This Company Turned Pharmaceutical Research Into a Profitable Marketplace. Here's How.
What happens when you take the most expensive and time-consuming aspect of your industry and make it marketplace-ready? In the case of Scientist.com: serious profits, greater innovations and even saved lives. CEO and president Kevin Lustig, Ph.D., explains how the company is revolutionizing pharmaceutical research.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What does your company do?
We’re a B2B marketplace for the pharmaceutical industry that's helping the industry become more efficient at doing drug research. We’re used by large pharmaceutical companies to reduce costs, save time, promote innovation and ensure compliance.
It used to be that scientists would do the research themselves in big pharmaceutical company labs. Today, researchers are often not doing the work themselves but instead getting external suppliers to do the research for them and then simply send them back the data, the results of the experiment. We work with each of our pharmaceutical clients to create a marketplace that only their scientists can access. It’s used to allow scientists within the pharmaceutical company to design experiments, then get outside vendors to carry out those experiments.
How do you define success?
By helping scientists identify new and innovative technologies and allowing them to carry out more experiments in less time. For the company, we define success as more sales through the platform, more vendors in the system. We currently have around 3,100 outside research laboratories that have signed up with us that offer their services through the platform.
How important is your company culture?
I believe it’s the secret behind our success. We've had 54 straight months of growth. That’s because we have a culture that is centered around our mission: to empower and connect scientists worldwide and make it possible to cure all human disease by 2050. The people are here because we all believe we can make an enormous difference in the world.
What is your advice for retaining both customers and employees?
In terms of employees, center the culture around a very important mission. I'm always telling our employees, “We're not creating software so people can play games. There's honor in doing that type of work, but you can be really proud you're part of something making a difference.”
You need to really listen to the client and the supplier. Roll up your sleeves and do the hard work to build the relationships, Find out what their real problems are. That's a recipe for success every time.
What are some challenges in your career that led to breakthrough moments?
I founded a company called Kalypsys, a small drug discovery company that was spun out of the pharmaceutical company Novartis. We were very successful in raising money and in building a great company, but we weren't able to actually address all the key bottlenecks in the research process. Just when we had it all together and had easily spent more than $500,000, that particular project ran into an issue so big that it essentially killed everything. It was an enormous waste of time.
That incident caused three of us, my co-founders at Scientist.com, to sit down and say, “Wait a minute, maybe we're approaching the entire research process the wrong way.” We had always said, “We want to do everything ourselves in our own labs. We can't trust anyone else.” At that point, we realized that was wrong. Instead, we should outsource everything but the genius. That eventually became the tagline for the company. That led directly to the founding of Scientist.com and the creation of the Scientist.com marketplace. A marketplace could actually do what the pharmaceutical industry desperately needs to do: Produce ten times the drugs we produce today but for less money.