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These visionary leaders recognized an opportunity to fill an industry need and are successfully leading their companies to new heights.
Breaking Scientific Barriers
David Chang, M.D., Ph.D.
Title: President, CEO, and Co-Founder
Company: Allogene Therapeutics Inc.
Industry Awards: Prix Galien Award — Best Biotechnology Product, 2018; Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, 1999
Community Awards: AACR Scientific Program Committee, member, 2013; External Advisory Board for UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute, member; FNIH Cancer Biomarker Consortium, co-chair and member
Associations: American Society for Clinical Oncology; American Association for Cancer Research; American Society for Hematology
David Chang, M.D., Ph.D., is a scientist at heart. As the president, CEO, and co-founder of Allogene, his goals are to continue to break scientific barriers, revolutionize cancer treatments, and ultimately eradicate cancer. He is passionate about patients and believes the best science is yet to come.
“I’ve been blessed to meet patients whose lives have changed because of therapies we’ve developed,” he says. “They keep me motivated every day.”
Dr. Chang has an industry-leading track record of innovation in the field of oncology drug development.
He says success is defined by his company’s impact on patients. How many patients have responded to treatment? What does this mean for their families? How can they make treatments more accessible so they can bring this positive impact to more people? “These are the problems we’re looking to solve,” Dr. Chang says.
Dr. Chang helped pioneer the development of Yescarta, the first CAR T therapy to receive FDA approval for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The availability of this groundbreaking treatment for those who had no other treatment options dramatically changed the landscape of immunotherapy. It also ushered in an era in which CAR T therapy is now a reality for treating hematologic malignancies.
At Allogene, he is working on the next-generation of CAR T therapies. Dr. Chang and his co-founder, Arie Belldegrun, M.D., are developing allogeneic — created from T cells from healthy donors rather than from patients themselves — CAR T (AlloCAR T) therapies.
These would be “off-the-shelf” cell therapies with the goal of delivering readily available cell therapy faster, more reliably, and at greater scale to more patients.
Under Dr. Chang’s leadership, Allogene has achieved numerous milestones in its first year. The company started out with about 40 employees and now has about 160 employees.
Dr. Chang took the company public, completing a Series A financing and subsequent financing totaling $420 million. In October 2018, an initial public offering raised $372.6 million in gross proceeds — one of the largest biotechnology IPOs in history. These funds will be used to build manufacturing capabilities that are at the core of Allogene’s strategy to deliver readily available cell therapies.
The company also appointed a board of directors and scientific advisors, and oversaw the advancement of a robust pipeline of 16 preclinical CAR T cell therapy candidates and three clinical candidates in development for the treatment of various hematologic cancers, including relapsed/refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia. And in January 2019, Allogene received FDA clearance for an IND for ALLO-501 in patients with relapsed/refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).
Dr. Chang says the FDA approval of Yescarta was life-changing for him, for the team, for the industry, and most importantly, for patients. “We were in unchartered territory and had to overcome many obstacles, including standardizing cell manufacturing process, but were able to complete the development program in a record time, 34 months from investigational new drug application to approval,” he says. “The results of a pivotal study demonstrated that more than one-third of patients with refractory aggressive NHL, who had previously been told only had six months to live, achieved a durable complete remission from a single infusion. This revolutionized how we may be able to treat cancer.”
Colleagues say Dr. Chang is a natural leader who challenges his team to think innovatively.
He motivates and inspires his colleagues to work toward the single common goal of improving and extending the lives of cancer patients.
Dr. Chang, who is a role model in his own right, counts Dr. Arie Belldegrun as a mentor. “His approach to scientific innovation and leadership is my inspiration,” he says. “He hires smart, passionate people who are willing to take calculated risks and challenge the status quo. Anything is possible when you let people dream big and work together as a team to achieve it. When you are working together to cure diseases that have plagued humankind, it’s easy to be passionate.”
Dr. Chang hopes he also is a mentor to his staff. “Life’s greatest gift is sharing your experience with others and watching that cycle continue,” he says. “I’ve had incredible mentors who have shaped me, and I want to pass along that knowledge and experience to others.” (PV)
Bringing Fresh Ideas to Cancer Therapy
Lewis H. Bender
Title: Founder, President, and CEO
Company: Intensity Therapeutics Inc.
Lewis Bender wears multiple hats: he is Intensity Therapeutics’ founder, president, and CEO. At the age of 53 with limited hands-on research experience and no background in the field of cancer, he invented the company’s proprietary platform technology — DfuseRx — conducting the initial chemistry in his basement. The result was the founding of the company in 2012.
“The idea for the new cancer treatment approach was my own,” he says. “To believe I could make a difference in such a challenging disease was either naïve, arrogant, foolish, bold, or some combination of all four.”
Lew realized that a key problem with the then blossoming field of immune-oncology was the immune system’s ability to identify cancer cells.
In less than four and a half years after the founding of Intensity Therapeutics, Lew led a small team using funding from friends and family to begin clinical testing of a new treatment concept. Lew’s approach involves injecting a drug comprised of anti-cancer agents with a cell penetration enhancer molecule directly into tumors, with the dose set by the size of the tumor. The tumor’s cancer cells absorb the drug quickly and those cells die, leaving the healthy tissue unharmed creating high-quality antigen. The cancer thus becomes more visible to the immune system for attack. Once engaged, the activatged T cells attack other tumors at sites that were not directly injected. Intensity Therapeutics’ lead product in development is INT230-6, which has already shown promise for patients having several different solid cancers who have run out of other options.
Lew measures success by the patient lives that are extended: the number of extra birthday parties, weddings, and other life events attended. He hopes his efforts to create a new treatment to help patients will inspire others to also be all in.
One of the toughest aspects of starting Intensity Therapeutics has been getting the industry and investment community to evaluate the company’s data objectively without consideration for the compound, treatment approach, or source of the technology. He’s constantly thinking about fundraising and addressing the educational, training, and scientific challenges of a new medical approach with a tight budget and limited resources.
He notes that there are always challenges, but the key is not to panic.
“It’s important to be realistic, analyze the situation, find a work around to overcome each problem, and implement change to minimize a recurrence,” he says. “Life is unpredictable, and a puzzle to be solved, that’s why it is interesting.”
Lew firmly believes there is room for improvement in the way medical research is funded.
“No one can predict the next great idea and reviewers of grants do not have the time to properly evaluate novel concepts,” he says. “The NIH provides funds based on peer-reviewed publications, but the next great idea probably has no peer-reviewed publications yet. True innovation is at a disadvantage; 92% of NIH grant requests are not funded. How many cancer or Alzheimer’s studies using the same approach need to fail for us to realize that other ideas are needed?”
Lew says he has achieved more than he ever could have imagined in his career.
“My goal now is to ensure that our technology and products are properly evaluated,” he says. “The ultimate goal is to create new medical approaches that help patients.”
Before founding Intensity Therapeutics, Lew was the CEO of Interleukin Genetics, a personalized medicine company, from January 2008 until August 2012. Before Interleukin, he held many jobs at Emisphere Technologies where he learned the many aspects of drug development as well as the finance and business side of our industry.
His ability to overcome challenges was also demonstrated during his time at Emisphere when he successfully partnered with several large pharmaceutical companies to initiate studies leading to the clinical testing of a novel drug delivery platform.
He says he wakes up every day with the thought and objective to help people with cancer.
“I have a supportive family, board of directors, and group of investors,” he says. “Our team is small and motivated. Our vendors share our vision. Our medical investigators are dedicated physicians. I am surrounded by great people.”
