Interview with Pedro Arenas Barrero
This month, BIOVAL’s Business Biotechnology Course was lucky to have Pedro Arenas Barreiro for its class on “strategic product and service positioning for biotechnology companies”.
Pedro is the Vice-president of BIOGA, the Galician Biotechnology Association, and Technology Transfer and Valorization Manager for the Genomic Medicine Research Group at the University of Santiago de Compostela. While he may be young, Pedro has had ample leadership experience in the biotechnology sector as the Director of Marketing in Natraceutical Group and Business Development Manager with Health-in-Code
Pedro to start off, as Vice President of BIOGA could you explain to us what are the most important responsibilities or actions for a biotechnology trade association?
The global objectives of a trade association should be to act as a tool through its activities and services to improve the competitively, sustainability, and growth of the industry through the promotion of activities and collaborations in matters of R&D+I in its zone of influence. In the case of BIOGA, that would be Galicia and Northern Portugal.
At BIOGA, we also strive to be the meeting point for dialogue for all the entities involved in the life sciences, especially biotechnology. The association needs to involve all the actors in the sector’s innovation system, and in this way, BIOGA represents companies, technology centers, university investigation groups, and hospital research foundations, all led by private industry. Furthermore, at BIOGA we have been able to obtain the participation of financial entities and Venture Capital companies and we understand their importance to highly innovative companies.
Additionally, we feel that as biotechnology is an all-encompassing field and that it is important to not be limited to only pure biotechnology companies; therefore, we are making an effort to include leading companies of the Galician and Northern Portuguese economy that are possible users of the biotechnology. Specifically, we are looking to incorporate companies from the textile, wine, agriculture, and food sectors.
What are BIOGA’s objectives in the short, medium and long term?
Our ultimate objective is for BIOGA to be the synergistic motor that develops and strategically positions the Life Science sector in the Galician autonomous region, nationally and internationally. To accomplish this we have developed a strategic agenda that includes, but is not limited to, the following activities:
1. Professional education: We work to educate the biotechnology industry and bio-entrepreneurs in order to cover any gaps that may exist especially in executive management skills, sales and marketing of highly innovative products, project management, scientific fundraising, etc.
2. Catalyze supply and demand: We act as a catalyst between companies that need innovation and the research groups that offer a specific contribution to solving said needs. This includes a catalogue listing capabilities and industry needs, mediation for the transfer of technology and IP, etc.
3. Assist R&D joint research projects: BIOGA assists in the creation and support of joint research projects by organizing conferences and workshops, identifying of specific funding, and evaluating and gaining access to companies or investigators that enrich the project, etc.
As a professor in BIOVAL’s Business Biotechnology class, what advice would you give?
Take advantage of the professors and learn not only from their knowledge, but also from their experiences. Get to know your fellow students, because soon they will have distinct responsibilities in different biotechnology companies. These relationships will be extremely beneficial in the future. Finally, enjoy the course, try and learn something new, try and see the science from a new perspective and learn new professional abilities that will without a doubt help position you as important professionals.
What have you learned form your professional experience in the Biotechnology sector?
I always say that it is a sector not for the timid, but at the same time, it largely compensates for its high demand professionally and personally. Without a doubt, I feel the most satisfied from working with limited budgets and extremely innovative products.
This has forced me to be versatile and pushed my creativity and ingenuity to new heights, which has helped me advance professionally in the creation new businesses and companies. We should never lose this adventurous spirit: to ask why things are this way and form our own answers, ask why a product is launched in a certain way in the supermarket, or why they have changed a drugs logo. We need to keep our eyes open because every day we can ask ourselves thousands of questions and consequentially, derive thousands of answers, learning a great deal in the process.
What marketing advice would you give to biotechnology companies?
In my perspective, the key is to “do things differently”. Biotech companies normally do not consider marketing a priority from the start; on the other hand, the budget is limited and the actions need to differentiate and be very focused in communicated the added value of a product or service offered, or better said, focused on the actual need of the client. We can never forget that our objective as a company should be to generate profit from solving our client’s needs.
How do you think biotechnology is advancing in Spain? What problems are there, how can it improve, etc?
Biotechnology should be a strategic sector for the national economy. The economic crisis has shown us that in a global market, focusing on innovation and R&D will make us more competitive as a country. Furthermore, Spain has internationally prestigious researchers, which when combined with a strong national tech transfer policy, should help us assure us an increase in profitable biotechnology companies and a corresponding increase in sector employment on the medium term.
It should be a mission of the sector’s trade associations, such as BIOGA and BIOVAL, to assume the responsibility in gathering the data and making the analysis that shows to local governments the potential of our research and biotech companies as well as their problems and needs.
Pedro Arenas Barreiro
Business Development Manager in Universidade de Santiago de Compostela. Grupo de Medicina Xenómica
Vicepresident of Bioga