How I Started Boyd Consultants
“How I started Boyd Consultants”: LLS speaks to Alan Boyd to discuss his journey of setting up a consultancy. https://www.boydconsultants.com/
Can you explain your role and the focus of the company?
We are Boyd Consultants, established in 2005. I set the consultancy up having had experience in large pharma as Global Head of Medical Research at Zeneca and having helped to create a biotech company. I had been successful in large pharma and biotech. We now have experience across all phases of drug development.
I started hiring people organically when we got busy and now can provide a full service of support to liaise with the sponsor; we are able to get the programme from start to finish. We have a heavy focus and want to help small companies get going.
I’m proud to say that we have 20 permanent employees, five consultants and a network of consultants globally.
When did you first think of the idea?
After leaving Zeneca during the merger where I was Global Head of Medical Research, one level below board, I wasn’t short of offers and considered becoming a consultant. But I was then approached to help start up Ark: it had been founded by two professors that had worked together for 15 years in gene therapy. They had a small grant but spent it quickly, so they approached a VC and got investment but on the basis that they had a proper management team. They brought me on and we raised £35m, followed with a further £55m. We improved progression-free survival significantly.
While I was working at Ark, the gene therapy wasn’t approved but it was the first gene therapy in the world to go for approval and it has paved the way for everything that’s followed. I was persuaded to set up Boyd Consultants by investors who needed help to decide which companies were worth investing in.
What has been your biggest challenge?
We have skills to develop medicines and I have developed 15 to approval over the years. It’s always difficult to get companies to realise that they do need to support to get their products approved. A lot of companies are very experienced in research and are very academic, however, drug development is a very specialised skill and requires experience to be done well, as there are multiple ways to develop medicine.
Working with companies that don’t have much funding, it’s difficult to help them understand that this is an important area in which to spend what can be often very limited funds. Therefore we offer people advice on an hourly basis and consult on when they should stop using us and take someone on permanently.
What has been your biggest achievement?
Working on the first ever submitted gene therapy product which enabled Boyd to support work with many of the cell and gene therapy companies. We have been involved with the development of seven out of the eight therapies that have been approved (two Car- t and six gene therapies). I am happy about taking a risk in 2005 to set up a pioneering company in gene therapy with no money!
What advice would you give to yourself in 2005 setting up Boyd?
I would have told myself to expand the business more quickly than I did and to take more risks – looking back I would have taken on debt if I knew how well we would have done. We have just been chosen for the Cheshire Business of the Year shortlist. I never could have imagined that!
What would you do differently?
I stayed at big pharma too long and in retrospect, I didn’t get a seat at the table as I been too challenging to the board. I felt decisions took too long to make and we were not moving with the times quickly enough. It attracted me to do something different and work in a smaller, nimbler organisation. Once I started in Ark, I understood the challenges of starting a company and working very hard.
The impact was that I could have done more in a start-up business and I should have done this sooner as I would have had more impact on drug development for the benefit of patients.
What’s the next big focus for you or the company?
Continuing working with the company and growing it. We are considering establishing a base in America. We already have several clients in the States but want to be able to meet the FDA without using an agent and to start to engage with US clients on a larger scale.
I will also continue with the work I do on the professional side of medicine on the board of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, where I am appointed to the board of trustees. I enjoy this work as it keeps me engaged with patients.