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Consultant Q&A with Matt Dixon

12 Dec 2023

Compass Executives Associate Matt Dixon recently sat down to discuss his role at Compass Executives and key market observations within the industry. 

Which of the practice areas do you support at Compass Executives?

I work in the Life Sciences practice within Compass Executives, with a specific focus on the Cell & Gene Therapy (CGT) market. I support Biotech, CDMOs and CROs with C-suite, C-1 and C-2 mandates across the European and US markets. My placements cover R&D, Commercial, Operations, Manufacturing, Corporate Development and General Management.

What are the key market observations you’ve witnessed in 2023, and how is this impacting hiring at C-Level?

To say 2023 has been a volatile year for the Biotech industry would be an understatement. A cursory glance at sector news will show frightening headlines including a record year for biotech bankruptcies, over 200 US biotech companies trading below cash, and alarming numbers of layoffs. Not a pretty picture!

Is it all doom and gloom? Absolutely not! More gene therapies entered Phase II trials in Q2 of 2023 than had done in the previous 12 months. The CGT market has a forecasted CAGR of 16.5% between now and 2030, vs 6% outside of CGT. In short, the long-term prospects for the sector are strong, despite the short-term pain caused largely by macroeconomic headwinds. In fact, we have observed a rebound in financing as we move into the latter part of 2023, and this has positively impacted hiring trends at both C-level and the executive layers below.

Another interesting point of observation is the increasing amount of Private Equity investment in the CGT and related ATMP markets, an arena that has traditionally been the domain of Venture Capital. One example would be KKR establishing their Frontier BioSolutions platform and investing in Coriolis Pharma, alongside Flerie. While most of the PE investment in CGT is concentrated towards CDMO and CRO services, we have observed some success in the therapeutics space too. Blackstone, having invested in AvenCell back in 2021, is probably the most notable example after they received CTA approval from the EMA for one of their programs in July of this year.

 Are there any current high demand skillsets?

Lots! Due to the relatively nascent state of the CGT market, and the complexity involved in developing, launching, and commercialising these assets, there are talent gaps across the board. From a broader perspective, Pricing, Access and Reimbursement as well as Process Development, Analytical Development and Supply Chain skillsets are where there is both a demand for talent, and a shortage of supply.

Looking specifically at 2023, Business Development acumen has been in highly sought due to the increased difficult in securing funding and establishing strategic partnerships. We have also seen an increased demand for Finance leadership, which is to be expected in the current climate where cost control and cash runway needs to be managed more effectively than ever.

 What advice would you offer to the investment community making leadership changes to their portfolio businesses at present?

My advice would be to start building a pipeline of talent across the C-suite and Board for upcoming investments, so you can hire in the most efficient manner when the timing is right.

We are about to enter a period where more deals will be done as investors need to deploy their capital, company valuations have dropped due to the challenges of 2023, and the macroeconomic climate begins to stabilise. Those that are not prepared in advance, will face an uphill battle when it comes to securing the best talent for delivering investment returns.

 What are your Compass Executives highlights?

Having joined the business in January 2023, it has been the start of an exciting new chapter for me personally. My personal highlight has been the greater volume of work on behalf of investors, as this was one of my key reasons for joining Compass Executives. Our collaboration with the investment community via our strategic partnership with the European Health Investors Association (EHIA), and hosting events such as the annual EHIA annual gala dinner alongside JP Morgan, McKinsey and McDermott Will & Emery, also stands out as one of several highlights of the year.

It has also been a great year when it comes to attending industry conferences, something I personally missed during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The increased energy and dynamism at these events, in comparison to 2021 and 2022, was certainly noticeable. I look forward to more of these events in 2024, starting with JP Morgan in January, which Compass Executives will be attending.



Find out more about Matt here

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