Todd Sangster: Category Leadership in Oncology



In the increasingly competitive and rapidly evolving field of oncology, companies should aim to become the leader in one or two categories. Todd Sangster, an expert principal with Bain's Healthcare practice, discusses three strategies for building category leadership and achieving success in one of biopharma's largest sectors.

Read the Bain Brief: Finding the Path to Category Leadership in Oncology

Read the transcript below.

TODD SANGSTER: Oncology is one of biopharma's largest sectors, with over $100 billion in annual sales and strong margins. Competition is increasing rapidly, with over 30% of biopharma pipelines dedicated to oncology. Further, treatment is rapidly evolving, with combination therapies likely to supplant single-targeted agents over the next decade.

At Bain, we believe that companies that pursue a focused category leadership strategy will achieve success in oncology. The key to understanding category leadership is to view the market through a customer lens: patients, prescribing physicians or payers. Companies that look at oncology through this lens understand that it is not a single category. Rather, it is a set of six or more related categories, such as hematology or gynecological oncology, each with their own separate set of customers.

Our research has shown that companies who achieve leadership in these categories enjoy greater success rates in the clinic and faster revenue trajectories after launch.

Oncology may offer a second path to leadership by focusing on specific technologies or biological pathways. Examples might include targeted radiopharmaceuticals or CAR-T therapies.

We believe that three strategies may exist to building category leadership, depending on the current starting position of the company. First, current leaders in commercial categories should double down on those positions, applying a higher investment hurdle to molecules outside of their focus areas.

Second, current leaders in scientific categories should decide what one or two commercial categories those technologies are most applicable to, add additional assets in those categories and potentially look for partners to develop outside.

Finally, start-ups or insurgents should identify which of their molecules may offer truly differentiated outcomes—likely in higher-risk tumors with the greatest unmet need—and then use those successes as beachheads to expand within the category.

In sum, a category leadership approach can help companies make the real tough investment trade-offs which will be required to win in the increasingly competitive and mature oncology market.