Episode 30, Part One: Dr. Francisco Harrison, CEO and owner, Harrison CST Holding GmbH

Episode 30 May 03, 2023 00:45:07
Episode 30, Part One: Dr. Francisco Harrison, CEO and owner, Harrison CST Holding GmbH
Few & Far Between
Episode 30, Part One: Dr. Francisco Harrison, CEO and owner, Harrison CST Holding GmbH

May 03 2023 | 00:45:07


Show Notes

"I love clinical research. I will spend my life in clinical research." Dr. Francisco Harrison, CEO and owner, Harrison CST Holding GmbH

Biorasi welcomes Dr. Francisco Harrison to the Few and Far Between podcast for a special two-part episode. In part one, we track Dr. Harrison's origin story - from medical school to his first forays into clinical research.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:17.130] - Chris O'Brien Welcome to Biorasi's. Few and far between podcast. I'm your host, Chris O'Brien. I'm overjoyed to be welcoming a friend and renowned colleague for special double episode. The proverb necessity is the mother of invention has played a large role in today's guest's life. Dr. Francisco Harrison's career as a physician, clinical research pioneer, and reluctant entrepreneur has revolved around seeing things a little bit differently and finding innovative solutions to healthcare's biggest challenges. This has led to him being on the front lines for clinical research and has given him a front row seat to the rise of the clinical research organization, an experience that has shaped his life, his worldview, and his vocation. In the first part of our two part episode, dr. Harrison and I had a chance to talk about his journey, one that spans both geography and the healthcare industry. It was great to connect with Dr. Harrison and I hope you enjoy our conversation and please join us for part two of this episode later this month. Okay, let's start the podcast. Good afternoon, Dr. Harrison. Thank you so much for making some time to talk with me today. [00:01:30.540] - Dr. Harrison Thank you for having me here. It's an honor. [00:01:32.390] - Chris O' Brien I think it's worth acknowledging the origin of this conversation. You and I met a couple of months ago. It was supposed to be a business conversation. It ended up being a conversation about your career, your life journey, the future of clinical research, a lot of exciting and interesting things. It was one of the most fun, unexpected calls that I've had in a while. And so you kindly agreed to come on the podcast and today we're going to dive into some of these topics for our listeners. [00:02:02.950] - Dr. Harrison I remember that our conversation was, I think, postponed like three or four times. And I think I was thinking, it will never happen. This guy doesn't want to speak with me. [00:02:16.730] - Chris O' Brien I think you are exposing either my busy schedule or coordination. I'm not sure. Maybe a little bit of both. Okay, well, let's start, if we can, with the beginning of your career. So you had a surprising entrance into medicine. Will you talk a little bit about that, how you ended up in medical school? [00:02:37.060] - Dr. Harrison Well, as you know from my name, I'm a mix between, they always say two countries that you should not mix. And this is Britain and Spain. Totally opposed characters. And they have one thing in Spain, which is Gibraltar. And this was for me, at the time that I was born, a very important issue because it was not possible to be Spanish and British. So I had to make a choice. And when I was, I think, like twelve years old, I had to go to the police office. They work at the bill, swear that I didn't want to be Spanish and on the same day go to the British Embassy and make the application for my passport. But at that time, I really at home. We were speaking mostly Spanish, so I was not very good in English. So they look at me like, funny guy. This was the beginning. Yeah, long story. Wow. [00:03:26.180] - Chris O' Brien Okay, so at twelve year old at twelve years old you became British. In quotes, maybe air quotes. You became British and then you stayed in Gibraltar. [00:03:36.800] - Dr. Harrison No. Stay in Madrid. Yes. I was born in the northern part of Spain in a studio, and lived most of the time in Madrid where I went to school. And then the time that I had to make a choice what I would like to study. Well, I think it was a decision motivated by kind of naivety trying to help people and all these things that really brought me to that because in fact, I was very proud to go into engineering. And I like things that work well and understand how they work. And this is something that was always for me, a big attraction. So I thought, well, perhaps the human body is an exotic machine. Why don't we just try to understand better how it works? And this was how I did the choice of going into medicine. [00:04:33.270] - Chris O' Brien Okay, so you decide then, to go to medical school or go into medicine and then it was all easy, I guess. [00:04:40.090] - Dr. Harrison Yes. Well, I had good qualifications and I didn't thought it was going to be any problem. The problem was that when I made the application, started already having problems because I had a British passport. And at that time it was precisely one or two years after the death from Franco spain was not in the European Community. And so it was an exception to admit a European. And they have a number of four or five only allowed into the University of Complutence in Madrid. And so he was rejected while many of my companions were admitted. And so I start, let's say, to make as much polite noise as possible at all levels, from the simple