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These visionary leaders recognized an opportunity to fill an industry need and are successfully leading their companies to new heights.
Raising the bar… by proving what is possible in accelerating clinical drug development
Michelle Longmire, M.D.
Title: CEO and Co-Founder
Associations: American Academy of Dermatology
Having grown up in the scientific epicenter of Los Alamos, New Mexico, as the daughter of two scientist parents, Medable CEO Michelle Longmire, M.D., always envisioned being a researcher.
“I ended up pursuing a career in medicine with the vision of being a physician-scientist,” Dr. Longmire recalls. “When I first conceived of Medable, I was a resident physician working in Silicon Valley, and I had a strong desire to take my love of innovation outside of the lab.”
She says the subsequent process of taking Medable from idea to disruptive deliverable in a slow-to-adopt industry has undoubtedly been her biggest challenge.
“I quickly learned that startups only survive when entrepreneurs drive their vision for the future to become a reality, and this transformation requires unrelenting persistence,” Dr. Longmire says. “Five years later, we have transformed an idea into a company that supports digital trials in more than 30 countries, 26 languages, across all phases, and therapeutic areas — and we are just getting started.”
While much innovation stays on the paper without putting ideas into practice, Dr. Longmire has achieved the opposite. As CEO of Medable, she says her biggest highlight has been pioneering new digital technologies that meaningfully reduce trial timelines. The Medable mission is to reduce these timelines by 50%.
“As a physician, I am humbled by the number of sub-optimally treated conditions and diseases,” Dr. Longmire says. “It is an incredible feeling to reduce development timelines to get effective therapies to patients faster, as I think this is critical to reducing human suffering and enabling more people to focus on life instead of their condition or disease.”
Colleagues say they can feel Dr. Longmire’s passion for making a real difference for the patient who suffers every day. They are inspired by the way she swiftly translates thoughts into action.
For example, under her leadership, and in response to COVID-19, Medable launched TeleVisit. This fast, agile, mobile application can be used by patients worldwide to connect virtually with their clinical trial sites while being directed to shelter in place.
Dr. Longmire and her team are working on several additional projects and technologies to enable progress for existing and new clinical trials in the pandemic face.
“In life sciences, being impactful means reducing human suffering by providing better treatment options,” Dr. Longmire says. “Being a game changer means delivering the science of clinical drug development in new and better ways. Being an impactful game-changer is what I aim to be with the sole mission of enabling effective therapies to reach patients faster.”
As an entrepreneur, Dr. Longmire brings passion, energy, and leadership to her role every day.
Colleagues say whether she’s working with biopharma company leaders to help them adopt decentralized trials, partnering with CROs to bring joint solutions to market, or collaborating with patient advocates to bring their voices into the trial process, Dr. Longmire’s vision and energy are infectious.
Dr. Longmire says her leadership style is one of support and empowerment.
“I look for teammates to align with our mission and then support my team in making the highest impact contribution based on their individual skill sets and goals,” she says. “I hope to inspire others by proving that dreams can become a reality and that driving things forward daily leads to important changes over time.”
Dr. Longmire serves as a mentor and is filled with gratitude to the people who have supported and believed in her. “As a mentor, I aim to support young innovators and provide a sounding board for ideas and guidance, but more than anything else, to serve simply as a source of ongoing support to stay in the game,” she says.
One of the best pieces of advice Dr. Longmire says she has ever received is that winners focus on winning, while losers focus on winners.
“I love this advice, because over time, I have realized our biggest threat is not the competition but instead a failure to actualize our potential,” she says. “What keeps me up at night is not fully harnessing the opportunity we have to make a meaningful impact in an industry dedicated to an urgent problem: treating human illness.
“Our mission at Medable drives us to stay in the game, even during challenging times,” Dr. Longmire adds. “The reality is that nothing good is ever easy.” (PV)
Raising the bar… by disrupting outdated practices
Title: Co-CEO and Founder
Company: ProTrials Research Inc.
Associations: AWIS, DIA, WIB, NAWBO, ACLU
I am not afraid to stand up for what is right, defend those that are defenseless, be dependable in the worst of times, and stand strongly behind my obligations at all times. Bravery is essential to success in our industry, we have to take risks while recognizing that our actions affect people.
It takes an enormous resolve and a pioneering spirit to build a clinical research organization from the ground up to become a multi-national enterprise. It takes even more grit to establish one of the first female-owned CROs in the industry. Inger Arum, founder and co-CEO of ProTrials Research has shown bravery and resilience in doing just that. Inger established the company with her business partner and 2019 PharmaVOICE 100 honoree Jodi Andrews nearly 25 years ago.
“I am not afraid to stand up for what is right, defend those that are defenseless, be dependable in the worst of times, and stand strongly behind my obligations at all times,” she says. “Bravery is essential to success in our industry, we have to take risks while recognizing that our actions affect people. I believe resiliency has been a cornerstone in my professional success and the success of our company. Standing the test of time, weathering industry changes, recessions, organizational challenges, global pressures, and now a pandemic requires resilience.”
That bravery was demonstrated early on, when despite the stigma associated with AIDS, Inger elected to launch and manage global Phase III trials for a potential HIV vaccine as the company’s first piece of business. The vaccine itself was not a success, however Inger established herself as a passionate risk-taker dedicated to helping people with debilitating diseases. She has continued this focus in countless studies throughout many therapeutic areas, striving to help produce the best therapies in the most-timely manner with the highest standards of quality, always with the patient in mind.
Today, ProTrials is a multi-million-dollar organization that has achieved year-over-year revenue growth of 20%, with international reach and a reputation for providing clinical service excellence and client satisfaction, demonstrated by a repeat business rate of more than 90%.
From building new tools, such as data visualization dashboards that allow study site project managers to making real-time decisions to avoid potential obstacles, to initiating ground-breaking solutions, such as remote monitoring of sponsor sites during the COVID-19 pandemic, Inger is a catalyst for change.
Inger’s passion is to bring health and wellness to patients and to that end she focuses on hiring and retaining top talent.
And her commitment to professionalism and best practices is embraced by every staff member at every level and location, regardless of his or her position.
A compassionate and funny leader with a fierce dedication to high quality, Inger works to strike the right balance between requiring what she wants and with what she needs.
She inspires others by setting the same standards for herself as she sets for others, being open-minded, supporting her teams so they can grow, and staying focused on the value of the work and the patients it affects.
“Helping to improve patients’ lives and working with so many extraordinarily talented people inspires me every day to do better and be better,” she says.
Inger champions innovation and works to weave it into the company’s day-to-day operations.
“I created our team and individual innovation award program,” she says. “I work with our leadership team to listen, embrace ideas, support, empathize, ask questions, and exemplify innovation. Company culture has to support active listening without judgment, which is vital to supporting innovation.”
The toughest challenges, she says, are organizational development and risk management.
“Finding the right people at the right time who fit into the best corporate plan is challenging but can be done with discipline,” she says. “Risk management — have we done everything we can to identify risks promptly — is a universal challenge in our industry.”
Inger is a mentor to many, taking the time to connect, listen, discuss, and point out new opportunities.
She believes in giving back to the community and does so through ensuring ProTrials’ involvement in a variety of volunteer programs, sponsorships of events and organizations, and gifts to charity.