Lew provides his team, small as it is, with opportunities to grow, learn, and contribute to something that could potentially benefit patients around the world.
As an entrepreneur, Lew seeks to mentor other entrepreneurs, offering his learnings, particularly with regard to raising capital and allocating resources wisely. (PV)
Success for the Greater Good
Title: Founder and CEO
Company: Intouch Group
Industry awards: PharmaVOICE 100, 2019, 2012, 2009; Medical Marketing & Media’s Innovative Marketer of the Year; PM360 Elite Transformational Leader and Entrepreneur; Top 40 Healthcare Transformer; Med Ad News Industry Person of the Year; Kansas City Techweek’s Top 100 Innovators; Distinguished Marketing Executive of the Year by alma mater, the University of Central Missouri, and the American Marketing Association, 2016
Associations: Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, board of directors; Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program, fellow; 4A’s Kansas City Agency Council
Three-time PharmaVOICE 100 honoree Faruk Capan has led Intouch Solutions from a two-person project in his home basement to an international enterprise, including more than 950 employees and six offices in Kansas City, Chicago, New York, Boston, London, and Mumbai. When Faruk founded the healthcare marketing agency in 1999, his intention was to address patient and provider needs by propelling pharmaceutical marketing forward with new models and digital solutions. Today, he continues to bring forward-thinking ideas to the pharma industry as his passion for innovation and improvement continue to drive him.
“As an immigrant and entrepreneur I like to inspire others to feel they are part of something they care about,” Faruk says. “For me, that’s healthcare marketing and contributing to the greater good.”
Faruk was spurred to start his own company after working in IT for a pharmaceutical company. In this position, he witnessed firsthand the challenges that patients and providers experienced in learning about treatments, maintaining care, and sustaining a healthy lifestyle, and he saw an opportunity to help.
A true visionary, Faruk has anticipated and navigated the rapid growth of his company, adapting to the changing needs of his employees, industry shifts, emerging technologies, and regulatory changes to remain on the leading edge of pharmaceutical marketing.
This year, Faruk prepared the agency for a major milestone anniversary, which occurred in January 2019, punctuating 20 years of the agency charting its own course to the top. Under his guidance, Intouch saw explosive growth in 2018, reaching a new milestone of $140 million in revenue, which underscored the anniversary.
Also last year, Faruk led the agency through extraordinary change, as Intouch transformed into its own network. While remaining independent, Intouch formed a parent company, Intouch Group, which serves as the umbrella organization for Intouch Solutions and five affiliates: Intouch Proto, a full-service agency; Intouch International, a global joint venture with Healthware International; Intouch B2D, a technology and production services hub; Intouch Media, a full-service media-buying and planning firm; and Intouch Analytics, a data and analytics agency. The reorganization was born out of the need to address the evolving industry and position the organization for expanded growth.
“There are two things I consider when measuring success and both need to be equally balanced,” he says. “One is results: you cannot argue with numbers, and you must have a measurement to really evaluate whether you’ve improved. And two is how the results were achieved: while numbers matter, it matters just as much how we got there. Did we break hearts, minds, people, projects, etc.? If so, the results don’t matter.”
Faruk also knows that diversity of knowledge and experience makes every community stronger. As an immigrant himself, Intouch’s Forever Welcome initiative is particularly dear to his heart. Intouch launched Forever Welcome in January 2018 when the Kansas City community was rocked by a horrific hate crime in the quiet suburb of Olathe, Kansas: an Indian man was gunned down by a man who shouted, “get out of my country.” The Intouch community was shocked and stunned: the fallen man’s wife was an Intouch employee.
Faruk and the agency rallied around her and took up her cause: to tell immigrants that they’re welcome in the United States and at Intouch. The initiative promotes cultural acceptance and a message of unity. As the nation continues to hold heated conversations around immigration, Forever Welcome inspires empathy by sharing immigrants’ stories through social media.
“This country has given me the freedom to pursue and achieve my dreams,” Faruk says. “And over the years, I’ve tried to provide that opportunity for everyone who wants to join me on this incredible adventure.” (PV)
Creating Patient-Friendly Technologies
The more you do, the more you do.
Bruce Edward Hellman
Title: CEO & Co-Founder
Industry Awards: PharmaVOICE 100; Computer Weekly UKtech50 Rising Stars
Company Awards: Cisco BIG Awards; AXA PPP Healthtech & You awards; Real Business magazine 30 to watch in mobile; Disruption50 UK’s 50 Most Disruptive Companies, BusinessCloud’s 101 HealthTech Innovators
Community Awards: Three-time Ironman finisher
Associations: Barnes Rugby Club, London — Head Coach of the mighty Under 7s team; Sunday School Teacher — All Saints’ Putney
The idea for uMotif came about when Bruce Hellman started monitoring his own sleep and other health aspects after his first son was born. His sleep scores were not optimal and tracking helped him understand himself better — a proven cognitive behavioral therapy.
“From a personal need for a better way to track my health I started to develop uMotif, which is now focused on helping people with their health self-management,” he says.
Bruce’s vision was to create a data capture platform for research that patients love to use. That solution would become the uMotif platform. And seven years later, having worked with thousands of patients, uMotif is now bringing a patient-centered approach for capturing data for clinical research.
Bruce founded uMotif in 2012 with a clear view to help patients manage their disease and exchange information with healthcare providers in a manner that gave valuable information to the patient in a nonthreatening and fun way. His pioneering work helped patients and caregivers in disease areas where technology had not been successful, for example Parkinson’s and rheumatoid arthritis.
As CEO, Bruce evangelizes the philosophy that patients should be engaged through consumer-quality design with their needs coming first. In parallel, the pharma industry requires cutting-edge technologies that provide validated real-world evidence, which engages participants in studies and can be used to manage their long-term conditions.
uMotif works with multiple universities, 10 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies, and four of the top five CROs, to provide a modern data capture platform. “We’re engaging more patients to take control of their health, capturing data that helps them live better, and using their data to drive new insights in trials,” Bruce says.
He points out that research studies and eClinical technologies have been traditionally designed primarily around a research question and the dataset required. “At uMotif we believe this is the wrong approach: all studies should be designed first and foremost around the participant,” he says.
“We’re helping drive a new paradigm of siteless and virtual trials,” he continues. “We use patients’ own devices — wearable devices, diaries, and ePRO data — to seamlessly capture symptoms during trials at any phase. Our human-centered approach delivers a better journey for patients, more insightful data for researchers, and more efficient trials for sponsors. Our role in the industry is to ensure that a patient-friendly approach is the only approach used in the future.”
Those who work with Bruce appreciate his approach to building a positive and creative organization with the patient in the center of everything they do. “I like to ensure everyone on the team is listened to and is able to contribute, then we make decisions and share the same direction,” he says.
Bruce has been fortunate to receive mentorship from many advisors, supporters, and board members over the years, saying the most useful advice was with regard to pushing oneself to constantly try new things, gain new experiences, and have no fear. (PV)
Leading, Learning, Adapting, Growing
Jodi Lynn Andrews
Title: Co-Founder, Co-CEO
Company: ProTrials Research Inc.
Awards: Inc. 5000, Stevie Awards, Silicon Valley Business Journal — Top Women Owned Business (multiple times); Silicon Valley Top Women of Influence; Green Business Certification
Associations: Drug Information Association, WBENC
It’s been 23 years since Jodi Andrews co-founded ProTrials with Inger Arum based on a clear-cut goal: to provide clients with teams of highly experienced, dedicated, and detail-oriented clinical research professionals. Today, the company’s clients and services span the globe.
