Leadership, Culture, and Success: A Conversation with Prasad M. Koppolu, COO of a Clinical Research Organization (CRO)

For its leadership and culture as a clinical research organization (CRO) in the pharmaceutical industry, MMS has received much recognition and praise recently. To uncover some of the reasons behind this success, we recently sat down with Prasad M. Koppolu, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at MMS to answer five questions related to balancing culture and engaged colleagues, developing an entrepreneurial mindset, company growth, and more.


How has MMS created a culture of engaged, thoughtful employees?


MMS leadership, since its inception, has been operating under certain guiding principles that are purpose-built. This means that we practice what we preach with empathy, whether it is when collaborating among leadership, line management, or with any colleague.

These operating principles cascade throughout the entire organization in all global locations.

#OneMMS is not just a hashtag. #OneMMS is analogous to a synchronized swim team. We work in harmony, irrespective of colleague’s location, designation, position, or place within the organization.

After pondering this question, there are ten truths that I believe to properly represent our company culture:

  • We have a semi-formal structure that allows for process and creativity to co-exist, but is not too rigid to hinder innovation.
  • We provide our colleagues sufficient freedom to be innovative, autonomous, and enterprising.
  • We give folks the opportunity to show their SOUL (Sense of Urgency and Leadership).
  • We encourage healthy competition in a family-like atmosphere.
  • We reach and surpass our set goals with the mindset of a championship sports team.
  • We are science-centric and process-driven organization, with as little bureaucracy as possible.
  • We encourage our team members to take risks and go beyond their comfort zones, while remaining accountable for their work.
  • We truly believe in the diversity of people, thoughts, ideas, skills, knowledge, and experiences. It is represented in the global footprint of our colleagues from the North, South, East, and Western hemispheres.
  • We expect high performance from every colleague and team, and practice the Golden Rule – treating people as we would like to be treated.
  • We believe that every member of staff has a role to play and deserves the same level of respect as any other colleague, irrespective of the function or level in the organization.

Why do you encourage colleagues to have an entrepreneurial mindset, no matter the role that they perform?


It is said that if you give a cell phone to a caveman who is used to only seeing rocks throughout their life, they would look at the cell phone and think it is a shiny rock.

I shared this to say that the success of any company is the result of the collective efforts of all members of the organization. An innovative and entrepreneurial mindset is essential to achieve excellence and become a leader in your field.

When all members of the organization – irrespective of their role – operate in this mode, they achieve a force multiplier effect. At MMS, we adapted this philosophy in our operations and I have witnessed many force multipliers among our ranks.


What has made MMS so successful in supporting the pharmaceutical industry?


A focused dedication to our people, our processes, our mission, and our values, has strongly contributed to our success. For instance, our mission embodies what we live and do on a daily basis:

“To deliver high-quality services, rooted in good science and decades of regulatory experience, that will assist our clients in developing and marketing life-changing therapies, thereby positively affecting patient’s lives worldwide.”

We accomplish our mission on every project we work on, and with every client we service, however small or big, by applying our core values. At the center of these values is our acute customer focus. And, it is this focus that drives our SOUL (Sense of Urgency and Leadership), by applying good scientific knowledge to every project with strong processes discipline.

Our talented #OneMMS colleagues make all of this happen. And, simply put, this is our secret sauce.


MMS has experienced incredible growth since its founding in 2006, where do you see MMS in the next five to 10 years?


We do not have crystal ball for future, but our focus remains on fundamentals, following a mission centered on the customer and delivering excellence in everything that we do.

Every day at MMS we are innovating. Through this means of continual innovation and tech-enabled services, we will continue to solidify our stature as the leading science-based, data-focused digital CRO in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.


If you could offer one piece of advice to someone just starting out a career in the pharmaceutical industry, what would it be?


Let’s say you are a surgeon, conducting heart surgeries all your life and nothing else, for instance. On one fine day an innovative biotech company discovers and invents a miracle pill or cure for all heart ailments, and it’s determined that there would be no more need for surgeries.

If that were to happen, you would suddenly find yourself out of a job with nothing else to do.

Would you be happy or sad?

Of course, you would be happy that a pill has relieved suffering, but you would still be feeling a deep loss that you can no longer do what you have been trained for and love. To a degree it is a moral and economic dilemma. Yet, this dilemma is not that farfetched, as it happens in every industry.

Major discoveries in any field throughout history have displaced and disrupted lifestyles.

When you work on a drug compound for several years and put your heart and soul into contributing to the development, and it costs billions of dollars, no one wants to see the drug not reaching the next milestone. Being prepared to reconcile with yourself, not fight the reality, and moving on to the next best thing is the most important aspect of being in pharma. This is not easy to do, as people tend to adapt more easily when they encounter life-changing experiences.

One has to think about the purpose of life. “In the end, what matters most is how well you lived, how well you loved, and how well you learned to let go.” – Buddha

My advice is be good to yourself, always be happy, and live like there’s no tomorrow.

And, if tomorrow graciously comes, then live it fully again.


Prasad M. Koppolu is Chief Operating Officer at MMS Holdings, based in its Michigan global headquarters.

For more information, visit www.mmsholdings.com or follow MMS on LinkedIn. 

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