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Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing

Tim Calkins

A delicate balance

Kellogg marketing professor talks about writing the case for this year's Biotech and Healthcare Case Competition

By Glenn Jeffers

2/12/2013 - In preparing for the 2013 Kellogg Biotech and Healthcare Case competition, students had to pore over a 20-page case study outlining the origin of biopharmaceutical firm Orexigen, the history of Contrave and a primer on obesity drugs dating back to Fen-Phen. And preparing all that data fell on the shoulders of Tim Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing at Kellogg who has spent more than a decade writing case studies. We spoke with Calkins about what goes into building a case study. — Glenn Jeffers

Q: What was it about writing the case that interested you?

A: I find a good case is a very powerful learning tool. This case was interesting because it focused on a huge healthcare issue, obesity, and required teams to think about provider, patient and payer insights and then connect all that to financial projections.

Q: Is it always based on a real-world scenario? If so, why?

A: We always use a new case for the case competition. This is the only way we can be sure students will not have discussed the case previously in class.

Q: Can you take me through the process of writing the case? When do you start? How did you come up with the case of evaluating Contrave?

Creating a challenging case isn’t easy. You have to find an interesting situation and then frame it in a way that challenges students. You have to provide enough information so that teams can analyze and work on the situation, but not so much information that students get lost. It is a delicate balance.

Q: How did you convince guys like Mark Booth of Orexigen to assist in the case competition?

A: This project began with Ken Shore from Blue Chip and Mark Booth from Orexigen reaching out to me to discuss creating a case. They recognized that Contrave was a fascinating product and it would make for an interesting student exercise. Both Ken and Mark are Kellogg alumni.

Q: What about the student teams? There was a wide range of valuations for the drug. Was there anything in the individual teams’ methodology that surprised you?

A: I was impressed with the teams. All the groups nailed the financial calculations and methodology; this really highlights how much students learn at business schools. All the teams presented well, too. It was not an easy competition to judge; I’m glad I didn’t have to make the final decisions.