noise to political noise to going through a friend that knew someone in the Ministry of Education. And then I had an appointment with the secretary of Minister Luca Fion and explain my case. I brought my mother, who was very Spanish, to convince them that it was a mistake not to admit it because I had this passport. And so I got, I think it was in April, admitted, they were so fed up for the whole thing that they admit me in two universities in Madrid, in the University Autonomy and the University of the Computency, with a condition that I had to finish everything in the exams in July. [00:06:09.340] - Dr. Harrison In July and September. And this was a lot of work to do. A first year of medicine in two and a half months, you can imagine. [00:06:18.070] - Chris O' Brien Already an unusual path. Yeah. I do like the idea of bringing your mother as proof of Spanishness. [00:06:30.810] - Dr. Harrison She was very Spanish. [00:06:32.430] - Chris O' Brien Okay, so you go through medical school and then. Did you go to the UK after that? What happened after medical school? [00:06:38.930] - Dr. Harrison Yes, it was on the fifth year, I mean, the last year, just one year before giving the degree, they called me again to the Canato, to the water, let's put it this way. And they told me, well, we have a problem with you because you are the first British citizen that has studied medicine in this country, the Civil War. And so we don't have an agreement with the UK authorities and Spain was not at that time during the European Community. So the problem that we have in Spain is that in the moment that you have your degree from the university, you can become a member of the Royal College of Physicians Collective Medical, and that means that you can open your office tomorrow. And we, as a university, we cannot to a foreigner given a working permit, so we have a problem and say, well, no, you have a problem, I have a problem, I have a problem. [00:07:31.710] - Chris O' Brien You are not Spanish enough to join and not foreign enough to get the foreign qualification, is that right? Correct. Right. [00:07:39.460] - Dr. Harrison So I had a professor who was a wonderful guy, Professor Shula, who saw the situation and told me, well, the professor of Francisco, we have to solve this issue. I know some people in UK. You will be able to do them the last practical year in UK and then get the accreditation in the UK. And with this accreditation, with a UK degree, perhaps you can convalidate the Spanish one. And that is what I did. That is how I ended in Coventry. I never thought I was going to have so many Indian patients in my life. Lovely people. But I had a problem with the mentality because my racer was always saying, one appointment is one patient. And of course, the Indian families have come together, someone is ill, the uncle. And I love it. So it was always making trouble to everybody, I'm afraid. [00:08:32.930] - Chris O' Brien So there's an interesting theme here. We're going to talk more about it. I accused you of being an entrepreneur when we spoke the other day and you said you weren't sure if you were an entrepreneur, you've started a bunch of companies, so I think you have to accept this charge. But part of being an entrepreneur is seeing the world a little bit differently and seeing solutions to problems. And it seems this started with you pretty early, because I guess these were examples of you finding a solution when you were facing a wall, when you were blocked. [00:09:01.880] - Dr. Harrison Yeah. I mean, there is a sentence I like a lot with this, that necessity is the model of invention. [00:09:06.230] - Chris O' Brien Yeah. [00:09:06.700] - Dr. Harrison And this is something that in my life have played a big role, because I have been against the wall many occasions. There is always a way, even if there is no exit, you can go up, you can always go over. [00:09:23.010] - Chris O' Brien What advice would you give, especially to younger people who feel like they're facing a wall of some sort? How do you think about finding an alternative way around it or an alternative solution? [00:09:33.550] - Dr. Harrison Any thoughts on that? I think it's very important to be honest with yourself, to have really a meeting with yourself and understand what do you really want to do to be and if you know that I think that also if you don't know the objective at the end of the road, very clearly it doesn't matter. Important is that you know the next step. I think the important thing is to understand that the next step is the most important step. Know the last objective, what happened 20 years later. Or if I get a degree, I don't get a degree or whatever, or whatever. The next step. Just take care of the next step. That's the only thing you have to worry. [00:10:07.790] - Chris O' Brien I love that. I think that's very powerful advice. And I want to summarize it and state it back. So it's not so important to know the final destination or to have a complete plan. In fact, most of us don't. [00:10:18.060] - Dr. Harrison You're saying it's important to have an idea. An idea, but you have to have an idea. Direction. [00:10:22.910] - Chris O' Brien Yes, a direction. And as you said, the next step is the most important step. That's really terrific. Okay, so there you are, you are in the UK, you are practicing as a physician. You've got lots of Indian patients and you're learning this cultural norm. Then what happens? What's the next big event? [00:10:40.680] - Dr. Harrison Well, with my experience in the UK, in normal practice, and also in my previous experience