Jodi acknowledges that being a CEO and business owner has its challenges, not least of which is realizing that her decisions may affect other people’s lives and careers. When Jodi started ProTrials, she was 28. Being in a top leadership role at that age took some getting used to. But, she adds, “Over time, I have become a better leader, but I still always strive to improve.”
“Over time, I think I have become a better leader, but I am still always striving to do better,” she says.
Jodi believes a good leader should be able to adapt his or her leadership style as the circumstances demand.
“When strong leadership is required, I step in and make decisions confidently and quickly,” she says. “When the team is collaborating and innovating and doesn’t need guidance, I step back and observe the process.”
Not every decision a leader makes can be popular, but Jodi says she hopes her employees view difficult business decisions made by her and her business partner as fair and smart “I want our employees to know that we are grateful for their hard work and dedication,” she says. “I also want to ensure that we are giving our employees a platform for growth and learning within the industry.”
Jodi says while business is important, so too is compassion for the people who move the needle forward to advance clinical trials. For Jodi, success at ProTrials is measured by repeat business and employee retention rates.
She is committed to ensuring ProTrials is well-respected within the clinical trials community and that employees are proud of the work they provide to clients. Her efforts have paid off; for several years, the Silicon Valley Business Journal designated ProTrials as one of the top 50 women-owned businesses in the Silicon Valley. Additionally, the company was awarded top honors in the fifth annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
Jodi is continually focused on providing a pathway for employees to innovate. Due to her efforts, this year ProTrials implemented an innovation award, given to the employee who re-imagines a way to improve a current service or creates a new product offering.
Jodi is motivated by the excitement of growing the company.
“I never know what is coming the next day or week,” she says. “Also, I am motivated by having the opportunity to improve the quality of someone’s life with therapies that may not now be available, hopefully extend a life with a new cancer treatment, or find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Also, if we could cut down on the length of time it takes to bring new therapies to the market that would be incredible.”
As one of the few women-owned CROs, ProTrials is committed to advancing women’s careers. She seeks to inspire young women to take chances, follow their dreams, and never give up on their goals.
Personally, she is eager to sit on the board of another company. “We need to have more women leaders in the boardrooms,” she notes.
Colleagues say Jodi embodies the heart, motivation, and leadership that it takes to make a difference in the industry and in the well-being of patients around the world. She would like to be known as a smart business professional who can be relied upon to conduct business with a high level of trustworthiness and integrity.
While Jodi never had a formal mentor, her business partner of 23 years Inger Arum often gives her inspiration and advice.
Giving back matters to Jodi. She speaks annually at events, and is an executive in residence, at Cal Poly within its entrepreneurial program.
Jodi also encourages employees to get involved in a favorite charity or project to make a difference, with ProTrials providing employees paid time off for volunteer hours. (PV)
The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence
When Joni Bradley, Pharm.D., started her medical communications company 20 years ago, the barriers facing women were significant. At the age of 32 with two young children, Joni leapt into two very male-dominated arenas — science and business-ownership. From nothing, Joni created a thriving business that has impacted the lives of not just its employees, but their families, the scientific community, and even the local community.
Currently, JB Ashtin employs around 25 people, the majority of whom are women. She built her company on the core values of excellence, proactivity, respect, humility, thoughtfulness, and fun — and she lives by those same values today.
Joni’s primary business goal has been to make JB Ashtin a favored partner that continually earns repeat business, and she has accomplished this goal by developing solid client relationships that have led to long-term preferred partnerships on several accounts, some going back nearly 20 years. In fact, 80% to 85% of the company’s business over the years has been organic business or driven by referrals.
Joni remains fully involved in the business working with clients, brainstorming ideas for fresh, innovative services and tactics that meet needs of HCPs and patients, taking the time to get to know her employees on a personal level, volunteering in her community, and filling in wherever needed.
Colleagues are inspired by Joni’s drive, talent, and dynamic leadership style. They say her passion for impacting patients through her work, her relentless pursuit of excellence in everything she does, and her contagious energy motivate everyone around her.
Joni began her career as an associate editor at Scientific Therapeutics Information, where she learned the art of medical communications. Today, she employs her experience to present data through scientific storytelling, keeping patient implications at the heart of the story to inspire action.
Joni, who previously was named to the PharmaVOICE 100 list in 2009, constantly seeks ways to update, adapt, and improve the company to best serve employees and clients.
For example, her team, in partnership with a key client, conceptualized and delivered a unique disease state education experience to improve recognition of ADHD in adults. Joni and her team determined that using 360-degree VR technology would help HCPs visualize and feel what an adult patient with untreated ADHD experiences daily. The response was overwhelmingly positive, even bringing some users to tears.
One of the biggest challenges she says is finding the right staff or partners to help the business keep up with the speed of technology. “We need to evolve as new technologies change the way healthcare providers receive and act on new information and how they communicate with patients,” she says.
Understanding clients and audiences is critical, so Joni shares with her team stories of how she has handled, or mishandled, challenges and what she has learned from these. But what she finds most effective is jumping into the deep end with them, cheering them on, then stepping back when they tell her they’ve got it.
Training and education are important to Joni, and she encourages and supports staff in professional development. She understands helping employees grow in knowledge, skill, and confidence makes the whole team stronger. JB Ashtin has instituted regular “Wednesday Wisdoms” where the office gathers to eat lunch together and learn something new.
Joni loves being a mentor to younger professionals, both inside and outside of her company, and makes time to provide guidance and share industry experience. “I often learn more from them than I think they learn from me,” she says. “It’s important to me because no matter how exhausting I think it will be, the experience ends up motivating, inspiring, and invigorating me.”
In addition, Joni is on the board of governors at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, and the company has an internship program for P3 students and experiential program for P4 students.
She is also a member of the Women’s Presidents Organization and a former director of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s chapter in Chicago. JB Ashtin also participates in many local community activities and fundraising.
She says of her membership in the Women’s Presidents Organization, which provides access to a brain trust of many successful female business leaders, has been priceless.
“The women in my chapter have given me more confidence and encourage me to remain authentic,” Joni says. “They also made me realize that adjusting goals isn’t failure, it’s being efficient.” (PV)
Value Creator. Collaborator.
Title: CEO and Founder
Company: LifeSciHub LLC
Associations: Drug Information Association Working Groups, Co-Founder and Co-Chair Regulatory Information Management Working Group; Regulatory Team Lead, The Framework For Paper Destruction; Co-Founder and Chair, Women in the Life Sciences DIA Community
No one resists change because they just want to be stubborn; they resist because of fear, says Sheila Mahoney-Jewels, CEO and founder of LifeSciHub.
“The industry would do things differently if the consequences of innovation weren’t so potentially severe, real or imagined,” she says. “But this change is 10 years away, because that’s how long it takes for lots of sponsors to tease out pilots, peek their heads around the corners of innovation, and make sure they are not going to get blasted by health authorities, the public, the media, a competitor, an amateur documentary maker, or something else.”
Sheila co-founded LifeSciHub, an online resource marketplace for the independent clinical research workforce, to build a fit-for-purpose platform. Her goal is to continue to create value for the industry in innovative ways so that research dollars can be spent more efficiently.
Sheila also plans to create a thought leadership group adapting Lean Start Up (E.Ries) methodology for small pharma companies. “Too often my SME peers and I see small pharma companies investing heavily in tier one-sized technologies, replete with bells and whistles a company that size will never use,” she says. “This is a great place for competitive collaboration, to develop roadmaps, white papers, and other proof points that allow small pharma companies to justify alternative, non-tier one solutions. At the moment, no such small-oriented proof points exist.”
