Berkeley MBA Teams Take 1st, 3rd in Biotech Competition

First-place competition winners Yelena Bushman, MBA 13; Kristian Lau and Ken Su, both MBA/MPH 13; Brian Feth, MBA 13; and Ji-Hong Boo MBA/MPH 13.

Blending expertise in both finance and biotech, Berkeley MBA teams won first and third places in the Kellogg Biotech & Healthcare Case Competition Jan. 26 at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

The first-place team, which won $5,000, consisted of Yelena Bushman, MBA 13, of the Evening & Weekend MBA Program; full-time MBA students Ji-Hong Boo, Kristian Lau, and Ken Su, all MBA/MPH 13; and Brian Feth, MBA 13. In third place and winning $1,000 were Nick Mascioli and Darya Rose, both MBA 13; Anthony Baldor and Chris Burke, both MBA 14; and Alana Tucker, MBA/MPH 14.

A total of 38 teams applied, from which 10 teams were selected to compete: two teams each from Haas, Booth, and Kellogg, plus teams from Harvard and Cambridge. Haas placed second in this competition in 2011.

This year’s Kellogg competition challenged students to value the lead drug in development at a smaller biotech acquisition target. “The drug was in development for obesity and had a number of risks that made the valuation not straightforward,” says Feth of first-place Team Goldenbear Biosciences.

The team’s winning approach centered around building a bottoms-up valuation model by narrowing the potential patient population to an addressable market (overweight and obese patients prescribed pharmaceuticals by a doctor) and ultimately to revenues (dose and price). The team also triangulated various assumptions against each other to ensure realistic valuations.

“We were told by the judges that we had the best overall mix of logical valuation methodology, communication style, strategy, and patient understanding," says Feth. “One judge told me that we built the model and told the story in exactly the same way that they would at Abbott/AbbVie.”

He adds that the team was noted for discussing the “patient journey.” “This is something that has roots in the Problem Finding Problem Solving (PFPS) course, as well as being discussed regularly in pharma companies as a key element of customer focus,” says Feth.

Tucker says skills from PFPS and Leadership Communication also played a role in the third-place team’s strong showing and in their ability to put together a succinct and compelling story. “Most importantly,” she says, “we worked well as a team to test one another’s assumptions and come to consensus, which Haas emphasizes throughout the curriculum.”

A Confidence-Without-Attitude approach guided the teams in answering questions candidly and Tucker says their team was noted for one of the strongest Q&A segments in the competition. Experience also came into play, according to Feth. His own background includes creation of a startup in the Lean LaunchPad course exploring the commercial potential of a platform for growing cancer cells in a petri dish to test and identify best treatments. Other experience includes Bushman’s current role as a senior product manager with Genentech, as well as biotech and consulting experience spread across the two teams.

The teams were happy to apply their talents to this challenge: “The ability to intelligently estimate the value of a new product is a crucial skill in any industry,” says Tucker. “Obesity is a large and growing public health issue in the US, as well as a significant driver of overall healthcare costs, so it was very interesting to look at potential solutions to this particular problem.” Adds Feth, “This is one of the problems facing our generation that will require pathbending leaders to solve.”

Read more on the Haas Achieves blog