during my career in my studies in Spain, I had the pleasure to work with Dr. Garifawal, a very good surgeon, and I did during three years, assistant in many orthopedic surgeries. And I will say when I finish my studies, I was already with some extra training and extra knowledge about what means to be a physician. I won't say I was disappointed, but I was a little bit frustrated because physician working in private medicine, private practice, that especially when you are ill and you're having trouble, someone comes and take your money out. The idea of really that medicine is a business and it is a business is something that for me, during these three years was very evident, and I didn't like it so much. So my idealism when I was so young was hurt. And the idea of doing this, taking the full responsibility, was something that I couldn't see myself in this role. So it was a little bit of disappointment in continuing doing a normal medical career. And I was lucky to one day to receive Lettuce Make a Journal, I think was with some reference of an ad of a physician that spoke some Spanish, and I did, and then I sent my CV and I joined the pharmaceutical industry. [00:12:05.530] - Chris O' Brien So when you made that move. You mentioned that you pursued medicine because you liked the idea of helping people. So you were doing that work. Did you feel disillusioned when you left private practice and went to pharmaceuticals or did you feel like maybe not so strong as that? How would you describe it? [00:12:22.400] - Dr. Harrison I think the more that the solution. It was frustration with myself that I was not able to cope with the day to day as other colleagues were doing and not giving and giving too much relevance to things that other people say, well, look at it's like this. You have to take it. I was a little bit kind of micro micro renegade. Okay. Micro renegade again, looking at myself in the mirror, I couldn't see myself doing what the other were doing for the rest of their life for the near 30, 40 years. And well, sometimes you have to take a bypass or go and try something else to see if you are right, more or less. I was doing that in order to ensure that I was doing the right thing. But it turned out that, no, I wasn't doing the right thing. I am not the right person to that type of job. I may do other things. Perhaps I'm more adapted to do all the type of things that may include. [00:13:20.790] - Chris O' Brien There were better fits, better options for you. [00:13:24.270] - Dr. Harrison Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. [00:13:25.640] - Chris O' Brien So two things there, I guess. One is, again, coming back to being an entrepreneur, you were irritated by things maybe that some other people could accept. You could not accept them. I think that's a pretty common characteristic in people who start new things, getting frustrated with the status quo. So that's one and then there is some degree of bravery that you have to have to try a new thing. Right? And so some people don't like change and won't try new things. And this was another example of being willing to try a new thing. Okay, so tell us about Pharma. So you make the move to Pharma. [00:13:57.600] - Dr. Harrison What was that like? Well, I had the pleasure to join a company that was growing a lot. An American company at that time was called American Cynamit. And that company became later, American Home Products and later, I think, was acquired by Pfizer. Anyway, I landed in that company and I never have heard the word protocol in my life. And, well, I was assistant to the medical director and he told me a little bit what they are trying to do. And from the first week that I landed in Malvit, I was in charge of doing the first trials with high dose MetroTech states in the world. I didn't know what was metrotexate very well. I didn't know what was a protocol. I didn't know what was high dose. I didn't know anything. And so I was there talking with a physician in a hospital trying to arrange that study, which more or less was a shake hand and we start tomorrow. I mean, at that time there was not an ethical committee. GCP was not invented. Wow. We are talking about the year 79, 80. [00:14:58.980] - Chris O' Brien This is fascinating, isn't it? Because the idea of clinical trials, or at least of trials in general has been around for a long time. But many of the concepts that people who work in the industry now take as normal. So the components of good clinical practice, much of this had not been invented yet. I guess in the mid seventy s. [00:15:16.260] - Dr. Harrison I mean, the patient exists, the principal investigators exist. And you have also a book in which you could put the data and it was more or less the same if you put it yourself or someone else. That's it how it was a word that was not used in clinical research. We are talking of really the very early stages of clinical research. It was, I think, six years before the first CRO was created in America by an incredible man that I had the pleasure to meet later. The concept of CRO didn't exist. It was the concept of we need to get data to register this product. And it was I would say prehistoric is the right word. [00:16:02.040] - Chris O' Brien Prehistoric. [00:16:02.840] - Dr. Harrison That's right. And it's incredible to believe that at that time there was no industry. And today this industry is doing billions. [00:16:10.330] - Chris O' Brien Billions of dollars and is very tightly regulated globally and very specialized. That's part of what's fascinating to me about this story is that I guess that