Sheila is also working to connect sponsors and CROs with a growing pool of independent workers via an online marketplace. Her own experience, both working for a sponsor and as an independent consultant, has informed her work in this area.
Sheila’s entrepreneurial efforts have positioned her as a thought leader in an emerging marketplace. She is taking cues from other industries and building on their learnings to leverage technology to connect people and projects more efficiently. Her goal is to substantially reduce drug development timelines by presenting the right resources to teams in need of additional skill sets.
Sheila has served the life-sciences industry for almost 25 years. When electronic regulatory submissions and electronic document management first appeared on the regulatory landscape, Sheila was managing documents and regulatory submissions at Forest Labs. She foresaw the market need for supporting tools and standards to help the industry transition to a new way of working.
Today, Sheila is a driving force in creating value for industry initiatives such as the Framework for Paper Destruction project. Sheila also co-founded the DIA’s Regulatory Information Management Working Group, which she co-chaired for two years.
Sheila says a career highlight has been participating as a thought leader in these groups. “It is an incredible opportunity to engage in problem solving with like-minded people in a competitive and collaborative forum and to watch the deliverables we create have a demonstrable impact on the industry as a whole,” she says. “It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of these projects.”
The cornerstone of Sheila’s leadership style is ensuring that all parties are properly motivated and that those motivations are in alignment with corporate goals and targets.
She says leadership is looking into the face of uncertainty and bearing it, so that others don’t have to.
“It is essential to project confidence, and it can not be false confidence,” she says. “The truth shines. Therefore leadership, to me, is very much an emotional journey. I can’t motivate others unless I myself have worked through the uncertainty and reached a state of calm certainty. I have found meditation to be an essential tool for this, because that calm confidence comes from that place of stillness that a meditative state gives rise to.” (PV)
Leveraging the Precision of AI
Industry Awards: National Institutes of Health, innovation grants, PI
Company Awards: SCRIPS award; AI-100, Gartner
As a primary inventor on more than 40 U.S. and global patents, Adam Hanina’s vision is clear: if developed correctly and wisely, technology can have a profound impact on patients’ lives.
As CEO of AiCure, Adam’s vision is driving the company and its AI platform to assist patients taking their medication. AiCure is pioneering a new set of tools to help pharmaceutical companies develop drugs more efficiently, by reducing the noise and increasing the chance of detecting a signal.
AiCure is part of a new sector in the industry focusing on continuous patient data capture — from visual confirmation of adherence to the study drug to physiological data points that characterize expressivity, psychomotor function, and cognition. Insights into previously undetected patterns that manifest outside of the clinic are critical in better understanding how the drug works across treatment and placebo arms. These new data streams also allow for the implementation of enrichment strategies and innovative statistical methodologies. By reducing the noise in the data, which may compromise trial results, AiCure is striving toward a new standard in drug development.
AiCure’s rapid growth under Adam’s direction is a testament to the need of the industry and payers to adopt new technologies that have the potential to maximize health at a lower cost. AiCure is now working with most of the top-30 pharmaceutical companies in their clinical development programs.
In 2018, AiCure increased its revenue growth by 120% and bookings by 150%, while expanding its client list by more than 30% from 2017.
To further support these efforts, Adam has brought in $30 million in funding from leading institutional investors. And in the first three months of 2019 alone, AiCure has supported three clinical trial successes that showed clear separation of placebo from treatment, with strong effect sizes.
When asked why he co-founded AiCure, one of his biggest career highlights, Adam has a simple answer: to have a positive impact on health. “I am driving the overall vision and assembling an incredible team of people who share the vision and who are able to implement it,” he says.
Adam says he is motivated to go to work every day by the mission of the company: using AI to connect the world’s patients to better treatment and better care. He measures success by the positive impact he has on the world and his family.
Colleagues say Adam’s passion about system-level thinking, the idea of creating structure to explain our surroundings, is inspiring and motivates them to consider new solutions beyond the status quo.
A physics graduate, Adam was drawn to applying mathematical thought to answering philosophical questions. As a lead inventor, he has contributed to more than 100 filed or awarded patents. Today, Adam continues to push the boundaries of invention and creativity.
Adam has a passion for leveraging computing in healthcare, he started in the world of electronic health records, and then delved into computer vision, a field of AI that allows computers to see. The idea was to leverage computer vision and neural networks to ensure patients take their medicine. (PV)
Guided by Grit
Paula M. Ragan, Ph.D.
Title: Founder, President, CEO
Company: X4 Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Industry Awards: Clinical and Research Excellence (CARE) Awards — Finalist for Best Patient Centric Clinical Trial; Xconomy Award Nominee — Paula Ragan, Company Builder, 2017; NEVY Award Nominee — Paula Ragan, Rising Star Entrepreneur, 2016
Company Awards: Genzyme/Sanofi, Vice President’s Award for leadership and contributions in Operational Excellence initiatives
Associations: Massachusetts Department of Children and Families Annual Wonderfund Holiday Gift Drive; Cradles to Crayons; Giving Factory; Family Leadership Circle
A near-complete, 2,000-piece puzzle is splayed out on the kitchen table at X4 Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing novel therapeutics for rare diseases. This is a daily invitation and challenge to the team as they work and innovate on behalf of patients who have limited treatment options to be collaborative, curious, and always solution-focused.
“There’s nothing insurmountable if we operate with a bigger picture, and always, with our patients, in mind,” says Paula Ragan, Ph.D., founder, president, and CEO of X4.
Dr. Ragan approaches running X4 along two parallel paths — teamwork and the end-game. “Teamwork success” means the people, communications, and execution are performing at the highest level and in synchronicity.
“X4 has a feel of harmony as individuals push themselves to their peak abilities,” she says. “This is an amazing and clear benchmark of our success, but one we do not take for granted. Every day, we strive to maintain and improve our teamwork success as the business grows.”
Dr. Ragan says end-game success is all about delivering a new and meaningful therapy to the patients. “For a few individual patients in our early trials, we have seen very positive signs of success,” she says. “Patients are not a cohort. To see one individual simply feel better is incredibly motivating. These moments give us hope and keep us on track.”
From an early age, Dr. Ragan knew she wanted to make a difference for others. A self-proclaimed math and science geek, she remembers the image of a prosthetic arm that donned the cover of her middle school Scientific American magazine. It was an image that piqued her scientific curiosity as well as a novel creation that guided her higher education mix of engineering and medicine.
During her third year as a biomedical engineering Ph.D. student in the prestigious Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) program, she spent time on a clinical ward where she gained an appreciation for the doctor-patient interface and the sometimes impossible risk-benefit decision-making that takes place. Dr. Ragan found herself thinking about how to influence these interactions and decisions into problem-solving and solutions.
Today, Dr. Ragan is charging forward with her own global biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapies for rare and ultra-rare diseases, including primary immunodeficiencies and various cancers. After six years at Genzyme, she sought to satisfy her entrepreneurial appetite and began searching for smart assets to develop, and eventually she acquired an early-stage candidate — mavoraxifor (X4P-001) — for the treatment of the rare genetic disorder WHIM syndrome off of Genzyme’s shelf. As she began to build X4 Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Ragan’s talent, vision, and drive attracted a groundswell of support and followers, including industry giants such as Henri Termeer and Mike Bonney, both founding investors and advisors.
“My drive to reduce human suffering and cure patients of their ills is part of my genetic code — I am lucky in this way,” she says. “I am also very competitive and love to win. The two motivations blend well as I apply my competitive juices to beating the diseases that are hurting our patients and diminishing their potential. This combination is my life-blood; I feel alive because of this. It makes every day that I have a gift.”