As for achievements, Inger sums it up nicely saying it’s the merit badge of running a company successfully for 24 years with no private equity investment, debt, layoffs, or loss of sanity. “I work to strike the right balance between requiring what I want with requiring what I need, or to quote the Rolling Stones, ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need’,” she says. (PV)
Raising the bar… with female entrepreneurship
Elyse Stoltz Dickerson
Company: Eosera Inc.
Industry Awards: Drug Store News Top Women in Health, Wellness and Beauty, Drug Store News, 2019; Dallas 500 list, D CEO, 2019; Most Admired CEO, D CEO, 2019; Great Women of Texas, Fort Worth Business Press, 2019; Fort Worthian to Watch, Fort Worth Magazine, 2019; Top 400 Most Influential People, FW Inc, 2019
Company Awards: Finalist, D CEO, Excellence in Healthcare Award, 2019, 2017; Winner, Fort Worth Business Press Top Business Award, 2018; Rising Star Award, CVS Health, 2018; Tech FW (Fort Worth) Impact Award, 2017;
Associations: Board of Trustees Fort Worth Country Day; Advisory Board Texas Christian University (TCU) Neely School of Business Healthcare; Alumni Board Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business; YPO ; Fort Worth YPO Chapter
As an entrepreneur and champion for women’s equality in the workforce, Elyse Dickerson has built a multi-million-dollar company from scratch with the mission of healing humans. And along the way, she has won the trust and admiration of her employees. Elyse and business partner Joe Griffin, Ph.D., co-founded Eosera because they recognized there had been little to no innovation in the ear care category in decades. “We pride ourselves on our innovation,” she says. “Few other companies have a line of ear care products as comprehensive as ours. My goal is to continue to grow Eosera into a world-class biotech company that provides fulfilling jobs for people.”
Eosera operates by putting purpose before profits and is proud to be one of the pioneering companies in a movement called “conscious capitalism.”
“After decades of working in organizations focused solely on making money, I realized that was never going to bring me joy or fulfillment,” she says. “So, now my success meter is how much joy can I bring to other people’s lives and my own.”
As Elyse notes, every entrepreneur faces multiple challenges, and as the CEO and co-founder of Eosera she is responsible for the rise and fall of the business. “The buck stops with me,” she says. “If anything keeps me up at night, it’s the well-being of the people I employ. At the end of the day, we’re here for our people. For our stakeholders, our consumers, medical professionals, employees, investors, suppliers and vendors, and our community.”
A respected champion for women’s equality in the workforce, Elyse has led the charge to address wage discrimination and lack of leadership opportunities in the male-dominated science field. She actively mentors women who pursue careers in healthcare and technology and she is a strong advocate for gender equality and women in business. “I am eager to share my successes and failures to hopefully inspire other women to dare to lead,” she says. “It requires bravery to share and learn from failures as well as successes. Leading a team requires bravery.”
Colleagues and employees say Elyse’s leadership style and her ability to form meaningful relationships with the people she does business with are what make the company so successful. She inspires and encourages everyone around her, taking the time to explain her expectations and fostering an environment where people feel comfortable to go to her when needed while giving employees the freedom to explore their jobs and take calculated risks.
“My leadership style is compassionate, bold, positive, and collaborative,” she says. “I believe a positive culture is extremely important in the success of a company and building and fostering that culture is a key part of leadership.”
Equally, she is inspired by the people she leads, who challenge her to always bring her A-game and who allow her to help them discover their full potential. She has created an environment built on collaboration and teamwork.
At a low point in her career, Elyse was given some good words of advice: “this too shall pass.” “I soon realized this applies to every situation in life,” she says. “Nothing is permanent. You have the power to create your own destiny and create change. Enjoy the highs because those moments pass too.”
Elyse has a passion for paying it forward, saying she’s had amazing mentors in her life who have shaped her in different ways, and today she finds joy in helping others find the best in themselves. “I choose to inspire through mentorship and compassion,” she says. “I make time for people and give my advice, my time, and my expertise freely — expecting nothing in return. For instance, I hold one-on-one meetings with my employees to check in with them, hear from them, and help them. I make myself available to my employees and take the time to give them opportunities to better themselves and their resumes.” (PV)
Don’t Play the Safe Card
Raising the bar… with a chain reaction of positivity, creativity, and originality
Sunny Beth White
Title: Founder and CEO
Company: Xavier Creative House (XCH) Industry Awards: PM360 – Trailblazer Award Gold for Best HCP Education; PM360 – PharmaChoice Awards Gold, Best Sales Aid; The Telly Awards – Non-Broadcast Video Production/Pharmaceutical/Sales; The Communicator Awards – Bronze, Best Immersive Branded Content; The Communicator Awards – Bronze, Best Immersive Video;
Company Awards: Philadelphia Business Journal Healthiest Companies Finalist, 2020; Philadelphia Business Journal List of Most Admired CEOs, 2019; Philadelphia Inquirer Ranked #2 in the Philadelphia 100 – Region’s Fastest-Growing Privately Held Entrepreneurial Companies, 2019; Philadelphia Business Journal Ranked #2 in the Soaring 76 – Region’s Fastest-Growing Companies, 2019; Inc. Magazine Ranked #1014 in the INC 5000 – America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies, 2019
Community Awards: Philadelphia Business Journal 40 Under 40 – Most Dynamic Up and Comers, 2020; KeyBank Small Business Key Award and Grant, 2018; SmartCEO Magazine BRAVA Award – Outstanding Female Business Leaders, 2017; Professional Association for Customer Engagement Spirit of Philanthropy Award, 2013
Associations: CEO Think Tank; Drexel University’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship; Baiada Institute Mentor, Drexel University; CompanyVoice; Looking Ahead Inc.; Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC); Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!); Leaders Creating Leaders Scholarship
Sunny White co-founded an award-winning creative healthcare agency specializing in pharma, biotech, medical device, and health systems that delivers bold and evocative creative infused with meaningful technology when she was only 31. Two years later, she took on the role of CEO with the mission to connect patients, caregivers, and HCPs to improve patient outcomes through increased understanding and empathy.
“Our clients say we ‘Xavier-fy’ their brand with fresh, unexpected, original solutions,” Sunny says. “Our approach to work ‘Beyond the Frame’ makes their brand stand out in the industry.”
For example, the agency created a technology-driven solution to capitalize on the emergence of nurses as key stakeholders in today’s healthcare landscape. Xavier’s nurse educational aid was designed to promote engagement that helps patients mitigate adverse reactions, set a routine, and address drug affordability options to increase adherence. Through empathetic storytelling and interactive tools and information, the agency continues to push the boundaries of what is expected by healthcare clients.
“I am passionate and fascinated by all aspects of healthcare,” Sunny says. “It is exciting to see our clients making a difference for patients and HCPs with life-changing solutions across the therapeutic spectrum. Each client engagement is unique; I love helping our clients succeed and seeing their reaction when we give them innovative solutions. With enthusiam, we are moving the needle, as the creative remedy for healthcare brands afflicted by the status quo.”
