Biopharmaceutical case competition attracts record number of teams from prestigious collection of business schools

Monday, December 7, 2015

A team of five Rutgers Business School MBA students took second place in the school’s annual biopharmaceutical case competition, which marked its fourth year with an unprecedented number of entries from a prestigious collection of schools.

Twenty-five teams submitted applications to participate in the Nov. 20 competition, which was capped at 10 spots. The teams, chosen by company sponsors to be in the competition, included Yale, MIT Sloan School of Management, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, University of California, Los Angeles, Georgetown's McDonough School of Business and Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.   

Four students from the Carey Business School captured the $6,000 first prize and team member Brent Schneider, a second year MBA student, also won the inaugural best presenter award.

"It was a good experience," Schneider said. "Rutgers is known for its pharmaceutical management program. That was part of the draw. There were some good schools and some good talent.”

Organizers, sponsors, participants pose for a photo during awards ceremony at biopharmaceutical case competition.

As the second-place winners, the team from Rutgers – Bishnupriya Kar, Irene Mac, James Ma, Aneesh Vaze and Kinshuk Saxena – won $3,000. Yale School of Management’s team received $1,500 for third place, and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business won honorable mention.

The level of interest in the Rutgers biopharmaceutical case competition and the quality of teams that want to participate reflects the pharmaceutical management program’s success in creating an event that stands out in the national circuit of case competitions. In addition to the Yale, Wharton, Georgetown, MIT and John Hopkins, teams from business schools at Michigan State, Duke and Boston University competed against Rutgers at the event. A team selected from Harvard Business School did not compete.

Rutgers MBA students Mike Koskulics and Jen Abalajon, who worked closely with Anabel Damacela, program manager for the Lerner Center, said they used new digital marketing tactics to reach more schools and to highlight unique aspects of the Rutgers case competition, including its multiple sponsors.

The companies who sponsored the 2015 competition included pharmaceutical giants Bayer, Novo Nordisk, Novartis and Sanofi Pasteur as well as Campbell Alliance and Herspiegel Consulting. Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney, a Newark law firm that does work in the healthcare space, was also a sponsor.

"The unique thing about our case competition when you compare it to the gold standard – Kellogg hosts the longest running pharmaceutical case competition – is the number of sponsors we have," Abalajon said. "Kellogg has Abbott, but we’ve worked hard to get multiple sponsors.”

Mock Checks of The top prizes were displayed outside the competition.

The sponsors help to select participants and judge the winners and part of the allure of the competition for MBA students is having a chance to demonstrate their knowledge when they are presenting their cases.

"In my opinion, that is the differentiator," Koskulics said. "We have such a large number of high quality sponsors. If you’re a first or second year MBA student, you have the ability to meet representatives from five or more great companies."

The strategy worked to attract a record number of prospective teams. Koskulics said multiple teams applied from Yale and UCLA, and for the first time, a team from Harvard applied. "I think this will make it even more competitive going forward,” Koskulics said. "This isn’t the kind of competition you apply to and get in. You have to put together a strong team."

The organizers and the MBA students who participate also say the quality of the case sets Rutgers apart from other competitions.

The Rutgers team of MBA students who won second place (From Left): Kinshuk Saxena, Bishnupriya Kar, Irene Mac and Aneesh Vaze. James Ma is not shown.

Gary Branning, president of Managed Market Resources, has written the case for the past four years, bringing a real-world element to the competition that is particularly meaningful for students. This year, the case required students to develop a strategy for defending Abbvie’s biologic Humira, which generated an estimated $11 billion in sales in 2013, against new biosimilar drugs entering the marketplace.

Kinshuk Saxena, an MBA student who helped to organize this year’s team from Rutgers, said the case forced students to examine the competition biosimilars have created – a real situation in the marketplace.

"We didn’t limit ourselves. We were very holistic," Saxena said. "We looked at the whole situation from the regulatory, legal and commercial aspects. We examined how biosimilars could affect our product, and we built a fortress around it."

Members of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School team pose with Sharon Lydon, executive director of the Rutgers MBA Program and Anabel Damacela,  manager for the Lerner Center for Pharmaceutical Management Studies. 

Aneesh Vaze, a second year Rutgers MBA student, said the ramped up competition is a testament to Rutgers and its sponsors. "This case competition is considered one of the most challenging,” he said.

Vaze said the Rutgers team, which included students Bishnupriya Kar, Irene Mac and James Ma, were well-prepared. "We knew we had a strong team,” he said. "We were confident that our different backgrounds and internship experiences were sufficient for us to compete against the other schools.”

The Rutgers MBA Pharmaceutical Management Program is ranked among the top in the world for students who are focused on careers in the biopharmaceutical and healthcare industries. The case competition has become another element of the program, highlighting its strong connections to New Jersey’s biopharmaceutical industry and showcasing the talent and skills of Rutgers students. In 2014, Rutgers was the first place winner.

"We’re getting to be known," said Professor Mahmud Hassan, who is director of the MBA pharmaceutical management program. "These great schools want to come here to compete. That’s a great feeling.”

Past winners of the biopharmaceutical case competition:

2014: First place went to Rutgers; Wharton won second; Kellogg School of Management placed third and honorable mention went to Penn State's Smeal College of Business.

2013: Carnegie Mellon won first place; Wharton School finished second; Notre Dame's team placed third and Rutgers received honorable mention.

2012: the inaugural year of the case competition: First place went to Georgetown's McDonough School of Business; Smeal College of Business won second place; and Duke's Fuqua School of Business placed third.

-Susan Todd

TAGS: BioPharma Case Competition Corporate Partners Mahmud Hassan MBA The Blanche and Irwin Lerner Center