Since 2015, X4 Pharmaceuticals has undergone growth, including a recent merger that resulted in a reverse IPO and X4’s entrance into the public market, as well as a newly established global presence. In only four years, X4 is at the helm of Phase III trials with its lead product candidate, mavoraxifor, and is poised for significant growth.
Every entrepreneur starts with an idea. “The trick to making it a reality is surrounding yourself with great people, and enouraging them to think bigger and do better” Dr. Ragan says. She centers herself and her company around this philosophy as she builds a strong foundation to usher in the next generation of rare disease therapies for patients. (PV)
Fixing the Broken Things
Title: Chief Alchemist
Company: Alchemy Factory
Industry Awards: PharmaVOICE 100, 2016, 2009; Clio Healthcare Gold; Manny Gold, Medical Marketing & Media Gold; Manny Award; Healthcare Transformer; People Under 40 in Health; Webby Award; WWW Awards; PM360 Elite Data Miner, 2019
Company Awards: Top 10 fastest-growing privately held companies in Orange County (California), 2018
Associations: MM&M Editorial Board; Pharma Marketing News Advisory Board; Bitmo (Advisor); Blueprint Health (Mentor); Medstartr (Advisor); UCI School of Applied Innovation (Expert in Residence); EmbryoLogic (Advisor); Digital Health Coalition (Scholar); Digital Health Maven
If Fabio Gratton had unlimited resources he would bring together the most brilliant minds in the world across all disciplines to identify the top 10 things that must be done to make the world a better place. “Then I’d divide everyone into 10 teams, and I would give each team one-tenth of my unlimited resources and tell them to go figure out how to execute on their one thing,” he says. “I’d give each team about 10 months to figure it out, just to make sure they don’t get complacent.”
All of this wouldn’t surprise those who know Fabio. As the founder of Alchemy Factory — a digital health and technology incubator, which would later evolve into a co-work space — he has helped start more than a half dozen companies. Each has filled an important unmet need, including Carma Project, a life-saving game designed to accelerate the recall of deadly Takata airbags; CureClick, a novel crowd-sourced clinical trial recruitment service; inVibe Labs, a disruptive speech emotion market research platform for health; Sonic Health, a story-driven idea consultancy; and BryteLife, a rehydration soda water enriched with performance-level electrolytes.
“One of my personal greatest achievements has been helping start a diverse portfolio of companies in completely different verticals without taking outside investment, and turning each of them into profitable businesses with strong growth, talented teams, and a unique culture that centers around people who are willing to take on remarkable challenges without fear and who are also willing to do the hard work it takes to make a business successful,” he says.
Fabio recently started a small angel fund to help jump start what he calls “Zero X” companies, which may or may not return an investment on the capital, but could return a great deal of good to society as a whole. This year he plans to fund five startups with support of $10,000 each from a fund that he has personally bankrolled.
“I would like to be able to continue to drive the growth of the companies I have helped found, and make sure that I provide the proper support and resources to those who took a chance with me to start those companies so that they too can achieve the kind of professional success that I feel fortunate enough to have experienced so far in my career,” he says.
And it’s been a pretty spectacular career so far. At the age of 27, he started a digital health agency, Ignite Health, which would go on to become one of the most successful advertising agencies in the United States in less than six years.
Ignite was subsequently acquired by inVentiv Health, which is now Syneos Health. This would have been a lifetime achievement for many, but for Fabio this was just the beginning.
His passion and dedication for always pushing the limits of what’s possible are what inspire colleagues.
Fabio describes his leadership style this way: “floating words of wisdom through zen clouds of serenity, followed by sheer panic and paranoia while manically pounding the drums of hysteria. The next day: lots of apologies. Ok, that’s only partly true. What people tell me is that I do a good job at pushing them to do things beyond the limits of what they thought was previously possible.”
He says he measures success by whether he feels more energized at the end of the day than at the beginning.
“If the things I do are enabling me to continue to do the things I do, I’m winning,” Fabio says. “And if, at the end of the day, I have no regrets about the choices I’ve made along the way, I’m winning. Ideally, I like to see winning streaks that last more than a week. That might seem like I have low expectations — but a week of winning gets me through several weeks of losing. And since my goal is finding a way to keep playing as long as possible; that works pretty well for me.” (PV)
Supportive. Get it done.
Seeking the Insights that Matter
Noah M. Pines
Title: President and Founder
Associations: Intellus Worldwide; PMRC; Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association
Noah Pines truly loves healthcare marketing research. He is passionate about what the company he founded, ThinkGen, does to provide business insights to clients. “Healthcare marketing research is all I have ever done for the past 27 years,” he says. “I’m passionate about supporting the life-changing medicines and technologies that our clients bring to market. My team sees that authenticity, and the commitment I have to being a valuable partner to our clients. We feed off of each other’s love and enjoyment of problem solving and of this unique profession.”
As president, Noah’s main role is to manage a team of some of the marketing research industry’s most experienced professionals. He is a hands-on leader, getting involved in new business acquisition, project design and management, through to the delivery of final reports. He oversees the financial management of the company; marketing; authoring website content; as well as developing relationships with vendors and collaborators.
Noah says his biggest career highlight was founding and building ThinkGen into a successful healthcare marketing research agency serving the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical devices, and diagnostics industries.
“My original vision for ThinkGen was to replicate a Savile Row tailor shop within the marketing research industry — a boutique agency providing bespoke solutions to meet our clients’ needs,” he says. “Over time, we have blossomed into a community of all-star researchers, all striving to help our clients successfully navigate complex, competitive and fast-moving environments.”
Over the past three years, the company has consistently delivered double-digit growth in terms of revenue. And for 2018, there was a 50% increase over the previous year.
Noah says the most challenging part has been to maintain the growth of ThinkGen while staying true to the company’s fundamental values. “We strive daily to find the best talent and to grow,” he says. “I have a fantastic team at ThinkGen, researchers who are at the top of their game, but who still are pushing themselves to innovate. Finding, recruiting, and cultivating this rare talent is what makes my role at ThinkGen fun and engaging.”
Noah’s goal, he says, is to create the best work environment, or as he calls it a “playground,” for career healthcare marketing research professionals to do their best work and thrive long term. “My leadership style is collaborative,” Noah says. “I like to hear a wide range of views from different people before I make a decision. I want people to be on board with my decisions. I’ve created an environment where discussion and vigorous debate are welcome.”
Over the course of his career in healthcare marketing research, Noah has relentlessly pursued market-shaping insights that have profoundly influenced the strategy and commercialization of brands across multiple stakeholder groups, complex disease categories, and global markets.
A little-known fact is that Noah and his mentor, Dr. Richard Vanderveer, were at the forefront of customer-driven positioning; a methodology that allows the customer to integrally participate in the process of brand positioning.
Noah recognized that traditional positioning methodologies are fundamentally rooted in the brand team’s perceptions, with a research element that often serves to validate their thinking.
“Over the years, Richard and I have developed and written about numerous innovative marketing research methodologies, such as information architecture,” he says. “We are currently working with Dr. Neale Martin to cultivate a new paradigm in marketing called ‘habit engineering.’ We are confident that habit/behavioral marketing, will soon take root as a fundamental industry paradigm.”
The premise is to systematically uncover the drivers of habit to craft actionable insights that change behavior.
“Habit is fundamental to human behavior, yet marketers have yet to incorporate it into their marketing strategies,” Noah says. “Millions of marketing dollars are wasted because we don’t adequately understand or act in accordance with this natural behavioral underpinning of habits.”