Sunny began her career in finance but soon learned her entrepreneurial spirit needed more challenges. With a strong belief that life is about connections and the knowledge that healthcare is about life, she set the course of her agency mission and mantra: Where Healthcare Brands Live. Her commitment for XCH to be healthcare’s socially responsible agency of choice, drives Sunny to persistently search for insights and strive for sustainable business solutions that help improve the health/outcomes of the people its brands serve.
“Because our agency sources inspiration from outside of healthcare, we introduce bold ideas and unconventional approaches,” she says.
Her profound desire was to build a company where people would love to work. While XCH experiences rapid growth, the focus on culture keeps this vision relevant for its expanding team and global talent intelligence network. “Building out our core values brought us closer together and provided alignment, like a North Star guiding how we interact with each other, our clients, and the community,” Sunny says. “Out of respect for our most important asset, I continue to invest in the professional development and personal well-being of our XCH team. Growth is a core value we call, empowered mindset, enabling the agency to deliver the best and most creative ideas to its clients.”
Colleagues say Sunny holds herself to those standards as she aggressively pursues career-specific post-graduate education. She is carving her path in life-sciences marketing informed by an MBA in international marketing, completion of the Wharton Executive Education, Leadership in a New Era of Health Care Program, and her current post-masters studies in pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing at St. Joseph’s University.
Sunny leads with a transformational style to inspire positive change in the way the team thinks, reacts, and approaches challenges. “Our culture is a social system that focuses on constructive change through continuous learning, inspirational motivation, and heightened awareness.”
Sunny notes that mentorship is a meaningful aspect of career development. “Mentorship takes many forms, including individual efforts like the marketing fellowship I established for college freshmen,” she says. “I also participate in formal programs with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and Drexel University’s Close School of Entrepreneurship.” (PV)
Exploring New Frontiers
Raising the bar… by challenging the systems and processes behind the delivery of healthcare
Company: RareiTi Inc.
Industry Awards: Britain’s national First Woman Award; EY Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist, UK; Health Investor Top 50 in the UK, 2016
Associations: Global Genes, Vice Chair; WPO, Princeton Chapter; Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association
Breaking new ground for Natalie Douglas, who last year once again pioneered a novel frontier in healthcare, is nothing unusual. Natalie joins Wendy White, PharmaVOICE Red Jacket, as co-founder of RareiTi, which offers a new system of care for people and communities across the globe with unmet needs in the rare disease space.
The company offers a new model for early medicines access and support to this often-overlooked community. Individual patients and their caregivers are often isolated, having faced a diagnosis odyssey and limited treatment options. Natalie’s vision, grit, and experience will make a substantial difference to the lives of many of these patients over the coming years.
She is continuing her legacy of making sure managed access and medicines management programs offer support beyond therapy, by combining care solutions that are specifically developed and carefully measured and designed to improve outcomes.
With the goal to bring compassionate use to the forefront for rare disease patients, Natalie is following on a successful trajectory that began with her developing the international, market-leading healthcare service company IDIS. As CEO, she ensured the company’s success in designing, developing, and delivering medicine access programs for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and enabling ethical access to commercially unavailable medicines for patients. Twenty years ago, this was not a recognized strategy or a commonplace occurence for pharmaceutical companies, but under Natalie’s strategic oversight IDIS created a new market niche and became the global market leader in this space. This experience is one of Natalie’s biggest career highlights to date.
After IDIS, Natalie took the seat as interim CEO of Healthcare at Home, Britain’s largest clinical homecare provider, with the goal to enact a significant turnaround of the operation, one of the most challenging assignments of her career.
“On entering the company as interim CEO, it was highly apparent the business was in far worse shape than anyone expected,” she says. “I guess I could have walked away from the challenge, but instead I considered it an opportunity. I quickly went in search of the 50 best people across the company, created a transformation team with them, and set seven key objectives, with the goal of improving performance in 12 weeks. I then went to all of our clients, apologized for our poor performance, told them the plan, and gained their support. We managed to achieve our initial goals in eight weeks to the delight of customers. And then we embarked on a major transformation program of operations, clinical and commercial, in waves over two years. It was a heck of a ride, really hard work, but so rewarding to know that my leadership had made such a difference to all our stakeholders, and importantly keeping hundreds of thousands of patients safely on service.”
Natalie is a noted change agent in the industry, someone who is always looking to drive improvements and who is not afraid to take on the tough assignments. “I don’t fit in the usual boxes in the industry, and although I grew up in big pharma and it was the best training I ever had, I went down a different path — not one well traveled — and took a risk,” she says. “It is often recognized that I will lead the way when visibility isn’t guaranteed. Hence, I am a bit of an explorer or pioneer.”
Natalie is admired for her direct and decisive leadership style, being transparent, as well as being a great communicator.
“I love to explain the journey to others and in the main, people respond really well to this approach, even if the journey is going to be tough,” she says. “Most of the time though the journey is fun and at IDIS, for example, we achieved amazing things, mainly because we believed that we could, and we did.”
Natalie casts a wide net in terms of her influence. As founder and chairman of the growth accelerator Lucidity, her focus is one of an investment and providing an advisory role for businesses in women’s health, rare disease, health services, technologies, and data analytics.
“As an active investor, I draw on experience gained in companies at various stages of growth to help businesses drive change, solve problems, and focus on the right things to deliver impact and value.”
Natalie also serves as vice chair of Global Genes, a global nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate the challenges of rare disease, by providing patients with educational tools, building awareness, providing critical connections and support to people and resources, and through investment in technologies that will positively impact affected patients and families. In her role, she has helped guide the organization’s strategic direction to reach more than 6 million patients and advocates in more than 100 countries.
Colleagues credit Natalie for inspiring them to achieve their goals, overcome obstacles, and have confidence in themselves. “I would love to be remembered as the pioneer of managed access for patients with unmet needs and an inspiration for others to create something meaningful for others,” she says. (PV)
Every Contact Matters
Raising the bar… by delivering insights from pharma tele-health interactions
Title: President and Founder
Award: Every Contact Matters Award
Associations: Drug Information Association
With the mission to improve the patient experience, Pete Guillot founded Centerfirst more than 15 years ago because he saw an opportunity for independent quality monitoring of biopharma contact centers to support healthcare leaders in making good decisions for their businesses and customers. Since then, Centerfirst has experienced significant growth, with 50-plus employees, and the business continues to develop substantially each year. Pete not only identified the need, but tapped into the emerging future of a changing marketplace.
“My role is to be a visionary for our company,” Pete says. “Our service is somewhat unique in the industry, although it is common in other industries. We listen to phone calls and bring insights from those interactions to our clients. As AI plays a larger role in contact center oversight, the healthcare marketplace creates nuanced challenges. We are focused on finding the right combination of AI and human oversight, often called ‘human in the loop,’ to meet the needs of healthcare organizations and their customers.”
Since he began the company, the need for this service by pharma has grown tremendously, as the majority of drug approvals are for rare, orphan, or complex diseases, amid a changing landscape. Because managed care reimbursement and access is much more complex, pharma companies have outsourced many of the inbound and outbound contact center activities. When privacy concerns and patient confidentiality are layered in, pharma is in the position of outsourcing a critical function, with very little ability to have meaningful oversight and quality control. Because of Pete’s more than 21 years of business in the pharmaceutical industry, including sales and marketing, and a role as senior director of The Lilly Answers Center, he understands where pharma is coming from.
