The drug tests that make a difference to people’s lives
Business is very good at BKE. We are a Belfast company specialising in clinical trials for global clients and our strategy this year has been to focus on export sales, particularly the US market, and to raise awareness of the company at home and abroad. We have been successful on both counts as we have grown new markets and gained new clients.
Any exciting projects in |the pipeline?
From an external perspective we always have exciting projects in the pipeline. BKE is involved in early stage clinical trials which means we conduct trials on medicines that are still some 7–10 years from registration.
It is an exciting area of research as we have the opportunity to see new medicines, at an early stage of their development, which could make a real difference to patients’ lives. BKE has been in business in Northern Ireland for 12 years and we felt this was a good time to refresh our branding and corporate message. We have worked with RLA Northern Ireland who have been very creative on the project.
What are the long-term prospects for your company?
The long-term prospects for our business are very good. Our client base is international and our business sector is growing by over 15% annually. This presents tangible opportunities for companies like ours.
We are growing fast and have been able to make significant inroads in the US market this year. We anticipate further substantial growth next year as our strategic plan is to build on this expansion and widen our service offering to capture additional new business. We are working on ways to diversify and innovate to grow our business even more.
What are the biggest challenges facing your company?
The challenges we face currently are the same as those facing any company experiencing a period of rapid growth. They include ensuring we have robust processes to help us effectively manage the increase in business, managing the finances around that and making sure our people are properly skilled to handle the new contracts.
To allow me to focus on the sales effort we brought in an associate director, Patty Kuehl, who does a great job managing our people and processes when I am travelling. There is nothing worse than promising a client that we can deliver and then letting them down. We are always sure to act with integrity when it comes to promising deliverables.
Could the Government help you do business better?
BKE interacts with the Government directly on three fronts. We are lucky to operate our business in the UK where the regulatory environment for early stage clinical trials is very favourable.
The UK regulatory body, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which reviews every study we conduct, has a very efficient and robust approval process. The 14-day turnaround time for approval makes the UK a very attractive location to conduct early clinical trials.
Secondly, all our trials are reviewed and approved by the local Research Ethics Committees which operate under the NHS National Research Ethics Service. We are very fortunate to have two committees in Northern Ireland with the required level of expertise to review and approve our clinical trials.
Finally, we are an Invest NI company and we like to work with the agency in a collaborative manner. Invest NI has been crucial to BKE’s success with assistance being offered right from the beginning.
We continue to enjoy a good working relationship with the agency. Of particular note was the assistance received through the Preparing for Export programme where the agency provided one to one mentoring by David Raymond of Kiang. I have also participated in three trade missions this year.
Why would someone work for you?
We expend considerable energy trying to attract and retain high calibre people and have been successful in doing so.
We reward length of service with additional benefits and try to provide a stimulating and motivating environment.
Each study we undertake is different and presents challenges in every department from regulatory submission, recruitment of volunteers, through to clinical operations, data recording and reporting.
We are an Investors in People organisation; in an industry like ours, the skills and expertise of our people are vital and provide a unique selling point for our company.
Your views on the economy, please
It is obvious that there is significant economic turmoil globally although we are fortunate that this has not had a significant negative impact on our business, not yet anyway. The recent changes in the dollar/pound exchange rate have been advantageous for an export business like ours — in the short term in any case.
The business climate, good or bad?
While the current economic climate is worrying, I am confident that our industry will continue to see gains going forward. I am pleased with our business results this year and that we can see growth during a difficult economic period. However, the uncertainty in global markets means that we need to consolidate our market position and work hard to continue to increase sales and grow for our company.
What do you get up to in your spare time?
What spare time? I have travelled so much for business this year that I’ve had little or no time to spend on my favourite things: family and football. I do manage to combine them when my daughter, Louise, and I travel to Liverpool to visit my son, Michael.
My husband Paul stays at home to keep the home fires burning and it is an added bonus if we can fit in a trip to Anfield, the best place in the world to watch a football match and soak up the atmosphere!