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Thought Leaders in Healthcare IT: Tarek Sherif, CEO of Medidata (Part 7)

Posted on Sunday, Mar 31st 2019

Sramana Mitra: How is it that you have 18 out of the top 25 pharma? Given what you describe, it seems to me like you should be having 25 out of the 25.

Tareq Sherif: I agree with you. But it’s a business.

Sramana Mitra: What is the explanation though?

Tareq Sherif: The explanation is, it always takes time. On these core systems, pharma is very slow to move when they’re on an existing technology. 

Sramana Mitra: So you’re saying that the other seven are still on Oracle, and you haven’t yet been able to move them out of Oracle to Medidata.

Tareq Sherif: Yes, but it’s a long process.

Sramana Mitra: I’m trying to understand how that industry moves. So you’re saying that those seven who are entrenched in Oracle are just big exit barriers?

Tareq Sherif: They are, but that doesn’t mean they never move. A couple of years ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Novartis became customers over the last three years now. Two of the largest pharma in the world moved off of Oracle and moved to us. Let me just give you a little bit of perspective because you’re right. It’s different like when you live in the tech world, your time expectations are very different from pharma.

Sramana Mitra: No, I think people understand the exit barriers very well. I understand what it takes to move people. I’ve worked on businesses that are deep exit barrier businesses that take a long time to move. I understand two, three, or five years of sales cycles to move a major company off their existing system to another. I think that’s very well understood. I was just trying to understand what is the competitive landscape that you’re playing in and how do these pieces work.

Now, let’s switch to the last piece of our questioning. Where do you see open problems? Where would you like entrepreneurs to go for new companies exploring how to solve those problems?

Tareq Sherif: The biggest opportunity isn’t in the core infrastructure pieces. It has to do with what I touched on earlier, which is providing the analytics layer and the data science or AI capabilities because that’s a greenfield opportunity within pharma. Today, they haven’t defined their digital strategies yet. They’re just dipping their toe in the water.

If you have good ideas on helping them to either target drugs or patients better, they can navigate aspects of the payer and regulatory community and use the more sophisticated techniques that are coming to market today. That’s a huge opportunity because it’s on the roadmap for everybody and the roadmaps haven’t been baked and defined yet. It may be a bit early but it’s an area that has enormous opportunity over the next decade. We didn’t really touch on much data and how we built the company or the culture of our business. But we’re very much a mission-driven company.

When we started Medidata, as I told you, we were very capital efficient but we weren’t focused on an exit. We were focused on building a business and creating value. We had a very long-term perspectives ourselves. We’re building a business that we wanted to be around a decade later. Two decades later, we’re still here.

Sramana Mitra: Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Thought Leaders in Healthcare IT: Tarek Sherif, CEO of Medidata
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