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What pharma can teach biotech about the life cycle management of a drug

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Dr. Stephen Dale is the chief medical officer and head of R&D, and Kathleen Ford is chief operating officer at Kura Oncology. Views are the authors’ own.

Within the biopharma industry, global product teams (GPTs) are the core of drug development, life cycle management and the driving force to improve patients’ lives.

While the GPT model is widely used by large and smaller pharma companies, it is less common among biotechs. Still, Kura Oncology decided to take the unusual step of establishing its first GPTs in April 2021.

Here’s a look at why we adopted this model and the benefits it yielded in the hope that other companies will be encouraged by our experience.

GPT structure, function and empowerment

Stephen Dale headshot

Dr. Stephen Dale, CMO, head of R&D, Kura Oncology

Permission granted by Kura


A GPT is formed at candidate selection and comprises a cross-functional team of leaders from R&D, commercial, CMC and regulatory within a company. A GPT is responsible for establishing, driving and executing a global strategy for a single asset across its entire life cycle — from early clinical development to late-stage pivotal studies, then through commercial launch and market access, and finally into post-marketing commitments, asset growth and patent expiration.

Dedicated GPTs have the advantage of ensuring end-to-end accountability and continuity throughout the program’s life cycle, avoiding multiple handovers from one department to the next — where ideas, reasoning behind major decisions and deliverables could easily fall through the cracks.

Kura’s GPTs operate somewhat differently: They are empowered to act in a largely autonomous manner. With clear guardrails and decision escalation and endorsement by our senior leadership team (SLT), our GPTs are free from day-to-day micromanagement and are encouraged to take calculated risks, allowing for greater time savings. GPTs and the senior leadership team also interface regularly to discuss challenges and promote the programs’ successes.

Additionally, the GPT is supported by multidisciplinary sub-teams, which drive department-level strategies that feed into the overall program, and GPT membership adjusts as the program proceeds over time. Cross-functional team input is crucial to success; however, understanding there will be disagreements, the mantra of the GPTs is: We are one team with one voice. Once a decision has been made, we own it.​

Why and how we established GPTs

Kathleen Ford headshot

Kathleen Ford, COO, Kura Oncology

Permission granted by Kura


We decided to set up GPTs because, as chief medical officer and head of R&D and chief operating officer, we saw an opportunity to improve the performance and management of our assets by shifting from a siloed and functionally-led organization to one that is program-led across various functions.The GPT paradigm allowed us to have a single team of leaders working together collaboratively and accountably for asset strategy and execution.

As with all change, the introduction of the GPT model created some internal pushback. Some people believed GPTs were a “Big Pharma” model that could not work at a biotech; others disliked the model because it differed from how we had previously operated. Yet, we kept thinking that what had brought us to that point — including the successful nomination of a phase 1 candidate — would not necessarily move us closer to our ultimate goal — obtaining approval for a first-in-class or best-in-class drug. We believed GPTs were critical to our future successes as a company and it was time to change.

To mitigate pushback, we knew involvement of Kura’s senior leadership team to implement the GPT model, especially their buy-in ahead of the rollout, would ensure this new way of working was fit-for-purpose and well-aligned with our company’s culture. It also required a shift in the mindset of our leadership team to put full trust in our cross-functional GPTs to make recommendations and decisions on program strategy and execution.

We were pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the cross-functional collaborations among GPT members proceeded from the outset. The GPTs were proactive and accountable and engaged our senior leadership team and external stakeholders appropriately. However, our compensation and recognition systems, which were originally established to reward an individual’s performance, needed to change as well to reflect this new way of working. We implemented systems to reward individuals for their contributions to the collective performance of the team, thereby promoting awareness that successful drug development relies on creating partnerships among team members — not just one person or function.

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