Pete is dedicated to helping companies provide the best patient experience while staying compliant within FDA regulations.
“Our biggest challenge will be to continue to find better ways to help those in the life-sciences industry who are supporting the needs of patients via telehealth,” he says. “Most of us naturally want to innovate to support patients’ needs.”
Beyond building a thriving business, Pete is extremely focused on building a satisfying work culture — one in which people are given the ability to succeed. His primary goals are to create a workplace where people feel valued and are trusted. Pete is extremely thoughtful when it comes to creating a nurturing culture and the value employees bring to the organization. As a result, Centerfirst has been voted an Indiana Best Places to Work two years in a row. Employees report that they are proud to work for an organization with a strong vision to improve the patient experience and whose stated values are “every contact matters, humble expertise, and collaboration.”
Colleagues say he is very supportive, present, and transparent. He continuously reaches out to his employees to ensure they are doing okay professionally as well as personally. He never misses an opportunity to tell his employees how appreciative he is of the work they do each day.
Over the years, Pete has mentored team members, encouraged their professional growth and development, provided recognition and praise for their accomplishments, and given them the tools, knowledge, and opportunities to grow professionally and take on new roles and responsibilities.
“Early in my career, I was most interested in how my actions would affect me,” Pete says. “As I grew and learned from others, I came to understand that it is more important to take actions that positively affect other people.”
That’s a creed he lives both in and out of business. Pete supports disadvantaged and abused youth in his community and across the world via support for International Justice Mission and Covenant House. He also serves biweekly at the Crooked Creek Food pantry. For several years, Pete also has volunteered to look after the 18- to 24-month-old toddlers during church service so that parents can get a short break and attend service. (PV)
An Agency for the Future
Raising the bar… by changing the advertising agency model
Company: Brick City Greenhouse LLC
Industry Awards: Agency on the Rise, MedAdNews, 2019; Best Places to Work, MM&M, 2019
People make up agencies. Not buildings or other brick and mortar elements. This is the way you take care of and grow an agency.
Five years ago, Fred Kinch decided to create an ad agency business model that was way outside any conventional box. He convinced co-founders Ashley Schofield and Renee Wills to join him in bringing the vision to life and together they built an agency with the motto: “Welcome to the flip side.” The three created a new agency that entails no billable hours, no time sheets, unlimited PTO, free healthcare for employees, flexible work arrangements, and a high level of senior day-to-day attention for its clients.
Sound too good to be true? Not so fast, says Fred. “It works. Our people are happier and our clients are thrilled,” he says. “People make up agencies. Not buildings or other brick and mortar elements. This is the way you take care of and grow an agency.”
The agency, Brick City Greenhouse, can be viewed as an exciting new chapter in advertising. The progressive remote working model agency fosters a culture of respect and authentic work-life balance among senior-level employees.
The agency name embraces the vibe of where it was founded, Newark, N.J., a.k.a. Brick City, which is a vibrant metropolis bursting with possibility and a dynamic community filled with diversity, culture, food, and fun.
Colleagues and clients alike say the success of the agency is rooted in Fred’s passion and wholehearted belief that when healthcare marketing is done right it can truly change the world. After only a few years in business, Brick City Greenhouse has won multiple awards, including best place to work and agency on the rise.
Fred’s vision for the agency of the future was simple: create a place where employees could live their best lives and do their best work, all at the same time.
He has cultivated a sense of togetherness and teamwork that keeps morale, performance, and client satisfaction all at sky-high levels. Fred accomplishes this by being present every day and by truly listening to others.
“I try to set other people up to succeed and give them room to be independent and create their own ownable successes,” he says. “And, I always try to do what’s right and fair.”
With a real entrepreneurial spirit, Fred embodies what it means to be an inspiring leader. One of Fred’s many strengths is believing there isn’t anything that can’t be accomplished with some effort — even if you have to Google it, he says.
“In this day and age, there’s almost nothing you can’t learn about in a few hours,” he says. “I try to communicate that we’re always going to do right by our people, no matter what the challenge.”
Employees and colleagues say Fred is thoughtful, strategic, and creative in everything that he says and does. Even with 20-plus years of experience under his belt, he is still always open to learning about new creative ideas and approaches.
He’s also clear and open with those he works with, noting that the best piece of professional advice he received was: “Ambiguity will always be interpreted negatively.”
His team says even though he is a founder he is not above rolling up his sleeves and getting involved with any and every project. Fred is involved in all of the brands at BCG and keeps a close finger on the pulse on the health of the business.
Clients note that Fred is a man of his word. If he says he will do something, it’s guaranteed he will. Whether it’s writing a manuscript or sending a last-minute invoice, you can count on him.
Just like his agency, Fred breaks the mold with his intelligence, experience, humility, and grace. “I’m here, right where I am, because of what happened before and the choices I made, so I wouldn’t change a thing, good and bad,” he says “But I’m still very much a work in progress.” (PV)
Moving the Needle
Raising the bar… by re-inventing our agency’s services model
Donna L. LaVoie
Industry Awards: SPOKEies Awards, spokesperson
Company Awards: INC. Fastest growing private companies — Hall of Fame; Boston Business Journal Largest PR Firms in Massachusetts, 2019; Ranked Healthcare PR Firm, O’Dwyer’s; Over 50 awards for client work, including Bell Ringer Awards, Ragan Healthcare Awards, Sabre Awards, MM&M, MarCom, and more.
Associations: Life Science Cares; Stevie Awards; Biotechnology Industry Association
Donna LaVoie capitalized on her on-the-ground communications experience working at Genzyme and later at Alkermes to launch her own strategic PR company in 2001, and since making this bold leap she has had no cause to look back. LaVoieHealthScience (LHS) provides strategic public relations, investor relations, and marketing/digital services to some of the world’s most innovative companies in the life-sciences sector.
“I built my career starting at Genzyme in the early days of biotechnology, when Kendall Square was just Genzyme and Biogen,” she says. “The environment at Genzyme was one of dedication, innovation, believing, and making a difference in patient lives. This background has impacted how we think about clients in which we work and our sector today.”
One of her mentors was the revered biotech pioneer Henri Termeer, former chairman, president, and CEO of Genzyme. “Henri, who I reported to in the early days of my career, told me that the communications/PR profession has a lot of critics and you need to learn to have a thick skin,” she says. “I try to remember this every day. I also bring this advice to my team.”
For two decades under her leadership, the woman-owned small business has employed dedicated specialists who are committed to delivering award-winning, smart, and relevant communications solutions for clients.
“When I started the agency, it was one step at a time,” she says. “I didn’t take a traditional track, which may have been easier, but maybe not as rewarding.”
In January 2020, Donna formed a strategic alliance with Omnicom Public Relations Group, a division of Omnicom Group, which allows LHS to continue offering a boutique approach to client services helping clients from development to launch to commercialization, backed by the strength and resources of a large, global agency.
Over the years, LHS has been recognized as a top 30 independent healthcare agency in the U.S. and received more than 50 awards for its work on behalf of emerging and established industry leaders. In 2018, LHS was inducted into the Hall of Fame Fastest Growing Private Companies, as a five-year nominee. In 2018, LHS also won two Stevie Awards for C-suite Leader Corporate and Corporate Emerging Growth/Startups.
