As market pressures intensify and commercial practices come under scrutiny in the pharmaceutical industry, the Medical Affairs function has attracted new attention as the nexus of scientific rigor and compliance. But can it also be a source of competitive advantage?

In Managing talent in the Medical Affairs function: Creating value through a strengths-based approach, a white paper jointly published with McKinsey and Co., the authors argue that Medical Affairs units with a greater breadth of knowledge and depth of skills will be better able to maneuver through industry headwinds. Many companies, however, do not yet have the right talent in place to meet new demands.

According to co-authors Cheryl Buxton, Global Sector Leader of Pharmaceuticals, and Jasmine Ferrer, Senior Client Partner in Life Sciences, the solution is not to seek out individuals who can tick as many expertise and experience boxes as possible. Instead, pharmaceutical companies should first identify distinctive strengths and potential within their existing Medical Affairs leaders—paying particular attention to Learning Agility, Business Acumen, Communication and Interpersonal Skills, in addition to knowledge of scientific, technological and compliance issues. From there, companies can build, or fill out, a team with complementary strengths across four key dimensions to drive competitive advantage.

Sign Up for our 'This Week in Leadership' email