Medicine woman

In the expensive world of drug discovery and development, consolidation and creative strategy are keeping companies like Ricerca afloat.

Originally, Ricerca was a contract specialty chemical company, a manufacturer of other company’s product. Enter Dr. Prabhavathi Fernandez, a scientist and business woman whose job it was to covert Ricerca from a company that made things for other companies to a drug discovery and development company with its own commercialized product.

Fernandez came to Ricerca in October 2000 with two decades of experience in drug discovery and development acquired during her career at three major pharmaceutical companies. But even with her background, she had her work cut out for her.

As a contract service business, Ricerca didn’t have the entrepreneurial experience it would need to bring its own product to commercialization. Fernandez’s job was to change the focus of the company and that of its more than 200 employees, to transform “an Old World corporate culture into an entrepreneurial biotech company.”

Fernandez established a complete overhaul of the promotion process, replacing the senior management reviews process with a peer review promotions committee, where staff forwards petitions for promotions.

Another challenge was finding the most experienced people and convincing them to believe in Ricerca’s potential and move to Cleveland. So an employee stock option plan was instituted, as well as a plan that pays employees a percentage of all revenue from their inventions.

With the framework in place, Fernandez went in search of partnerships with major drug firms and now offers preclinical drug development services to a number of global biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

The success of biotech and drug development is important to Fernandez both on a personal and business level. She says her “end goal and that of Ricerca, as well, is to help mankind.” How to reach: Ricerca, (440) 357-3300 or

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