Donna’s relentless focus on helping clients build their companies and brands during transformational times has led to many success stories. Her approach centers on bringing a credible voice to key target audiences, while providing strategic counsel that builds value and stakeholder engagement. Donna has provided strategic counsel to such companies as Vertex, AC Immune, Novadaq Technologies (now Stryker), Pfizer, Leo Science & Tech Hub, Newron Pharmaceuticals, Omega Therapeutics, TriSalus Life Sciences, Invida Holdings (now Menarini Asia), Celavie/Celavet, Xontogeny/PXV Fund, and spin-out companies, Broadview Ventures’ porfolio companies and SIRION Biotech International/USA, to name a few.
“I am inspired by the people we work with — the entrepreneurs and professionals who are truly bringing new advances to health, patients, caregivers, and physicians,” Donna says. “We’re working in cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other underserved markets. One day we have a client reporting positive top-line clinical results in a Phase III CLL trial, on another day a client may report a failed trial. We must keep moving to solve complex health problems.”
Colleagues credit much of their success and job fulfillment to what they have learned working with Donna. With regard to developing employees, she is focused on providing growth opportunities for the team, including training opportunities and lunch and learns.
Donna is a member of the Forbes Agency Council where she has written articles on crisis management and the integration of investor and public relations. In addition, she has trademarked the agency’s flagship LHS Immersion positioning and messaging process as well as The LHS 15 Slide Presentation, a methodology for telling your company’s story. In partnership with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Donna has created videos, which are available on YouTube on these topics which are sent to all speakers at all BIO partner and investor events. In addition, she speaks on this topic live at BIO’s international congress to global audiences of more than 500 people.
Donna is also inspired to pay it forward, volunteering her time and resources to the life-sciences ecosystem through her work with Boston CEO, MassBio, Ragan, World Congress USA, J.P. Morgan’s Healthcare Conference, the BIO International Convention, Bio CEO & Investor Conference, and Biotech Showcase.
She serves on the board of advisors at Life Science Cares an organization dedicated to eliminate the impact of poverty in the greater Boston area. “Through Life Science Cares, the LHS team has been involved in various community giving/volunteer activities,” she says. “I personally speak to inner city teens on career topics to help advance them professionally. I also am involved with the PR Council, and recently engaged in roundtable discussions with young public relations professionals on various career topics.” (PV)
Heart of an Entrepreneur
Raising the bar… by remaking medicine
Title: President, Chief Operating Officer, and Co-founder
Industry Awards: Fiercest Women in Biotech, 2018
In more than two decades in the life-sciences industry, Melanie Nallicheri has worked for biotech companies, a life-sciences consultancy, and a healthcare services provider. But it is her current role as a co-founder, president, and chief operating officer of EQRx that is closest to her entrepreneurial heart.
“Undoubtedly, my greatest career highlight has been launching and building my current company, EQRx,” she says. “With a focus on disrupting the drug development and commercial business model with one that is a fit-for-purpose and driving innovation at scale, this company is a representation of what I believe in: changing the paradigm toward fair and equitable access to life-changing medicines.
“We are in the golden age of medicine with an unprecedented understanding of the biological drivers of disease matched by incredible scientific and technological advances,” Melanie continues. “I feel strongly that we can successfully reengineer how we develop medicines and get them to patients to create a more equitable and affordable solution so people can access the high-quality medicines they need.”
Launching and rapidly building a company amid a global healthcare crisis has presented both formidable challenges and opportunities. “We continue to make good progress against our growth goals while having to think very differently about how we attract, recruit, and onboard new employees; build and create a differentiated culture; and start development activities in a virtual operating environment,” she says.
Melanie’s vision for EQRx is to bring 10 drugs to market at drastically lower prices in the next 10 years. “This will require us to build a bold team of people who are champions, dreamers, disruptors, and warriors who collectively will help us succeed on our quest to remake medicine,” she says.
Melanie truly enjoys being surrounded by exceptional people and minds and believes in creating an environment that allows them to be their best.
“There is nothing more inspiring than a bold vision and mission you can achieve by allowing the best and brightest to come together and do something that has never been done before, like what we are trying to do at EQRx,” she says.
According to her colleagues, the importance of a strong and empowered team is forefront for Melanie. She significantly invests in people at both the personal and professional level. She listens and seeks to understand the root of a challenge for a team member or the professional objectives someone has so she can do her best to provide advice.
“I believe in leadership by example and with authenticity,” Melanie says. “I aim to be a leader people want to work with and work for, and to create an environment where people are encouraged to take risks without fear of failure. That’s the only way to encourage innovative, bold thinking.”
When challenges arise, Melanie motivates others the same way she motivates herself: by keeping the purpose that drives the industry front and center.
“It’s critical we always keep in mind the fundamental reason we are a part of this industry: making a difference for people, patients, and families,” she says. “It’s not easy work, especially as a small company trying to change the industry, but the constant reminder that our work can impact the greater good is clear in good times, as well as in challenging ones.”
Colleagues consider Melanie an exceptional mentor who has a profound ability to build successful teams all while embodying honest, human empathy. She is a fierce supporter of her team and of women in science.
“In general, I aim to directly influence the careers of those around me by being a mentor, an advocate, and a sponsor,” she says. “Gender aside, everyone should have an opportunity to gain a seat at the table. As I’ve gotten into positions where I was able to create a path for others, I’ve made it a priority to do so. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the people around me flourish.”
Melanie believes success can be measured in different forms. “To me, it’s not only about delivering on business goals; it’s also about developing effective teams to help drive innovation forward for patients,” she says. “I believe strongly in identifying talent and designing a work environment in which individuals are motivated and inspired to thrive. Having the right people with the right skill sets in place to drive business outcomes leads to success, not only for the business and the individuals, but also most importantly for patients.” (PV)
Charting New Territories
Raising the bar… by bridging science and technology.
Title: Founder and CEO
Company: MedTrix Healthcare LLC
Industry Awards: PM 360 Elite Entrepreneur, 2019; PharmaVOICE 100, 2018
Company Awards: Hermes Gold, Platinum 2018, 2019, 2020; Marcomm Gold, Platinum, 2018, 2019, 2020; Internal awards for projects at Allergan, Novartis
Associations: Alumni Yale School of Management; Lead student support programs aimed at yearly need based and merit-based scholarships in Alma Mater, School of Pharmacy, Dr. M.G.R Medical University, India
As founder and CEO of MedTrix Healthcare, Vimal Narayanan has forged a forward-thinking company that exceeds client expectations. Funded by his own savings, Vimal has built MedTrix into one of the top medical and digital communications companies in India, servicing global clients.
He achieved this by creating a unique offshore-onshore delivery model to help facilitate high-quality patient-care programs. Currently, MedTrix has offices in Bangalore, Dubai, Singapore, London, and New Jersey.
“I enjoy setting up new business avenues, identifying new opportunities, building relationships and business verticals, and understanding the unmet needs of our clients and partners,” Vimal says. “I work with an exciting bunch of science and technology fanatics who have created several first-in-the-world applications/solutions across different therapeutic areas.”