not only were there not ethical committees, there were many of the specialties that exist today. Clinical trial managers and data management experts in all the different disciplines did not exist then. Is that right? [00:16:32.140] - Dr. Harrison Yeah, that's right. I fell in love with the idea of offering patients, human beings, the possibility of having a high advanced therapy. This was the concept of the front line of therapy is this study. This study cumulates all the know how, all the science, everything we know about this product and we are trying to make use of this know how in order to benefit this patient, the more we can. And this was what really I would say, made me fell in love with clinical research. And I don't say it was a love at first sight. I understood the theory later when I saw really that really you can move things by doing clinical research. We can say that that was clinical research, nothing to do with what today is. But time with these 2030 patients in a place just shake hands and we come next week to see how things are going. It was really an embryo of what today clinical research is. [00:17:32.120] - Chris O' Brien But the core was there. [00:17:33.250] - Dr. Harrison Right. [00:17:36.290] - Chris O' Brien You did have a protocol, I guess. [00:17:38.530] - Dr. Harrison It was three pages. [00:17:40.370] - Chris O' Brien Okay. You collected data and analyzed the results. So the basic parts of a trial were all in place. So how long did you do that? [00:17:52.390] - Dr. Harrison Do you know who did that? Who collected data? Myself in the hospital. [00:17:59.450] - Chris O' Brien As you know that is not so common these days. You don't have medical directors doing playing this kind of role in clinical research anymore. Wow, that's incredible. So how long was this stage then of your career working inside pharma? [00:18:13.010] - Dr. Harrison Yes, I was approximately two years I think one year and eight months. And I like it so much that I decide to do it properly because I recognize as a physician I had no clue on pharmacology. And if I was supposed to be the responsible for a high dose methodxate trial, I should know first what is methodxate, how does it work and how has been really the dose calculated in order to give it to the patient. And this is something that normally medicine, I mean now is better, but at that time was very primitive. And so I had the pleasure to meet an excellent scientist professor, professor Garcia Halon, who had been many years also in the states working and one of my visits to his department in the university, he invited me to join his team and then study pharmacology and do my doctoral thesis in pharmacology. And that is how I came into the nitty gritty of how the drugs may be tested, what means toxicology, what is pharmacokinetics, PKPD and all these things that a normal physician perhaps today I think that is much better. At that time nobody knew what that. [00:19:21.600] - Chris O' Brien So that was another interesting decision. So you paused your career to do your studies, to do more studies I should say that means that I guess you had no salary, you had no money coming in. Was that a hard decision or an easy decision? [00:19:38.570] - Dr. Harrison The only thing that facilitated the decision was that I was able to live again at home with my mother because I couldn't afford an apartment, because before a wonderful car from the company and I salary, I was independent, I could party every weekend and it was wonderful time. I tell you at that time Mr was really, really a lot of parties. And suddenly from one day to another I said no, I'm going to leave the job, I'm going to come back to university. My father was not very happy with that decision because I was not the youngest anymore. I mean must be 25, 26 already. Yeah, 27, I don't know. [00:20:21.500] - Chris O' Brien You think at a certain point, okay, now the kids are gone, sometimes they come back anyway. [00:20:26.490] - Dr. Harrison Yeah. So I was back there and welcome. Of course it was wonderful, but I couldn't have done this without the support of the family. [00:20:40.570] - Chris O' Brien Hi, this is Chris O'Brien, host of Few and Far between. We'll be right back with this episode in a moment. I personally want to thank you for listening to our podcast. Now in our third season, it continues to be an amazing opportunity to speak with some of the top thought leaders in the clinical trials industry. If you're enjoying this episode, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts. It really helps people discover the podcast. And don't forget to subscribe to Few and Far Between so that you never miss an episode. One last request. Know someone with a great story you'd like to hear me interview. Reach out to us at few and far [email protected]. Thank you. And now back to the podcast. [00:21:23.850] - Chris O' Brien Another theme that is appearing in this conversation is your mother. First she proved you were Spanish and then she let you come back into. [00:21:30.210] - Dr. Harrison The house with the permission of my father. Yeah, exactly. [00:21:36.020] - Chris O' Brien Okay, so you come back to do the additional academic work and then what happens? [00:21:41.100] - Dr. Harrison Well, it happened that during the second year of pharmacology, I had also a very good things that happened in Lucky in Life. I happened to know professor by the name of Professor Kofma from Germany that was visiting the university. And I learned that he had an institute of Bankal pharmacology in Munich. And I thought, well, this is heaven. This