“What I learned has impacted my transformation – from someone with a background in science and medicine to an entrepreneur with solid business credibility”
Jessica Dugan might have started out as a veterinarian, but her love for animals is set to help people, too. She is the Co-founder, President and CEO of Poïesis Therapeutics, a biotechnology startup developing new medicines and diagnostic tests to help treat companion animals – dogs, cats and horses.
Her company is committed to the One Health Initiative which means sharing clinical trial information from animal studies with pharmaceutical partners developing medicines for humans, thereby helping to accelerate biomedical research and improve care for both people and their pets.
Before starting Poïesis, Jessica spent 22 years as an equine sports medicine specialist. She owned and managed a large medical practice in Southern California and Europe, and travelled the world to examine high-value horses for purchase.
In 2012 she decided to launch her new biotech venture and joined the Executive MBA (EMBA) at London Business School (LBS).
While her expertise, hard work and determination, enabled her to develop a successful veterinary practice, she recognised that she needed more business skills to start a company in the high risk, high reward biotechnology industry.
“Running a large, busy, growing practice with no formal business training was tough,” she admits. “I didn’t have the corporate background to convince investors or partners to work with me, so I decided to get an MBA.”
Aside from helping Jessica gain the trust and credibility with potential investors, the EMBA also gave her the chance to meet and present to one of her idols: Kiran Shaw, Indian entrepreneur and chairman of Biocon, India's largest biopharmaceutical company.
“On the Global Business Assignment I spent a week in Bangalore, working at Biocon. The intense week ended with a formal presentation to Kiran on the results of a companywide reorganisation. It was an experience I will never forget.”
Ask Jessica, “How many people work in your company?” and she will reply, “Formally or informally?” While Poïesis currently has a small team managing a large group of consultants, its informal team comprising LBS alumni is large. “I lean on the network regularly for advice and connections,” she says.
Jessica turned to her network for advice after nearly letting her heart rule her head during an in-licensing discussion on a product under investigation to help dogs suffering from bone cancer. She asked an LBS friend to take a closer look at the numbers.
“He ran an NPV [net present value] spreadsheet and said that it didn’t make sense to pursue the product.” The study simply wasn’t commercially viable, so she decided not to take it forward. As an animal lover, Jessica admits accepting the advice was hard, but she valued her friend’s opinion. “It’s easier to take advice when it’s from someone you trust,” she says.