Before habit engineering, behavioral economics was the buzzword in marketing research. But behavioral economics was not developed for marketing nor does it address repeat behavior over time, which is what marketers are truly interested in, Noah says.
Since its founding in 2010, ThinkGen now employs more than 20 researchers, many of whom have been handpicked by Noah based on their ability to embrace innovation, their passion, and their capability to deliver timely solutions to address critical business questions.
“We are constantly striving to add the best healthcare marketing researchers to our team — people who love this profession as much as we do,” Noah says. “This is critical to our growth.” (PV)
Progressing Women’s Health
Sabrina Martucci Johnson
Title: President, CEO, and Founder
Company: Daré Bioscience Inc.
Industry Awards: Finalist, Xconomy Awards, CEO category, 2019; Athena Individual in Life Science Pinnacle Award, 2017
Company Awards: Startup Life Sciences/Technology Winner in the Athena Pinnacle Awards, 2018
Community Awards: Entrepreneur Of The Year Award Finalist, 2018; the MOXIES Annual Award, 2017, which honors “women with grit and determination”; San Diego 500 Book of Influential Business Leaders, 2019
Associations: Board member of Aethlon Medical, Vice Chair of the Clearity Foundation Board of Directors; Biocom, Athena San Diego, YWCA of San Diego County; Tulane University School of Science & Engineering Advisory Board; Former Chair of University of California San Diego Librarian’s Advisory Board; Past President of the YWCA of San Diego County; Former Treasurer PPPSW, Audit Committee member of Project Concern International; Past Co-President of Women Give San Diego
Sabrina Martucci Johnson’s unstoppable and unwavering commitment to women’s health led to her create Daré Bioscience in 2015. Daré aims to bring novel technologies to market that address unmet needs in women’s health.
“I started Daré after recognizing the gap between early-stage innovation and late-stage clinical development in women’s health,” Sabrina says.
But this effort wasn’t for the faint of heart. Women’s health is an area that traditional investors have not historically paid attention to. After raising only $800,000 in angel funding, she took the company public in a reverse merger in July 2017. Sabrina quickly identified and brought promising assets into Daré’s portfolio, growing the company’s pipeline to eight product candidates, including three late-stage clinical assets.
Attaining capital in women’s health, or any area that is similarly woefully underfunded relative to other more common therapeutic segments, such as immuno-oncology, requires tenacity, she says. “I expect to always get a no in this business, and I’ve learned not to take rejection personally, but when the funding is for a company you founded, it can be challenging at times.”
She describes herself as daring and tenacious. “I’m willing to embark into uncharted territory and I’m not afraid to do something different — something that’s never been done before,” she says. “To create real innovation for patients, you have to be daring in our industry. When you have big, audacious goals, you have to stay strong and be persistent in seeing them through, even when obstacles arise.”
Daré is playing an important role to accelerate innovation in women’s health by working to bring first-in-class products to market. “Within Daré, I’ve created space for innovation by encouraging others to think outside of the box and engage in discussions where no idea is a bad idea. I foster an environment where we tackle hard issues head-on in an effort to come up with solutions, and we don’t shy away from risk.”
She believes the industry has neglected to innovate in women’s health for far too long. “I’d like to change the misperceptions the industry currently holds regarding women’s health, including that it may be riskier from a regulatory perspective,” she says. “While developing treatments for women who are often otherwise healthy and for indications that are not life-threatening comes with a unique set of challenges, we need industry support in terms of committed companies, partners, and investors to push the innovation women deserve forward.”
She is an authentic leader who is both scientifically grounded and committed to making a positive impact on the health and well-being of women.
“I try to inspire people by leading through example,” she says. “I bring my whole self to work every day with my energy, commitment, and a passion for what Daré is doing. I bring a certain level of enthusiasm to my role as the leader of Daré that I believe is contagious. I also live very authentically in pursuit of my genuine passions and my interests.”
At this point in her career, Sabrina says it’s really about making sure everything she is doing professionally resonates and truly represents an opportunity to make a difference. “While I used to place a lot of emphasis on personal growth opportunities, I now focus on feeling fulfilled at work and pursuing things that are most important to me and where I have the greatest social impact,” she says.
Sabrina always makes time for the people around her and she never shies away from offering her perspective or advice. Officially, she has served as a mentor several times through an Athena San Diego program. “I had incredible mentors throughout my own career and recognize the positive impact they made on who I was eventually able to become, both professionally and personally,” she says. “I view mentoring as a gift and I am fortunate to now be in a position to pay it forward to others.” (PV)
Big Picture, Big Rewards
David Scott Johnson, Ph.D.
Company Awards: Best Companies to Work For, SF Business Times, 2019
Associations: Stanford StartX
David Johnson, Ph.D., locks up his bicycle after a harrowing ride navigating hills and traffic to make his way to South San Francisco, Calif., the birthplace of biotechnology. It’s how he gets to and from work at GigaGen, a company he founded in 2010 to translate his research in single cell genetics into novel therapies for patients in need.
Dr. Johnson is an inventor, entrepreneur, and expert in single-cell immunology, with a track record of bringing new medical technologies to market. GigaGen is developing novel antibody therapies for patients with diseases that result from immune system dysregulation, including cancer and immune deficiencies. The company’s proprietary approach delivers unprecedented insights into immune regulatory pathways and what causes them to fail. The company is advancing a pipeline of first-in-class biotherapeutics, including novel oncology antibody drug combinations and the world’s first recombinant polyclonal hyperimmune gammaglobulin.
Dr. Johnson, who started GigaGen from the ground up, has maintained the company through collaborations, NIH funding, and grants. He says a career highlight — and his most challenging assignment — was founding GigaGen. “Drug development is expensive and risky,” he says. “I am always concerned about raising sufficient capital to get us through clinical development. When challenges arise, I take a step back and focus on the long game and big picture. That way, you can see why the frustrating details matter, and the daily tasks become less daunting.”
Since founding GigaGen, Dr. Johnson has raised about $52 million through partnerships with established pharmaceutical companies, including Grifols, Novartis, and Merck. He has also served as principal investigator for 16 grants totaling more than $10 million from the National Science Foundation, National Cancer Institute, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, including seven Phase II projects. GigaGen also has clinical research partnerships with several academic institutions, including Stanford.
Those who know Dr. Johnson say he combines technical skills with fortitude, leadership, and judgment — all of which are required to build great products and companies. At GigaGen, he has succeeded in taking a very challenging technical product from conception through development.
Before GigaGen, Dr. Johnson was a founding member and chief operating officer of Natera, a reproductive molecular diagnostics firm. At Natera, Dr. Johnson was responsible for all clinical operations, laboratory research, clinical studies, and clinical product development. And before that, he served as a project director at the Stanford Human Genome Center.
Those who have worked with Dr. Johnson say he is an incredible leader and role model. They say what makes him really stand out among other C-level executives is his approachable, down-to-earth nature. He truly has an open-door policy and takes all employees’ ideas and opinions into consideration before making decisions. Colleagues say Dr. Johnson has taught them several incredibly valuable skills, including how to make data-driven decisions. “I do my best to lead by example,” he says. “I like to model respect, openness, and integrity.”
Dr. Johnson has always advocated for an environment that fosters a truly scientific culture, which be believes should be built out of three major components — respect, openness, and integrity. “These words form the acronym ROI, which by no coincidence also stands for return on investment,” he says.
This approach inspires those who work with him to thoroughly think about projects and results before jumping to conclusions.