is not only working with Pratson and rabbits, but he's working with people and really taking blood samples from volunteers that are going to be the subject of a trial in order to understand how the blood levels work and the analytics and all these things. So it was, I would say, another flash. And after he made a presentation of his institute, I just went to him and asked him, what can I do to start working there? It was as easy as that. [00:22:27.070] - Chris O' Brien Did you think at that point where there I guess there weren't many institutes like that in the world, is that right? [00:22:33.190] - Dr. Harrison No, I'm talking about the 80, 81 already. Yeah, because in 81 is when I came to Germany, 81, I think probably I met Cosma in the 80, 80, when I landed here in Munich in May 81. And then at that time, the name Besselr was known as something that someone is in America living from this business or doing clinical trials. And he didn't have a clinic, but he had a big reputation as the first and most reputable, independent, very important independent entity that could perform a trial without the bias of the pharmaceutical company. Because one of the things that I also I think it was a common disease, this is still today, but to a lesser degree, thanks to the regulations, is that the data at home is not the same as the data outside. There is of course the same like a mother with a child and the child in the school, okay, child in the school is one more child, but at home with a mother is a different story. And so it's natural that you can, I would say bias so much, but these days but you see the things with other eyes. [00:23:39.820] - Dr. Harrison This is something that I thought that's the right way to do what we are doing. We shouldn't be part where enterprise that is making benefits. At the end, if the things go right, of course they will try it. Other things go right because it's part of the future of the company. It's better if someone independent is able to evaluate this data as valid. From that moment on, it can be used. [00:24:02.780] - Chris O' Brien That makes perfect sense to me. Of course. I mean, we both work in clinical research organizations and have done, but I do think so. I guess it's obvious we would think this, but I do think there is a lot of value in independence. I think that's kind of obvious. It does not imply malice or bad action from people that are running trials inside of their organizations. But that separation and lack of connection to what the outcome is I do think benefits the integrity of the research. [00:24:29.620] - Dr. Harrison I think that the right word you have used is perfect integrity. Okay. [00:24:34.390] - Chris O' Brien So you joined, I guess did you speak German at this .0? Yeah. Another small problem. [00:24:41.000] - Dr. Harrison No problem. They were working in English and there was not a big problem, but of course I never had I like music and play the piano. So mozaro bacho. And I love Bach. So what's the only relation with Germany that we had at home? Because having a very British father, he was not very happy with the Germans. I was born in 55. Go to Munich. I don't know. I don't know. Anyway, I landed there and I promised to myself I will stay three months and leave. [00:25:16.480] - Chris O' Brien Well, I guess there's a lesson there also that when you try something new, you do need to spend some time at it. Your first impression of how it's going, whether that's a new job or starting something or living in a new place, it can take a while to really understand if it's going to work for you. Obviously, Munich worked for you. Okay, so there you are. What is the work you're doing at the institute? Are you running trials again? [00:25:40.030] - Dr. Harrison I am not an investigator and helping the main investigator. It was a phase one unit. We are performing a number of clinical trials in pharmacokinetics by equivalents, and not too many in phase two or three. Rare, but mostly 90% were in house work. But we had all the facilities necessary to do the work properly. I learned for the first time the work quality assurance. I saw that you can have an HBOC close to the place where the volunteers are understand how this works. And I was fascinated. I mean, from day one I spent really every weekend there and enjoy really being with very nice people. I learned so much and I thought that is really something that I didn't know. It exists, right? People approaching more and more what they want to. [00:26:29.050] - Chris O' Brien It is important to remind listeners that the Internet, the consumer Internet, the retail Internet that we all know today didn't exist at this point. So I think now for young people you assume well, if I have a question, I can Google it and I can find out who is interested in this thing that I am interested in. And that wasn't possible. So I guess it was quite a lucky moment in your life when you encountered this German physician and learned about the institute, is that right? [00:26:55.220] - Dr. Harrison Correct. It was introduced by my professor in Madrid. But I guess ask him, look, tell me what I need to do to be able to work with you in that place. That was really my question. [00:27:07.260] - Chris O' Brien Right. The two part lesson there, I guess the first part is that luck plays a role. And the second thing is when luck comes along, take advantage of it. Right. You have to be willing to try the thing, whatever the thing may be. And you did you moved to Germany. So okay, how long after this did you found Harrison clinical research? [00:27:23.820] - Dr. Harrison