Enhancing the Vision: Life Science Board Recruiting

Enhancing the Vision: Life Science Board Recruiting
Written by
William Holodnak
Published on
May 1, 2024

Occam Global serves biotech startups as they evolve from the earliest stages. We recognize that the entrepreneur's journey can be tumultuous and daunting. A Board of directors with diverse expertise and relevant experience can be an invaluable asset to a CEO in navigating the path to growth.


The insights and perspective articulated below derive from our global experience with venture capitalists, CEOs, and scientific founders in recruiting biotech Board members and chairs.





Given the responsibility, decision-making power, and length of tenure, having the right composite of leaders on your Board provides a crucial advantage. A conscientious approach is important to finding the proper balance of talent to guide and position the company effectively for the future. When recruiting for your Board, we recommend consideration of the following:  




While generalist skills and strategic wisdom are intrinsically valued on Boards, high-growth companies must manage multiple, often shifting priorities. Intentional Board composition can usefully address these priorities. 




It is unlikely that an optimal set of skills exists at any point in the Board's evolution to advance the company against crucial short-term and long-term objectives. A consistent and objective evaluation of the resident talent by category, whether scientific, clinical, commercial, or transactional, is essential to enduring success. 




Good Board management begins with a gap analysis, according to which the most relevant skills are specified. Such rigor enables the company to determine when to stand pat and when to up the ante.  Once identified, the skill gaps can be translated into phenotypes to bring the Board into equilibrium. All good Board recruiting is continuous rather than episodic. Thus, such gap analysis ought to be performed annually or semi-annually.




Furthermore, it must be understood that recruiting at the Board level takes time. The candidate universe consists of relevant experts from intensely competitive sectors, and the availability of key Board candidates is also limited. Getting the right person at the right time is a matter of persistent vigilance.





A signature characteristic of a great Board is its ability to function effectively as a social system. Successful Boards often possess an intangible chemistry that cannot be quantified but must be cultivated. Attaining the right mix of talent and personalities is critical.  Some points to consider: 


Enlightened Leadership


When evaluating organizational and CEO performance, Boards must conscientiously address corporate culture and people-related issues. A focus at the Board level on the importance of human capital has never been more necessary.


A Balance of Reason and Instinct


Being a great CEO or Board member requires functioning in analog and digital modes; the best Board members must possess wisdom, knowledge, instinct, imagination, and technical expertise.  As the formidable Japanese film artist Akira Kurosawa opined, “Only character survives.” 


A Human Process


When assessing Board candidates, the goal should be to find someone who — in addition to possessing functional expertise — brings empathy, psychological nuance, and pragmatic judgment to the party. Every Board interview must be conducted at two levels: technical and behavioral.




Board searches have short-term and long-term benefits, direct or indirect. The primary objective is to recruit competent Board members to guide the company and augment the CEO. However, Board searches also offer an opportunity to establish new connections with experienced individuals who can provide long-term value to the company. Some things to keep in mind in your search process: 


The Immediate


Board searches have multiple advantages. The short-term goal is to enhance or complete the requisite skill set at the Board level to provide optimum guidance for the company and the CEO.  


The Big Picture


Board searches also represent an opportunity to engage with very senior, well-connected, usefully brilliant people, individuals who, by virtue of both their skill set and social reach, can be of enduring value to the company. Managing the relationship with candidates emphatically and in a strategic fashion is imperative.


Good Manners and Winning Big


Some people at this level assume they have an offer simply by being approached. Candidates must be reminded that Board selection is a process. Every candidate has to be evaluated not only for their ability to fill a functional need but also for their potential to maximize the company’s network of friends over time, whether that's for financing, M&A, or Business Development deals.





Occam serves companies in the constantly changing environment of growth industries. This persistent variation requires a regular and disciplined evaluation of the appropriate mix of skills.  




The most successful early-stage companies and leadership teams continuously evolve with their circumstances. As is often said in Britain, “there are horses for courses.”  A Board member who will assist in turning a business around may not be as well suited to growth. A Board member adept at creating or nurturing science/technology may not be the one to collaborate in fostering its commercialization. A great Board member who raises capital may be less capable when the time comes to allocate resources. 

The rate of change in the innovation economy and the cyclical nature of the funding cycle means this transition can come quite quickly. If the recruitment process for a Board member leads to securing the best possible candidate, at some point, such a person may well need to be succeeded or have their skill set complimented by an additional Board counterpart to most effectively serve the company going forward.


In the Moment


The capacity to recognize the urgency of timing within this context, but more importantly, to act on it as such, is as critical to the longevity of the Board and continued growth of the company as is the initial recruitment of the best Board member from the previous gap analysis.

These defects or shortcomings often appear over time and in combat. Leadership must be constantly prepared to evaluate the company and current Board members. While giving the CEO advice and guidance, Boards must simultaneously understand that circumstances change, as do people, and that it is necessary to plan for succession continually.  





Intelligent, thoughtful, and timely Board recruiting is essential to maintaining and enhancing a company’s value. Multiple imperatives must be considered when conducting such an exercise. Having the network, experience, and guidance of a proven Board recruiting firm like Occam helps clients carefully assess gaps, evaluate candidates, navigate conversations, and maintain an integrated perspective.

Related posts

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.