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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Staying Focused

EBR: What was your entry point into the pharmaceutical industry?

Jerry Boxall: In 1992, I joined Medinet, which at the time was a new player in the central laboratory market. The initial brief was to set up a European network of central laboratories in The Netherlands, Germany, France, Denmark and the UK. We later established a global alliance of laboratories from the US, South Africa and Australia.

Which part of your current role do you most enjoy?

Playing a small part in supporting the development of medicines that can improve people’s lives is a worthwhile pursuit. Being part of a business that is growing and adaptable to the changing world we live in is very important to me. I also particularly enjoy being able to develop the careers of talented and hardworking people by giving them opportunities and using my experience to help them on their way.

Which part is most challenging?

One of the major challenges is finding new ways to do more with less. Study budgets – while always important – have assumed a far greater level of importance in recent years, and the marketplace is becoming more and more competitive on price. Being able to provide sensible budgets without compromising on quality or resources is an art, and a very important one.

How would you describe your business philosophy?

I think the fundamental requirement of any business is to understand the needs of its clients and to anticipate how these will evolve over time. This needs to be the cornerstone of decision making – too many companies end up forgetting the client and become more inwardly focused as they grow. To succeed in business you need a strong team of people, a clear strategy that is well understood, and you must empower your team to act quickly and make decisions.

What changes have you seen in the past 12 months?

Although the pharmaceutical industry is strong in pretty much any economic climate, there has been a slowing down and a squeeze on funding, particularly for small biotech companies. We have seen a new optimism and an increase in activity, suggesting that this period is coming to an end.

What has been your proudest moment?

I have been fortunate to have been part of the very early stages of both Medinet and Pivotal Laboratories (now ACM Global Central Laboratory) in different decades and environments. Having acquired Pivotal Laboratories in 2005, I am proud that the business has more than doubled its value in just over three years and become more globally focused – this has been instrumental in the continued success and growth of the organisation in Europe.

And your greatest disappointment?

In a career of 30 years – 20 of them linked to the pharmaceutical industry – there will always be disappointments along the way. The important thing is to learn from them and keep developing and improving. I can think of individual examples of lost opportunities and mistakes here and there and while they can be upsetting at the time, there is nothing that I look back on with great disappointment.

What do you think the industry needs to focus on at the moment?

I think many of the challenges for the industry are a reflection of the wider world that we live in and are common challenges for the industry, governments, physicians, and to some extent, for all of us. A good example of this is the massive inequality in access to basic medicines across the world. Great advances are being made in the battle against many diseases, and genomics opens up new opportunities but new challenges as well.

What is the most important lesson you have learnt?

It’s important to try to keep the long-term objective in focus as much as possible. There will always be urgent issues to address every day, but if these are allowed to take over the agenda, one can quickly lose direction and momentum. The most important lesson is to remember why you’re there – to serve your clients.

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Jerry Boxall trained as a Biomedical Scientist and has over 25 years of experience in this field. For the past 15 years, he has held senior central laboratory posts both in the UK and in Europe. Jerry joined the ACM Global Central Laboratory team from CRL-Medinet in 2000 as Head of European Operations, and took over as Managing Director, Europe, in 2005.
Jerry Boxall
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