Well, after that I'm working in the institute. I had in collaboration with my prof had a chance to do my doctoral thesis in clinical pharmacology and especially in model for the study of analgesics in human beings. A nice technique with cold. I got published in Pain, which is a very important at that time publication in the area. And I like it so much as I was willing to stay. But the problem is that I was going to supposed to be only one year. So the problem was not that, the problem is that I had met my future wife like one or two weeks before I was going to return to Spain again. And so I said, well, I mean, perhaps I may like the Germans. So I am at Ingrid and I was not pretty sure how the future may look like, but one thing was for me clear, I would like to stay a little bit longer. And this is where the whole problem starts. Because at that moment I never had in my life the feeling of not having really a dollar in my pocket. And my family was never an issue. And I would say we're not the richest, but we were really well off in this sense Spain and had never a problem asking for the money that I may have need to do whatever I do. [00:28:38.790] - Dr. Harrison But considering that it was my personal choice to remain in that terrible country with a terrible language, then I the ethics, I would say, or the need to take care of responsibility of my decisions. [00:28:55.140] - Chris O' Brien I see, you felt responsible if you were going to stay, that you had. [00:28:58.690] - Dr. Harrison To make it my problem in other program. So first of all, they allow me to stay there, but I was not getting a salary anymore. And second, I was able to finish my doctoral thesis, but I had to pay my apartment and I had to eat something from time to. Time so well, I could say many, many stories but at that time still my degree was not recognized in Germany and it was for me not possible to work as a physician. I had to do all kind of jobs that you can imagine in order really to pay for the rent. And it was a very good training that I don't want to have met because I learned what means to earn your money. Because you're so family, because of yourself, because you can do and not because of what you have studied, which is an interesting you spend all your life studying something that will allow you to access your salary in the long term. But in fact, I was doing all kind of things that I never knew before for giving Spanish lessons to working in all kind of jobs you can imagine in order really to come to the very minimum amount that I need to survive. [00:30:08.650] - Dr. Harrison Wow. It was tough, but it was the best university. It took two years two years. [00:30:16.900] - Chris O' Brien Two years in the university of life. [00:30:20.040] - Dr. Harrison Of life until I finalized my go to at that time you had to type it. I mean, you are talking about really the prehistoric times of computing, the commodore computers and all these things were around. And so finally I read my thesis, I got my go for a degree and then I was also very lucky that one of the persons working in that institute put me in contact with university here in Munich and gave me the chance to work in the university, in the department of neuropharmacology, in the area of clinical research. And that city was my next station. That's where I landed. Got it. [00:30:53.220] - Chris O' Brien Okay, then what happened? I feel like I just keep turning the page on chapters here came next. [00:30:59.280] - Dr. Harrison Well, again, I was working at that time now in a university department with many colleagues. Lovely activity, very interesting trials and serotonin route and things which I never dreamed I was going to be close to. From the days of England when I was really being a GP for the normal patients to now being really spending on my day looking for data to analyze how to design a study all these things that I was doing were really challenging and for me it was very clear I go into the rest of my life. [00:31:33.360] - Chris O' Brien At that time you had found your passion, you had found the career. [00:31:37.350] - Dr. Harrison My passion is this I love clinical research. I will spend my life in clinical research. I don't know if I will do it in this environment, academic environment, or I will try to come back to a private institute. A CRO at that time already, yeah, middle of the 84, 85. The term CRO was a little bit known then, it was unclear, but it was clear to me that I was going to remain in that place and well, again, another opportunity that happened when an italian pharmaceutical company brought to the university department. After that, Resucious was not very interested in performing and I asked him, would you mind if I do the job myself with them? And yes, you can do it on the weekends if you want to, but this project doesn't fit with our program, blah, blah, blah. So I don't know, I don't know. What did I say? What did I do? But that Italian company decided that they would like to that I take care of the performance of the study. This is how the company started. Really? Because a couple of months later the amount of the work on the weekends is so much that at that time, my wife already she had a work by Siemens. [00:32:46.710] - Dr. Harrison So we had an income in the family and we could eat every day, so I could risk a little bit more. And so then I quit in the university and in fact, Professor Rupert didn't spoke with me for many years. But we started with I didn't know what it was. It was CRO. Yes, probably. But I was doing everything. I was developing