Bringing a Scientific Background to Pharma Consulting

By DT editorial staff

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Early in his industry career Neil Levinson served as a Lead Scientist at Oxford Biomedica / Cancer Research UK. From there, he came to predominantly focus on commercial transformation and brand strategy, including launch excellence, sales optimization, marketing effectiveness and go-to-market models.

Today, now a Partner at DT Consulting, he has more than two decades of experience working with pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies across a range of therapy areas.

We sat down with Neil to hear about the benefits of bringing a scientific background to a career in pharma consulting, his strategies for leading cross-functional consulting teams, and what motivated him to join DT.

Your academic background includes a PhD in Biochemistry. How has your scientific knowledge influenced your pharmaceutical and healthcare consulting work?

It had a big influence on my decision to pivot my career and move into consulting. After six years of pre-clinical research, part of which involved working in collaboration with a biotechnology company, I moved from early-stage drug discovery to work more broadly across the product lifecycle and improve access to the most appropriate treatment options for patients. 

The knowledge of disease landscapes, drug classes and their modes of action, and treatment pathways that I gained during my time in academia enables me to support clinical, medical, and commercial functions to bring new and innovative drugs to market.

The skills in critical thinking and the analysis and synthesis of data that scientific research requires are also vital as a consultant. Transitioning from pre-clinical research to pharmaceutical consulting allowed me to continue contributing to the industry in a different yet impactful way.

What leadership qualities or strategies have you found most effective when heading-up cross-functional teams for complex consulting projects?

Good leadership is about leading by example. It is critical to have a clear vision and create a collaborative working environment that supports and empowers your team. To successfully lead complex consulting projects, you need to balance both the project’s explicit needs and the implicit needs of individual team members, so that you not only focus on ensuring the project objectives are achieved, but the needs of each member of the team are also considered.

As a leader it is important to consider all perspectives and insights, as well be open to feedback to continuously learn from the experience of team members, and always be open to new ideas.

What emerging trends or innovations do you see shaping the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry?

Personalized medicine, AI and machine learning, digital health, and wearable technologies are likely to be some of the more disruptive innovations that will reshape the industry in the coming years. As the emphasis of healthcare shifts to proactive intervention and disease prevention, these trends signify a shift towards more patient-centric, data-driven, and technologically advanced healthcare. Although we have already started to see the benefits of these trends, the integration of these innovations will continue to shape the industry and have a significant impact on a range of areas from drug development to healthcare delivery. 

As an honorary lecturer at London university UCL, what motivates you to continue sharing your clinical drug development knowledge and expertise with the next generation?

My motivation is twofold. Throughout the early stages of my career, I benefited from the guidance of senior industry leaders who helped shape my career. I can now pay forward their mentorship and support those entering the industry, ensuring they have the skills and knowledge needed as they start their careers.

Secondly, while commercial and R&D were historically often very siloed functions within a pharma company, there is an increasing need to integrate commercial considerations earlier in the drug development process to more effectively bring innovative medicines to market. Providing the next generation of professionals with the awareness and skills to address these challenges is hugely important as the industry and healthcare environment continues to evolve.

Finally, with your diverse experience and impressive career to date, what motivated you to join our team at DT Consulting?

Having worked as a consultant for 18 years and been fortunate enough to have worked with amazing teams and collaborate with clients on a range of different projects, I wanted to join a company that is forward looking and driving change in the industry.

The breadth and depth of DT’s capabilities, together with a true client-centered partnership model, means DT is focused on supporting pharma companies through their transformations and enabling them to succeed in the evolving operating environment.

When looking for a new opportunity, company culture was equally important to me. As Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” DT’s entrepreneurial, empowering, and motivating culture recognizes the contribution each individual makes and that has enabled us to attract a diverse and talented team. I haven’t looked back since joining DT almost three years ago, and I am looking forward to seeing what the future brings as we continue the journey.

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