Since the company’s founding in 2012, MedTrix has grown at a CAGR of 45%, adding four new clients in 12 months, and is working with four out of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the world.
Colleagues say MedTrix’s success is based on passion, clarity of conviction, knowledge, and expertise, which are the same attributes that Vimal brings to his role as CEO. They say Vimal is keenly aware of how important it is to provide clients with the tools they need to succeed in improving the overall health of the patient community.
Vimal’s passion for developing new and cutting-edge programs ensures healthcare offers increased engagement and interactivity for both pharma companies and patients. Thanks to Vimal’s innovative approach, MedTrix has led the way in artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and other industry-leading solutions.
For example, MedTrix’s Reality Anatomy Application has been used by leading plastic surgeons, oculofacial specialists, dermatologists, and aesthetic physicians, and the company has commissioned the world’s first Web-based augmented reality to support polycythemia vera (PV) and myelofibrosis (MF) patients.
Other world-first projects for clients include a Web browser AR application in the area of hematology patient education that does not need an application to be downloaded and chatbot-based patient cases for HCP education in head and neck cancer and, most recently, in COVID-19.
Vimal, who is a pharmacist by training, has a broad, global range of knowledge in disease and drug treatments. He deeply values the expertise that the physicians and researchers on his staff bring to the table thereby ensuring that all deliverables are based on solid medical insights.
Colleagues and clients admire Vimal’s ability to rise to any challenge and his willingness to find an answer to any question brought to him.
Vimal, who is a two-time PharmaVOICE 100 honoree, has the goal to build MedTrix into a top 10 digital agency in the United States and EU by offering advanced technology-based solutions to improve healthcare provider and patient engagement, while creating a great work environment.
Vimal relies on a piece of valuable advice that he received from a former boss: delayed gratification is the key for entrepreneurship.
As a leader, Vimal encourages transparency by building a trusted workplace culture. He is quick to recognize his teams’ achievements, and he is always willing to find time in his day to interact with team members.
Inspiration, Vimal says, comes from action, not words and he believes in hands-on leadership.
“I want my teams to be able to grow, so my job is to make it as easy as possible for them and provide clear direction on what is expected out of every individual in the organization,” he says.
For Vimal, there is no greater success than being surrounded by happy people.
“If I see happy faces I feel successful and want to create more happy faces around me,” he says. (PV)
Bridging Science and Marketing
Raising the bar… by challenging the status quo
Company: SCORR Marketing
Associations: Bridging Clinical Research; American Advertising Federation; American Marketing Association; Nebraska Arts Council; Bio Nebraska; DIA; Chamber of Commerce
In 2003, with the vision of creating a health science marketing and communications agency, Cinda Orr founded SCORR Marketing around a kitchen table. Both the kitchen table and her first hires are still with her today. The yellow table and vinyl chairs are featured in the Kearney, Neb., office, and her first hires are still at the agency 17 years later: Senior VP, Chief Creative Officer Ben Rowe and President Krystle Buntemeyer.
Cinda’s enthusiasm for building relationships can be seen through her business and passion projects, all of which are dedicated to making connections for the industry, which she believes holds the greatest key to success.
Her leadership and mentorship have built a world-class company and a team of 60-plus communicators across the United States and Europe from the ground up to support the growth of drug development companies.
Beyond her combined industry knowledge in health sciences and marketing, colleagues say Cinda is a force of nature. She is authentic and sincere and she instills trust. With more than four decades of experience in the industry, she’s got the experience and insight to back up her ability to identify what audiences need to know most about a brand and to translate the data/research into an effective strategic marketing plan. She has supported more than 300 health science companies through strategic marketing, branding, and M&A activity, which has significantly grown these organizations and produced successful outcomes. “I had a client who told me that I was so tenacious and passionate that he hired me because he didn’t want me to work for one of his competitors,” she says.
Cinda has mentored hundreds of people across every major marketing and branding discipline over her 40-year career. Under her guidance, numerous entry-level employees have gone on to build successful careers in the life sciences, and some have progressed into leadership roles at SCORR. “I believe in managing to people’s strengths,” she says. “I am committed to giving people talent opportunities they won’t get elsewhere. In contrast, at this point in my career I don’t have a lot of time to waste on people who squander their talent. Some people would describe my style as tough. But I want to relentlessly keep setting the bar as high as I believe people can reach.”
In addition to building relationships, Cinda also is instrumental in bringing people together to solve problems. Understanding that poor trial recruitment is the leading cause of failure in clinical studies, she established the Bridging Clinical Research and Clinical Health Care Collaborative, in an effort to bring together industry leaders from pharma, biotech, clinical research organizations, healthcare organizations, advocacy groups and the FDA to improve participation in clinical research and eliminate the chasm that divides research and care. “Less than 3% of patients and physicians participate in clinical trials,” she says. “For quite some time, I have watched our industry try to determine how we can change this. I am passionate about helping patients, and seeing that research is offered as alternative care. I hope to see in my career that research as care becomes the norm, not the exception.”
Under Cinda’s guidance SCORR also developed the “BeTheComeback Challenge” to inspire others in the industry to be the change they want to see. The initiative requires industry leaders to contribute a short video of their vision of drug development in the future and how they are going to address those challenges and be a champion of change. Participants can post their video on their media channels using #BeTheComeback, and then tag three other people to participate. (PV)
A Winning Culture
Raising the bar… by empowering more patients than ever
Title: Co-Founder and Principal Officer
Company: VMS BioMarketing
Industry Awards: Executive-In-Residence at the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence at the Indiana University — Kelley School of Business; “40 under 40”, Indianapolis Business Journal; Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist, Ernst & Young
Company Awards: Three-time 500 fastest-growing private companies in America, Inc.; four-time Great Place to Work /Top 100 Best Workplaces, Fortune; Pharmaceutical Client Global Supplier of the Year
Community Awards: Tocqueville Society of the United Way; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Board
Associations: IU Tobias Leadership Network; Inc CEO Project; MIT Birthing of Giants Fellowship; Young Entrepreneur’s Organization (YEO)
In a career that boasts co-founding a company that is empowering patients and healthcare providers, it’s telling that what Neal Rothermel is most proud of is the culture at VMS BioMarketing.
“I would have to say being listed on the Fortune Great Place to Work/Top 100 Best Workplaces four times, including for best workplaces for women and for giving back is my career highlight,” he says.
Neal co-founded VMS BioMarketing with his then-business partner — now wife — Mandy Moore 26 years ago. VMS sprang from Neal’s fascination for how a person’s ability to make critical lifestyle and behavioral changes is dependent on cognitive, emotional, cultural, and social factors. By providing medical meetings and educational programs, he began to achieve his objective to connect people with personalized education that could nudge them toward better health outcomes.
VMS leverages clinical nurse educators to empower patients and healthcare providers through education, training, and ongoing health coaching. Over the years, VMS clinical nurse educators have delivered more than 1 million patient and healthcare provider programs across more than 30 therapeutic categories resulting in proven increases in medication adherence.
His mission is to expand the nurse educator network solutions to empower as many patients as possible around the world.