the protocol, the CRF, the database, buying an SPSS package for the nice data, organizing a photocopy machine and putting the papers in the iron table in the kitchen. And that is how the company started. And the reason why it was called Harrison Clinical Research is because I didn't have any name and I have to make the first invoice. And this was it. This was it. [00:33:32.310] - Chris O' Brien Would you say it was an accidental company? [00:33:34.970] - Dr. Harrison Totally. I knew I following my instinct is what I was willing to do. But I didn't know how you make an invoice. [00:33:43.360] - Chris O' Brien Fantastic. Okay, so I guess in a way that means that starting it was less risky because you didn't so much start a company as you took on a project and then that project expanded. Is that accurate? [00:33:57.310] - Dr. Harrison That's a good way of putting it. The project start to grow. I have to go and visit the sites. It was a project in the retina. Then suddenly someone, another company comes and asks me if I could perform a trial in a product. I remember paralysis of the hair alopecia, and I say, well, we need to make they ask her to make a first application and tolerance with healthy volunteers. So I didn't doubt a second. In my home in the living room, we had a sofa, white sofa that I think that still, when we left that house, what had some red spots because it was a very reddish product. Had the volunteers doing the tolerance test and I was doing the blood sampling in the kitchen to see absorption and organize everything with analytical lab and so on. At the end, the study had a final report. I will never forget that first study with volunteers sitting in my living room. [00:35:06.290] - Chris O' Brien Not the norm anymore. [00:35:07.710] - Dr. Harrison Wow. Okay. [00:35:08.370] - Chris O' Brien So the company had two important rooms. It had the room for the patients, which is your living room, and it had the lab, which was your kitchen. That's how it worked. [00:35:16.920] - Dr. Harrison But coming to this point, especially because of the red spot in the red spot in sofa for many years, I have to thank my wife very openly and very big, because without hair wake, I never will be able to do it. She always was an east behind me and I have to say that without her, I will never, ever have taken the risk to leave more or less a normal position and then start such an adventure not knowing what you're going to do. [00:35:44.350] - Chris O' Brien That's lovely. And it makes perfect sense. It is crazy. One part of crazy is to leave a good job and go something, do something completely speculative, completely risky, and then even crazier is to then do it in your house with patients sitting on your sofa. I understand why you owe her a debt and have a great appreciation for that. So did you find then that at this time customers were just calling you or how were you growing the business? Because the first year or so, I. [00:36:14.150] - Dr. Harrison Think that I was very lucky in the university to have met a number of pharmaceutical companies already also attending some congresses in clinical pharmacology, clinical research. And so I think that the first BD, I mean, I was the BD man. I was doing everything. I think we had like four or five employees and they were all working at home. And he was lucky that we had two rooms that we could use as offices. This was the first, I would say two, three years until we decide to really go professionally and buy a proper office. We did nine. The office is still half in Munich. And from that initial office, then the work multiplied. And I remember that year when we bought that office and the staff really coming from the six employees to the ten employees to twelve employees, having now monitors going to the sites and all this, that I had the pleasure to go to the first Congress in the Crow area, which I was going to have a stand. So we spent, I don't know, a lot of money in that beautiful stand that it was really a big problem to put it together, what we did. [00:37:28.910] - Dr. Harrison So my father in law came to help and my mother in law to help, and we put it in front of the stand from Bethelab. I didn't realize when we saw the plan that he was in front. So he was in born and probably was 89 or 90. I had the pleasure to spend two or three days with him chatting admirable man who create an industry that didn't exist before. [00:37:56.340] - Chris O' Brien So this is the founder, I guess the founder of the clinical research industry yes. [00:38:00.650] - Dr. Harrison In the concept of CRO. [00:38:02.080] - Chris O' Brien Yes, yeah, the concept of CRO. Right. And at this stage, was that a big company when you were meeting with him, or was he still small? [00:38:09.200] - Dr. Harrison Was a company with 200 300 employees for sure, of which is in America and in Europe, and he could be three, four times, ten times, 20 times bigger because there was such a need and he has such an excellent reputation that really was by far number one at this point. [00:38:29.920] - Chris O' Brien Do you remember how you felt about the company? Did you think, we're going to do that also? We're going to become quite a big company, or did you think maybe we stay small? How did you feel about it? [00:38:41.430] - Dr. Harrison I feel that we had to payroll every month, and I was very realistic about that. And also I felt that I choose to go in another direction, more in the direction of early phases. He was already very much into larger trials, phase two and phase three. And I don't think that that time that even he