As GigaGen’s team has grown over the last year, Dr. Johnson has never faltered in being a great manager, and his employees extol his virtues as a fair, kind, and generous leader.
Dr. Johnson emphasizes the importance of thoughtfulness and being considerate of one another, so there’s no element of toxic competition among team members. As the company on-boards new hires, the philosophy of inclusiveness is reinforced.
Dr. Johnson is a stellar example of a leader who truly invests in his junior employees and takes joy in helping them establish the fundamental knowledge necessary to become successful scientists.
“I like to focus on my staff’s career development,” Dr. Johnson says. “I aim to provide an environment in which everyone has an opportunity to grow and learn new skills. It’s important to focus on career development so the team feels as though they are developing themselves, rather than just getting a paycheck.” (PV)
An Elegant Approach to Problem Solving
Title: Co-Founder & CEO
Company: Crossix Solutions Inc.
Industry Awards: PharmaVOICE 100, 2012; DTC National Innovator of the Year; PM360 ELITE honoree; owner of two U.S. patents for Crossix distributed data network technology
On the wall behind his desk, Asaf Evenhaim has a framed sketch of Crossix’s first pilot program. He says it reminds him of the company’s humble beginnings and that complex problems often have simple, yet elegant solutions.
Asaf has helped to transform the healthcare marketing industry through Crossix, a company that he co-founded nearly 15 years ago. By recognizing the value of big data long before it was a “thing,” Asaf has guided Crossix as its CEO in developing cutting-edge, privacy-safe technologies to provide innovative data analytics solutions for the healthcare industry.
Crossix connects the industry’s most comprehensive set of health and non-health data, covering more than 300 million lives in the United States. Crossix DIFA, its cloud-based platform, allows real-time measurement and optimization of complex, cross-channel media campaigns aimed at patients and healthcare professionals.
Under Asaf’s leadership and vision, Crossix has empowered marketers to have true visibility into their marketing performance for both direct-to-consumer and healthcare professional campaigns. Traditionally, marketers have relied on proxy metrics to measure their campaigns’ impact. Asaf understood that these metrics do not necessarily lead to sales or patient engagement. Instead, he sought out a way to provide timely insights based on real-world patient actions, such as prescription fills, doctor visitation, test results, etc. He designed a fundamentally different data architecture, allowing the company to secure several U.S. patents and others around the world. The technology makes links to and draws insights from health and non-health data in a privacy-safe way.
The idea of building something meaningful and making an impact on health outcomes is what motivates him every day. “My team also motivates me,” he says. “We share a common goal of changing the industry for the better.”
Asaf says his biggest career highlight has been founding Crossix and seeing its positive impact on so many companies across the health and non-health ecosystems. “My goal is to continue to lead the Crossix team as we create the standard platform by which the entire health ecosystem understands the impact of their marketing,” he says.
“Advanced analytics can impact so much more than just the commercial side of healthcare, and my goal is to lead the industry’s transformation to become more accountable.”
He says he is still very involved in leading the organization’s innovation. “It’s important to foster an environment and company culture that embraces new ideas and constantly challenges the old way of doing things,” Asaf says. “One of our company’s core values is to break down barriers, so that we can continually innovate. Ideas can and should come from everywhere — including our team and our customers. Our products and platforms are often disruptive to the industry, and while it’s not easy being first to market, it’s often the most impactful and rewarding.”
His unflagging focus on building scalable and high-velocity, technology-driven solutions has been invaluable toward Crossix’s ability to deliver to the market and to the team’s personal progress. When challenges arise, he says it’s important to remind people of all the other challenges they’ve successfully navigated together. “Collaboration and teamwork are paramount,” he says.
Asaf has high expectations for Crossix employees, but he is also at his core a compassionate and caring leader. This has directly contributed to a positive work culture at the company where employees feel driven to succeed and appreciated for their efforts.
“I hold my team accountable to very high standards,” he says. “I’m very proud of the Crossix leadership team evolving with me and the company over years of growth and change.”
He says he tries to inspire others with ideas. “We won’t win by confining our thinking to market-accepted approaches and norms,” he says. “I also believe in leading by example and always bringing a certain humility to my work. Even though our company has grown, staying accessible to everyone on the Crossix team is a priority for me. My door is always open if anyone has a challenge they want to discuss.” (PV)
Passionate. Change Agent.
Company: VIVO Agency
Company Awards: DxMA Award, best
pre- launch and best launch campaign, 2017
After a college internship at Ethicon, Tom began his career as a top medical device sales rep with Stryker, Chiron, Bayer, and Cerner. Over 12 years, he learned the nuanced differences between the surgical, capital equipment, and EMR device markets and how to successfully engage key stakeholders in each of them.
Tom’s move to the agency side of the business, where he could employ these learnings on a larger scale, was almost inevitable. His father, Ed Dudnyk, founded and owned the eponymous award-winning Philadelphia-based agency, Dudnyk.
VIVO Agency was started in 2006 to transform medical device marketing with a vision to help its customers fix healthcare. “It doesn’t take a genius to see that healthcare is broken — it is stupendously inefficient and ineffective,” Tom says. “And, it is outrageously unsustainable.”
But with so few agencies purpose-built to support these extraordinarily complex companies, Tom says “there was no agency blueprint for us to follow. To succeed, we had to create a totally new model with a unique blend of talent and processes.”
Tom’s career highlight was VIVO’s first account win. “We pitched against three massive, Madison Avenue agencies for a top device company,” he says. “At the time, we only had three employees. We won the pitch, but because we were such an unknown, everyone had to re-pitch the business. To win it, we had to win it twice.“
This was the validation VIVO needed that its vision for the device industry was correct.
“To many device companies, marketing is a tactic; it’s an exercise.” Tom says. “For these companies to be successful, marketing needs to be strategic; a difference-maker. This means that marketing literally needs to lead sales and R&D efforts, not the other way around.”
It is this belief that attracts a certain customer profile to VIVO.
Tom connects with those clients that want to think bigger and achieve breakthrough results. For example, Tom inspired one client to begin a multi-year strategic journey into thought leadership, by launching the industry’s first content marketing campaign.
“It was so successful, our client was promoted overseas within 90 days of launch,” he says. Rapid promotions like this are the norm.
“I’ve always been seen as a change agent,” Tom says. “In the device space, using a marketing formula that worked yesterday is the fastest way to fail today. Healthcare is simply changing too fast. To keep pace, your marketing has to transform with it.”
To do so requires staying ahead of the curve. “I came to the agency space with a huge network of former device colleagues and customers,” he says. “I regularly check in with them and find out what is happening on the front lines.” This knowledge is further augmented by VIVO’s market research practice.
Colleagues say Tom is also a great mentor who goes out of his way to support career development. He’s the first person many turn to when faced with a professional challenge. Every day, he inspires his team to challenge convention and create the future themselves.
“Honest, straight talk is my calling card and I expect it from all of our employees,” he says. “To engender creativity and collaboration you must have zero tolerance for internal politics and hierarchy. Everyone must have 100% freedom to share ideas and think outside of the box. This has helped our youngest, least experienced employees fuel their intellectual curiosity to become some of the leading contributors in the agency.”
Colleagues say they are inspired by his vision of the potential of device companies to change the entire healthcare system; 10 years from now, they say the industry will realize that Tom was way ahead of his time. (PV)
A True Catalyst for Change
Title: Co-founder and President
Company Awards: JMP Securities’ Hot 100 Privately Held Companies list, 2012, 2011; CIO Review’s Top 20 Most Promising Data Analytic Companies, 2013
Associations: San Francisco Chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP), board member and VP of public relations and volunteer services
Derek Choy is a true catalyst for change in the healthcare marketing/technology space. As co-founder and president of Aktana, he strives to galvanize life-sciences sales and marketing teams to be ready to incorporate intelligence-based decision support into their commercial model.
