Neuroscience and CNS Therapeutics

Specialist Search Expertise

CNS Therapeutics: Distinct and evolving

The World Health Organization recently reported that approximately 14.1% of the global population will suffer from some form of neurological disorder by 2020.¹ Despite an increasing global need for Central Nervous Systems (CNS) disease therapies – drugs which treat a wide array of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, including depression, psychosis, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease – it has been reported that these drugs take more than a year longer to develop and are less than half as likely to obtain marketing approval, than other drugs². There are difficulties in predicting efficacy from animal models of the human disease and clinical trials are lengthy and expensive.

Despite such challenges, drug companies are continuing to invest, re-strategise and focus on disease modification and long-term symptom management, and the CNS market is estimated to reach $129 billion by 2020³.  The industry has additionally witnessed some meaningful changes and advances in the last few years, including:

  • several large pharma companies announcing closures of neuroscience divisions, significantly downsizing their early-stage CNS development or seeking out collaborations with smaller biotechs
  • an exponential demand for neurodegenerative treatments due to the rapidly growing global geriatric population
  • a spate of looming patent expiries inviting generic players to enter the space
  • significant advances in genomics, diagnostics and medical technology.

CNS talent: Unique skills in high demand and short supply

In this space, where R&D processes remain challenging yet demand continues to increase in all areas, the CNS industry requires top-level talent with transferrable skills to take therapeutic advances to the next level. In this growing area of unmet medical needs, the hunting ground for talent has never been more exciting, with collaboration and high-level commercial skills becoming as important as the science.  Coulter Partners is fortunate to be working with clients at the forefront of CNS and neuroscience innovation, from big pharma market leaders to biotech and niche diagnostic companies.

Recent CNS & neuroscience search successes at Coulter Partners

In the last few years we have conducted over 20 assignments in the space, both in Europe and the US, and have completed over 100 searches with companies that have a CNS component within their portfolios. Our expertise in finding the best leadership stems from:

  • our deep understanding of the science with expertise in specific areas such as Alzheimer’s, Huntingdon’s Disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke, for example
  • our global industry connections
  • best-in-class search methodology.

Showcase of recent assignments:

SVP, Clinical Development & Medical Affairs (CDMA) & Chief Medical Officer for a US headquartered global pharmaceutical company, primarily developing innovative medicines for the treatment of CNS diseases. The company has a diversified product portfolio and a substantial clinical pipeline for chronic diseases including schizophrenia, depression, addiction and multiple sclerosis.

Project Leader, CNS Drug Discovery for a global drug discovery alliance and development partnership company, working specifically within a collaboration dedicated to developing therapies that slow the progression of Huntington’s disease.

Business Unit Lead, Multiple Sclerosis for the Danish subsidiary of a global healthcare leader with a presence in over 100 countries. With a direct report to the General Manager, the client was seeking a Business Unit Lead for the multiple sclerosis franchise in which it has two lead products.

Principal Scientist CNS Research for the CNS Diseases Research division of a large European pharmaceutical company. The division is made up of a team of over 80 dedicated scientists focused specifically on psychiatric diseases, schizophrenia, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

European Medical Lead, Alzheimer’s Disease for US headquartered biotechnology company with a large portfolio of medicines to treat multiple sclerosis, neurological conditions and rare genetic disorders. Our client has one of the broadest and most advanced pipeline portfolios in Alzheimer’s disease and vast expertise in neurodegeneration.

Head of Medical Science, Addiction & CNS for a European company engaged in early and late-stage pre-commercial development, with a core focus on the therapeutic areas – Pain, Oncology, CNS/Addiction and Respiratory Diseases.

In addition:

  • Sales Director for a developer of cognitive testing software for Alzheimer’s and depression
  • Chief Executive Officer for a public, Norwegian diagnostics company developing in vitro diagnostic biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Chief Business Development Officer for European biotech developing drugs for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders, subsequently acquired by a CNS-focused biotech
  • Chief Financial Officer & Non Executive Chairman for a biotech that develops drugs for the treatment of psychiatric disorders
  • Chief Executive Officer for a private US medtech company developing neuromuscular rehabilitation devices
  • Chief Scientific Officer for a developer of biomarkers used in diagnostics and therapeutic applications in neurodegenerative diseases
  • CEO for a European biotech company working to treat Parkinson’s disease
  • Chief Operating Officer for a developer of a product that uses immersive virtual reality to build novel interfaces for neurorehabilitation
  • Four roles (Chief Commercial Officer, General Manager DACH, General Manager UK & Nordics, HR Lead) at a European research focused pharmaceutical company with a commitment to the development and commercialisation of innovative specialty medicines for the treatment of serious and chronic diseases including cancer, pain and addiction.

Author: Neha Rajdev, Business Intelligence Associate



  1. Neurotherapeutic Drugs Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2016 – 2024, Transparency Market Research, May 2017
  2. CNS Drugs Take Longer To Develop, Have Lower Success Rates, Than Other Drugs, Joseph A. DiMasi, Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, November 2014
  3. CNS Therapeutics – A global strategic business report, Global Industry Analysts, Feb. 2015