitive, and organizations must constantly innovate to stay ahead. Investing in executive talent can help organizations identify and develop new ideas and strategies, as well as bring in fresh perspectives and approaches. Referring back to our earlier observations about the looming significance of Artificial Intelligence and other assistive technologies in the sector, to meet these demands we’re seeing new and previously unseen C-suite roles rise to prominence. Chief among these is the Chief Data Officer (or CDO).
Increasingly, the most disruptive innovations in health care are being driven by hard data and the inspired application of its use. In the past, we might have seen the role of managing pieces of an organization’s data fall under the rubric of a Chief Information Officer or Chief Scientific Officer. But, with the ballooning significance of data in the pursuit of new treatments and medical innovation, and the sheer weight of the responsibility, a dedicated C-suite role is warranted.
A Chief Data Officer plays a crucial role in ensuring that data is collected, managed, and analyzed in a way that helps improve patient care and outcomes. They are also responsible for establishing and implementing policies and procedures related to data management, as well as developing and executing strategies to use data to drive decision making and improve operations. This includes working with other departments and stakeholders to identify data-driven opportunities, as well as implementing technologies and systems to support data management and analysis. The CDO is also responsible for ensuring that data is collected and managed in a way that is compliant with relevant regulations, such as those governing patient privacy and data security.
CDOs will continue to take prominence as a critical role in helping Healthcare and Life Sciences organizations harness the power of data to improve patient care and drive operational efficiencies.
AN INTREPID APPROACH TO RECESSION-PROOFING
The combination of economic, financial, and geopolitical factors has created a challenging environment for the Healthcare and Life Sciences sector. Investors are becoming increasingly cautious, and the sector is facing headwinds as it navigates these difficult new conditions. While the long-term outlook for the sector remains positive, in the short term, organizations in the space will need to adapt to these uncertain conditions in order to maintain growth and profitability — and to position themselves for the boom times to come.
Far from taking a defensive position, intrepid organizations should be casting farther ahead with their ambitions, positioning themselves to excel in that future where the economy inevitably rebounds.
Shannon Muchmore, “Myth Diagnosis: Is Healthcare Recession-Proof?,” Healthcare Dive, 2019,
Sydney Halleman, “Health Tech Companies Weigh Funding Options amid Weak IPO Market,” BioPharma Dive, 2022,
“Current Pharma M&A Trends,” Deloitte, 2022,
“Big Pharma Firms Return to the Deal Table in H1,” White & Case, 2022,
Arianna Johnson, “Here’s What to Know about OpenAI’s ChatGPT—What It’s Disrupting and How to Use It,” Forbes, December 7, 2022,
Anthony Cuthbertson, “‘Google Is Done’: World’s Most Powerful AI Chatbot ChatGPT Offers Human-like Alternative to Search Engines,” The Independent, 2022,
Andrea Park, “Viz.ai’s Deep Learning AI Spots Suspected Aortic Dissections with High Accuracy” Fierce Biotech, 2022,
Jennifer Chu, “Artificial Intelligence Model Detects Asymptomatic Covid-19 Infections through Cellphone-Recorded Coughs,” MIT News, 2020,
Alaap Shah and Andrew Kuder, “Industry Voices—the Rise of the Chief Data Officer Marks Ongoing Evolutions in the C-Suite,” Fierce Healthcare, 2019,
About the Authors
Darren Raycroft, Managing Director- North American Life Sciences & Healthcare
Darren brings 15+ years of executive search and strategic consulting experience, where his work has been focused on clients in the specialty areas of Life Sciences & Healthcare in the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada. Prior to joining The Bedford Consulting Group/TRANSEARCH in 2008, Darren spent time with an international executive search firm and started his career with a boutique healthcare consulting firm, where he authored a variety of reports on emerging, minimally invasive, medical-device technologies and consulted for some of the world’s largest medical-device companies.
Darren’s insights into executive and board leadership and trends in human capital have been featured in Fast Company magazine, Fierce Biotech and Endpoints News. He is a graduate of the University of Ottawa, where he obtained an Honours Degree in Economics.
Howard Pezim, Managing Director- North American Life Sciences & Healthcare
Howard is co-founder and Managing Partner of Bedford Group/TRANSEARCH. He is the founder of the firm’s Healthcare & Life Sciences practice, where he has worked extensively supporting clients across all aspects of healthcare, including Pharmaceutical, early-stage Biotech, Medical Technology, Device, health insurance and services industries.
As a trusted advisor to countless CEOs and Boards, Howard has been entrusted by his clients to lead the most challenging and complex C-suite level hires. Driven by a passion for people and purpose, Howard’s authentic and genuine style and depth of experience interviewing tens of thousands of leaders has given him a front row seat to rapidly changing leadership capabilities, where he has played a key role in building some of the top performing senior leadership teams in the industry.