The biomedical industry in the U.S. is expected to experience steady growth for the foreseeable future due to advancements in medical technology and increased healthcare spending. Amidst fast-paced innovation, industry challenges, such as complex regulations, evolving science, ethical concerns, and the competition, arise for business professionals. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management helps students approach these challenges with a dedicated course, “Biomedical Marketing,” that fully and specifically focuses on biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device company issues.
The course is taught by award-winning marketing expert and Associate Chair of the Marketing Department, Professor Tim Calkins. “The goal of the course is to help students become strategic, effective, and thoughtful business leaders in the healthcare world,” Calkins says. “The world of healthcare is incredibly complex. In ‘Biomedical Marketing,’ we explore the challenges of building successful businesses. In the class, we study how to market to physicians, patients, payers, and providers. How do marketing concepts play out in a healthcare setting?”
The course combines real-world case studies with guest speakers and class discussions to equip students with the tools and framework necessary to address the marketing challenges of biomedical companies. Cases include both pharmaceutical and medical devices, such as a new artificial knee and a treatment for sepsis. Students explore key concepts uniquely applied to biomedical marketing, like ethics, positioning, differentiation, marketing to physicians and patients, and new product strategy. Senior executives at pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and physicians are invited to present real-world experiences. Recent guest speakers have included a Takeda VP and a physician from Northwestern Medicine.
“The course isn’t just for people going into healthcare careers,” says Professor Calkins. “Anyone going into consulting or finance can benefit from understanding the healthcare world. Ultimately, we are all part of the healthcare system because we will be patients and caregivers. Knowing how things work makes us more effective at making healthcare decisions.”
Sasha Sibilla, Kellogg MBA ’22, took “Biomedical Marketing” as a first-year while preparing for a summer internship at a healthcare company. “’Biomedical Marketing’ with Professor Tim Calkins ranks among my favorite classes at Kellogg! As someone who entered Kellogg without prior industry experience, this class provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare landscape, its main stakeholders, and the criticality of marketing strategy.”
The class is still relatively new and has evolved considerably since its debut. Because the biomedical marketing industry itself is also relatively new, the class continues to change based on student input and changes in the business environment.
“The course doesn’t just focus on marketing tactics like detailing and advertising. The focus is much bigger: how do we build successful businesses? This includes things like structuring clinical trials and pursuing new indications,” explains Professor Calkins. “An important part of the course concerns ethics. Marketing can be very powerful in healthcare, so leaders have to be thoughtful about what they are doing, and certain that they are helping people and making the world a better place.”
The concepts students take away from the course have proven valuable to their post-MBA careers. “Even in my current post-MBA role at Edwards Lifesciences, I consistently find myself drawing upon the knowledge acquired in this class and reflecting on Professor Calkins’ teachings on problem-solving in the healthcare domain,” says Sibilla. “I strongly encourage all students, whether they aspire to transition into the healthcare sector (particularly medical devices, biotech, or pharmaceuticals) or simply possess a general interest in healthcare and marketing strategy, to seize the opportunity to enroll in this exceptional class!”
Read the course overview here.