had ever a phase one unit. But I was, because of my work in IFRA Institute and because of my love to critical pharmacology, I was very biased towards having your own face conceived this as the center of the universe. And the rest was just to confirm the results that initially are done. I was always very biased towards phase one. I didn't realize at that time, because I couldn't really properly read at that time a balance sheet. This came later. I think I can literally better know today is that the cost that you have to have such a facility, these running costs are really not a joke. And if you like to do it properly, you really need to invest. So we were working very, very hard to pay the salaries because we start having a phase one unit from day one. [00:39:50.560] - Dr. Harrison That's why we acquired that office, because I had the beginning, three beds, six beds, twelve beds, 24 up to the end, 34 beds. But when I saw the company but the phase one unit remained the soul and the essence of the company. That is why we have always so many physicians in the organization. [00:40:08.540] - Chris O' Brien Got it? Yeah. If I understand, then you meet this guy, you see this much larger company, but you're not thinking, oh, I have a vision for how big my business can be. You're still worried about how am I going to make payroll and make the core investments that I need so that the business can do its job. Is that right? [00:40:27.360] - Dr. Harrison Correct. Okay. [00:40:28.830] - Chris O' Brien Another thing that happens. So, as you know, there are many physicians who started small clinical research organizations over the last 2030 years. Not many of them get big. Yours did, I think. You told me that at its peak, Harrison Clinical Research, when you sold the company, it had almost 600 employees as a big company. How did that happen? What caused the growth? As I said, we see lots of small CROs out there. Maybe a few million dollars in revenue. The founder or principal is oftentimes working with people that he or she knows from their career as a pi or working in a pharma company or whatever. And it doesn't go much bigger than that. Still an accomplishment. I'm still impressed by people who start anything, but it's one thing to create a business with 5 million in turnover and it's another thing to create a big business. So what happened, do you think? What were the big factors that enabled the business to grow and become the. [00:41:25.230] - Dr. Harrison Success that it did? I think that the beginning. We have been talking about that. The next step that we did was to expand internationally to go to the UK, then later to go to Belgium. Middle of the company was already with 80 or 100 people. We were already doing most of the work in phase one, but more phase two and phase three. So the pipeline of phase two. Phase three were moving towards larger budgets and longer studies. And then we expand Spain. We spanned to Italy and then something happened again. My wife tell me one day, my name is Francisco, but as you know, in Spain the nickname of Francisco is Paco. So if you put Paco Harrison, this is already a bit funny. It was a sentence I would never forget. We were really having problems every month to pay the salaries and everything, making really very little profit, if ever. So living from credits, all kind of things. And then she very kindly tell me, look at Paco. I think you have a lot of employees, but I think it's time you learn that. You learn how to make money out of them. [00:42:40.130] - Chris O' Brien Wise words. [00:42:41.250] - Dr. Harrison Yeah. I have this there's in Harvard, an MBA course called OPM that is for managers. And I think that would be perfect for you. When I saw the price, I say, oh, we cannot afford it. But we did. And this changed the trajectory of the company. And my personally also, I think it's one of the most beautiful things I have done in my life. All the friends that I have today, the three years that I was in Harvard, it was an experience that I don't want to miss. And it is still today, 20 years later, that more than half of the people that came with me to this OPM, 34 are still members of Wasab Group. And we are travel around the world and we meet in Australia and South Africa, in America or whatever, regularly at least every two years. I have to say that it's very rare a day that I don't get some news from one of them. [00:43:36.620] - Chris O' Brien That's fantastic. [00:43:38.030] - Dr. Harrison I have learned so much, so much from these people. I have nothing to do with my business. Zero. Nobody else has a zero. They have other type of businesses, they have insurance companies, chains of shops, even one has an airline. All kind of things. What I have learned from them is nationalist, and this is what helped me to grow the company and to take, I would say, perhaps not the best decision, but wise decision. [00:44:13.650] - Chris O' Brien Thank you for listening to the latest episode of Few and Far Between. Our podcast is now available on Apple podcasts and other major streaming services. Please take a moment and leave us a user review and rating today. It really helps people discover the podcast and we read all the comments. Those comments help us to make Few and Far Between better and better. Also, be sure to subscribe to Few and Far Between so that you don't miss a single episode. Got an idea for a future episode? Email us at Few and Far [email protected] or contact us on our [email protected]. I'm your host, Chris O'Brien. See you next time.

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