Neal’s ability to always be adaptable to new circumstances has proven to be crucial. Within a week of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, 100% of VMS’ face-to-face education programs were converted to a telephonic and virtual model for the safety of patients and providers.
Neal consistently strives to make VMS a place where people bring their best selves to work. He has built a culture that nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit of each employee, an approach that has been instrumental in growing the enterprise as well as attracting and retaining industry experts in the fields of medical education, patient adherence, compliance, and marketing.
Even as VMS celebrates success, Neal understands that fear of failure should not prevent the company from trying new ideas. “Listening to the marketplace and reaching patients at that core level and responding allows us to adapt and make decisions on the front lines,” he says.
He strives to clear the way for his team to innovate. “I seek out great people, then try to sweep in front of their steps to make it easier for them to achieve success,” he says.
Colleagues say Neal leads with a nod to humor and making things fun without losing his focus on the mission.
Beyond VMS, Neal is the inaugural Executive in Residence at the Indiana University Tobias Leadership Center, a program in the Kelly School of Business that seeks to provide access for any student or faculty member to meet, network, and learn from executives in diverse sectors of for-profit, not-for-profit, public service and educational organizations.
“I enjoy mentoring students as part of my engagement at the Tobias Center,” Neal says. “I feel it is especially important to help students bridge the gap between knowledge and experience.”
Neal is focusing on making sure solutions evolve fast enough to meet the demand. “The world is changing exponentially faster and we need to radically adapt to thrive,” he says. (PV)
Inspiring Shared Success
Raising the bar… through healthcare-enabled research
John Potthoff, Ph.D.
Title: CEO and Co-founder
Company: Elligo Health Research
Nearly five years ago, John Potthoff, Ph.D., co-founded Elligo Health Research with Chad Moore with the objective of improving clinical trial conduct and access for patients.
He brought with him 25 years of industry experience, including leadership positions at global CROs and research companies, and a commitment to expanding patient access to clinical trials as a care option. From a market perspective, John has helped midsize and large companies achieve significant growth in a fiercely competitive and ever-changing industry.
His career began with a series of executive roles at PPD. He then founded Tanistry Inc., a CRO focused on CNS research. John sold Tanistry to INC Research, where he became chief operating officer, in 2001. In that role, he helped the company achieve record year-over-year profits: 40% CAGR in sales and revenue. He helped negotiate the sale of INC Research in 2010 to inVentiv, which eventually became Syneos Health.
While INC Research was going through an aggressive M&A growth period, John guided the organization through the challenges of integrating acquired companies and helped his team to stay focused, while ensuring the company didn’t lose its soul in the process.
In 2011, John joined Theorem as president and CEO, and quickly led the company to financial and cultural success. At Theorem, he cultivated a uniquely patient- and employee-centric culture that helped the company scale quickly and sustainably. He developed several unique programs focused on measuring and enhancing the patient experience in clinical trials. John led Theorem to record growth and a successful sale to Chiltern in 2015.
He also helped found the Bridging Clinical Research and Clinical Health Care Collaborative, which seeks to expand the presence of clinical research in the mainstream healthcare setting.
Now at Elligo, John is seeking to resolve a major issue in clinical research: providing access to clinical trials to patients anywhere. A minority of eligible patients do not participate — or even know about — clinical research or realize that research is a care option. Elligo has created innovative processes and technologies to remove logistical obstacles that prevent clinician participation and simplify patient identification and qualification, site activation, patient enrollment, study initiation, and study conclusion.
“My goal is to fully enable any patient anywhere to participate in a clinical trial,” he says. “I put everything into my endeavors — all the passion and persistence necessary to achieve my goals.”
Colleagues credit John for having a complete view of all stakeholders — from the patient, to the sponsors, to vendors, to sites. He knows that it takes a village to run a successful clinical trial.
He creates opportunities for shared success and growth and enables that success for others.
Always upbeat, imaginative, and creative, John exudes a confidence that is infectious. People who work with him grow to love him because of his positive demeanor and proven track record of success.
He has such a caring attitude toward those around him, and as a result people respond by caring not only about him, but also about the work they are doing collectively.
Colleagues describe him as an operations person at his core, which means he understands and appreciates every angle of the business. From regulatory to the patient’s view to statistical analysis, he is able to look at processes and determine how the teams he leads need to do them differently to achieve a better result.
“I believe everyone wants to do great work,” he says. “My job is to enable that.”
It is the small successes and challenges overcome each day as he and his colleagues work toward greater goals that resonate for John.
“Challenges happen continuously in our industry, my motivation comes from helping others see that we can solve for those challenges, which is how we earn success,” he says.
A mentor to and student of everyone he meets, John says it’s important to never miss a chance to help someone succeed or let someone inspire you to success.(PV)
Shared Meaning, Shared Purpose
Raising the bar… by setting standards rather than letting others set standards
Title: CEO and Founder
Company: TradeCraft Clinical Research LLC
Associations: Association of Clinical Research Professionals; CDISC
I stink at self-promotion and have never excelled at hyping projects or services. But when you start your own company, you need to get over the anxiety or dislike for sales and marketing. You need to figure out what you have to offer and offer it.
When launching TradeCraft Clinical Research, CEO and Founder Mike Willis faced his most challenging assignment: sales.
“I am not now and never will be a salesman,” Mike says. “I stink at self-promotion and have never excelled at hyping projects or services. But when you start your own company, you need to get over the anxiety or dislike for sales and marketing. You need to figure out what you have to offer and offer it.”
Mike recognized that he needed to craft a specific business plan, find a team that could help him market the company, and then get out of the way.
“In our first year, we met our sales yearly goals,” he says. “Now, we are pulling in that same amount in a month. I have come to own the success of our business, and to sell it.”
After years of working in the pharmaceutical industry, Mike had compiled a list of ideas that could improve industry programming and biostatistical processes. “I saw room to be more ethical, not make promises to clients just to get their business,” he says. “TradeCraft prides itself on effective communications that create a shared meaning, in essence understanding a client’s wants, needs, priorities, and goals. We involve the client’s teams and our own from the beginning of the project to understand needs and reach goals through intentionally talking and listening. I believe that innovation needs to be a consistent goal.”
Mike is able to move quickly back and forth from big picture to technical details. He is able to comprehend the bigger picture and industry trends — more complex clinical trials, adaptive design — and their impact on clinical research as well as understand the nuances of important standards such as CDISC, SDTM, and ADaM, etc. This unique view of research fuels his efforts to develop and deliver creative solutions.
Colleagues say that beyond being an expert in ensuring compliant data deliverable, Mike is a great leader and a good friend. He is the type of person who promises high quality and delivers on his promise and is known for making sure that all deliverables to clients are as close to flawless as possible. Despite the demands placed upon him, colleagues say Mike is patient and low key.
Mike says he draws inspiration from the people who surround him, the way they carry themselves, and their individual and business accomplishments.
“By assigning people to the positions and projects that allow them to excel, teams flourish and projects are completed on time,” he says. “My teams trust my decisions because they know that I will not set them up for failure. Add that to showing and expecting a high work ethic, and you get the best from your teams.”