He is a passionate entrepreneur dedicated to improving the healthcare process with data and insights. He understands the problems pharmaceutical companies face managing commercial teams, for which Aktana is providing solutions.
The company’s proprietary platform harnesses machine-learning algorithms to enable commercial teams to seamlessly coordinate and optimize multichannel engagement with healthcare providers.
Derek says he has always had a passion for technology and innovation. “While in school, I became involved with a multi-disciplinary team that started eHelp, a computer services company offering specialist installation and support tailored to small medical practices,” he says. “The service helped many small medical practices gain efficiencies previously confined to large ones, and although we stopped operating in late 2006, I had caught the bug.”
One of his most challenging assignments, Derek says, was in 2011 early in the company’s existence. Aktana was working with a large pharma company in Japan to help its medical sales reps optimize their day-to-day activities. After 12 months of developing and piloting a solution, the sales representatives admitted the tool wasn’t valuable for them at all.
“We had spent too much time optimizing for the brand and sales operations teams, using models and analytics to identify theoretically ‘optimal’ priorities and not enough time paying attention to the people whose workflows we were affecting; we had ignored their day-to-day realities, constraints, and preferences,” Derek says. “We went back to the drawing board, brought together a group of pharmaceutical sales representatives — who joined an advisory board — and worked with them to develop an approach for delivering intelligence to the field designed by them and built for them. We made sure reps were part of requirements design from day one and that we focused on change management and adoption.”
The experience led to a breakthrough innovation for the company, and an approach that would become core to its success: balancing human and machine intelligence. “We view the concept of intelligent engagement as a strategic priority for every major pharma company, and many of the best practices that initially came from our first failed implementation now are considered common knowledge,” he says.
Those who work with Derek say his passion for what he does is contagious and evident to all who interface with him. The way he thinks about commercial transformation in the life-sciences industry is nontraditional. Years before “intelligent customer engagement” and “decision support” became buzzwords in the industry, Derek created the category for intelligent decision support, and immediately began attracting forward-thinking life-sciences professionals who saw that Aktana’s solution would become a critical asset in commercial model transformation.
Derek has been a game changer in the industry. The solution he developed enables commercial teams to have a better understanding of their customers, provides companies with an ROI that will inevitably allow prices to stay affordable when their products perform to their greatest ability, and helps healthcare providers deliver better care to patients by delivering relevant information at the right time.
Colleagues say Derek is a humble leader with an immense vision to make a difference in the industry. He empowers his team, listens to ideas, and encourages everyone to explore, test, and run with their ideas. And he doesn’t even mind washing the office dishes.
Derek also demonstrates individual excellence in all he does, while maintaining a down-to-earth and high-integrity leadership approach. Colleagues say Derek brilliantly brings his visions to life, and he understands how to manifest, inspire, and create greatness from within the organization. He has helped to cultivate a unique working environment where employees are empowered to venture out, take risks, and be bold without fear.
“I believe impact can only happen when people work together,” he says. (PV)
Batting a Thousand for Patients
Company: WEGO Health
Industry Awards: MM&M Healthcare Transformer, WEGO Health, 2015; PharmaVOICE100, 2005, 2006
Jack Barrette, CEO, WEGO Health, is an entrepreneur, a patient advocate, a dog lover, but you can sum up what he’s about in a few words: he goes to bat for patients. Every day.
According to colleagues, Jack not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk. From conferences to private one-on-one meetings with top healthcare leaders, Jack has the patient voice in mind, colleagues report.
Jack was an advocate for patients long before “patient centric” became a buzzword in pharmaceutical marketing. He has led the industry in building condition-specific patient communities, helping patients benefit from those communities, and bridging the gap between patients and pharma companies.
Over the past 12 years since launching WEGO Health, Jack has steered the company to build the world’s largest network of patient leaders — more than 100,000 — who share their experience, skills, and insights with healthcare stakeholders, including fellow patients. The network also collaborates with pharmaceutical and life-sciences companies, agencies, consultancies, and startups. This allows all types of organizations to leverage the patient experience and expertise in the design, development, and promotion of their products and services.
The idea for WEGO Health was born when Jack realized that on social media, patients were an untapped resource for change in healthcare. In his previous work at Yahoo!, he encountered patient advocates, health activists, health community leaders, patient influencers, and patient experts, all working as passionate volunteers in championing better care and health for others. In essence, Jack started a movement in healthcare and many colleagues are proud to be along for the ride.
Many of WEGO Health’s employees have been with Jack since the beginning and are proud to have been a part of the movement for the past nine years and counting. They attribute their length of stay directly to the innovative, authentic, and patient-centric work that Jack has made possible for them to do, all while being a supportive and inspiring boss.
Jack is proud of growing a self-sustaining business, but more importantly of creating a mission-driven company, trusted by its members. “Our mission, born 12 years ago, is working,” he says. “Patient leaders are advising companies, speaking at pharma conferences, building authentic content, and activating their communities by the tens of millions.”
Jack never loses sight of the goal; he spends every minute of his day thinking about how he can bridge the gap between patients and industry, and ultimately to foster the online patient revolution movement.
Colleagues say Jack does an incredible job of keeping patient leaders front and center in everything the business does. He assesses every opportunity that comes WEGO Health’s way for the value it can bring to the patient leaders in its network and patients around the world.
Jack says he leads via an acronym he created: TTS, or trust, transparency, and service. “Trust and transparency are core to our culture, including how the WEGO Health team treats our patient leader members, and everyone at the company knows where they stand and that we mean what we say,” Jack says. “I personally subscribe to a classic service leadership approach: hire great folks, listen to and empower them, and it’s my job to give them what they need to succeed. Our goal is to be the most trusted organization of activated health consumers, improving healthcare through patient collaboration.”
Much like many businesses, WEGO Health treaded rough waters in 2008 — one year after being established — due to the market crash. The company grew 100% organically for many years, in a tough economic climate, while effectively inventing the idea of patient leaders empowered to change healthcare and bring value to sponsors. “A stack of credit cards, a truckload of ramen noodles, and 12 years later we’re succeeding on all fronts — because failure was never an option,” Jack says.
Today, WEGO Health’s growth is robust, and the business challenge now is to preserve the trust and transparency that defines its market position, its relationship with members, and its internal culture while growing very fast. “It’s exciting as hell to be scaling up, and we’d be crazy to sleep well while our core values get diluted,” Jack says.
Keeping himself and his teams motivated is easy by continually staying in contact with patient members. “When we hear stories of patients surviving cancer while helping thousands of others understand their journey, we remember why we do this,” he says.
For Jack it comes down to basics: he wants to continue to build a company culture of inclusion, respect, hyper-growth, trust, and fun, and to make a lasting impact that helps everyone live happier, healthier lives.
Jack wants WEGO Health to prove that strong, profitable businesses can be good citizens and succeed by doing good. He says while he doesn’t “bite all the way on Stephen Covey,” a friend and the lead investment partner in WEGO Health reminded him early on of Covey’s best advice: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing — a lesson he carries forward every day.
With unlimited resources, Jack would create an Institute of Patient Collaboration to fund the rapid, frictionless integration of patient leader collaborators into every corner of healthcare. For now, he’ll be content to forever change the perception and role of patient leaders — and patients — in healthcare, from test subjects to peer collaborators. (PV)