Mike says motivating his team in challenging times goes back to trust. “All leaders hit stumbling blocks,” he says. “We need to dust ourselves off and get up again. I regularly tell my teams that I have put them in positions where they can succeed. I tell them that I trust their expertise and work ethic. When they start to question their abilities or outcomes, I remind them that they are capable and driven. Sometimes we all need someone to believe in us. I tell my people that I believe in them.”
Mike’s ultimate goal is to lead an organization that is ethical and profitable. “One day when I step away from this company, I hope to have created a legacy that others will strive to maintain, and the industry will respect,” he says. “I also want to be that guy that everybody goes to. TradeCraft has clients because people keep coming back to us. They trust our work. They refer us to others. I believe that our reputation comes from trust — the trust that I have worked very hard to earn.”
His role as a teacher/advisor extends to his volunteer work. Mike volunteers for the Philadelphia University/Jefferson University SAS Programming Certificate Program where he conducts introductory and advanced ADaM classes as well as Proc Transpose and mini-project courses. He was a volunteer member of the CDISC ADaM development team and participated in the Metadata sub-team, the oncology sub-team, and the analysis data reviewer’s guide sub-team.
Like many people, Mike finds motivation in his family, specifically his daughter. “I could choose any number of jobs or industries that would provide for her. I chose one where I help to make the world a healthier place,” he says. “I can show her that if she wants to start her own company or rise to the highest levels of leadership, it can be done. I would never stop expecting the best from myself because I know she is watching.” (PV)
From Science Fiction to Reality
Raising the bar… by pushing gene therapy forward
R. Jude Samulski, Ph.D.
Title: Co-Founder, President, and Chief Scientific Officer
Company: Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc. (AskBio)
Associations: American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) – past president; European Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ESGCT)
Pushing gene therapy forward and making it happen as efficiently as possible, is what Jude Samulski, Ph.D., is all about. “Time is of the essence, and we needed to be there yesterday,” he says.
Dr. Samulski co-founded Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc. (AskBio) in 2001 with an ambitious goal: to erase genetic diseases. His ability to get directly to the heart of a problem is mimicked by his talent for translating complex science into easily understood, but profound, language.
In addition to AskBio he has co-founded six successful biotech companies, including Chatham Therapeutics, targeting hemophilia, which was acquired in 2014 by Baxter (Takeda); and Bamboo Therapeutics, targeting giant axonal neuropathy, Canavan disease, Friedreich’s ataxia, and DMD, which was acquired by Pfizer in 2016.
Under his scientific leadership, AskBio was the first company to advance a gene therapy for Pompe disease into the clinic in 2019 when the first patient was dosed. The company is also developing therapies for congestive heart failure, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, and other muscular and neurological disorders.
Dr. Samulski says his greatest challenge is trying to educate state officials and legislative representatives about the transformative horizon in front of them as gene therapies continue to accelerate.
He says of his job at AskBio that every day is like Christmas. “Every time I see a new piece of information and I’m the first and only person on the planet who has that piece of information, I start thinking about what it might mean and what impact it will have,” he says. “It’s like being a perpetual explorer, every day I find a new world.”
For Dr. Samulski, success is in the little rewards along the way, such as asking a meaningful question that helps to resolve a problem. “That’s how I’m wired,” he says. “I’m Pavlov’s dog. Ring the bell, and I get excited.”
In 2018, Dr. Samulski experienced a breakthrough that remains the highlight of his career. He was involved in the delivery of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy to a young patient named Conner.
“He was fortunate to be chosen as the first patient to be dosed with Pfizer’s mini-dystrophin drug developed in my lab, and I was at his side during the transfusion,” Dr. Samulski says.
“Without the treatment, breathing without assistance would become impossible. Conner would not be expected to live past his 20s following an unforgiving decline ending in heart and lung failure. Today, Conner is 10 years old, and instead of being in a wheelchair, he’s a busy, active kid who plays baseball, swims, and keeps up with his friends. There really is no greater reward than that.”
Over the past 40 years, Dr. Samulski has pioneered scientific breakthroughs that have transformed the world of gene therapy from the ground up, taking the concept from science fiction to establishing it as the future of medicine and healthcare.
Dr. Samulski was the first researcher to transform AAV into what is hoped to be a safe and effective vector for delivering corrected genes in vitro. In so doing, he created the road map for every other company working in the AAV gene therapy space.
He leads by treating everyone as his equal and works alongside his team to address challenges. “There’s that sense of rowing together, so we all get to the same place,” he says.
Over the years, Dr. Samulski has received numerous accolades for his accomplishments, including being awarded the National Hemophilia Foundation’s Investigator of the Year in 1999, being the first non-M.D. to be placed on the University of Florida’s Wall of Fame; recognized as the first recipient of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) Outstanding Achievement Award in 2008; and being invited to China in 2009 to meet with the Chinese Minister of Health and recognized as one of “China’s Thousand Points of Light,” an honor bestowed on individuals whose contributions are benefiting mankind. “In recognition of early successes with Canavan disease patients, I was invited in 2018 to a private meeting at the Vatican with Pope Francis along with several of the families who benefited from gene therapy research and discoveries,” he added.
Throughout his career, Dr. Samulski has had the opportunity to work with many parents and foundations that represent children and their genetic disorders. “I appreciate the journey they all aspire to achieve, which is primarily any type of success for their children to have a better life,” he says. “As a result of this, I have continued to invest more and more time into foundations, such as the Columbus Children’s Foundation, and working directly with parents looking for a research team focused on their disease.
“I can honestly say, after committing my entire career to research, one of the most rewarding aspects of this work has been the one-on-one interactions with the true heroes — the parents who never stop fighting to find hope for their child’s disease,” he concludes. (PV)
Power to the Patients
Raising the bar… by steering into the hard problems
Title: CEO and Co-founder
Industry Awards: 43 World-changing Women in Conscious Business, 2020
Company Awards: CBInsights Top Digital Health 150, 2020; TedMed Hive Innovator; Forbes — 10 Recent Examples Of Powerful Innovation In Healthcare; CNBC 100 Promising Start-ups to Watch
Nancy Yu left her dream role at 23andme to co-found and scale RDMD, a medical data science company that helps to activate patients and generate evidence to enable rare disease drug approvals and real-world evidence. Nancy and co-founder Onno Faber, who was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called NF2 (neurofibromatosis Type 2), a disease that affects only one in 30,000 people, met several years ago to start up RDMD.
“I imagine a world with no barriers between science and reality,” she says. “Science is boundless. But putting together the puzzle pieces to make science real … that’s hard. It requires managing complexity and balancing the needs of multiple communities, and touches upon our deepest motivations, needs, and values. Every day at RDMD, my team and I seek to reimagine how we put the puzzle together. I first fell in love with this space as a genetics researcher at Penn, where I came to see the worlds of science, business, and patients as inextricably linked. I’ve found this to be true in each chapter of my life.”
Nancy’s vision for RDMD is to empower patients with rare disease, not only with a diagnosis but also a voice. RDMD empowers patients to come together digitally to participate in research.
At the same time, RDMD gives drug companies insights into the natural history of the disease itself, which in turn informs regulatory authorities about how to evaluate drug programs.
Nancy is committed to building a successful platform that accelerates drug treatments for rare disease patients, to building a new model that sustainably changes how rare disease drug development is done, and to establishing a culture of conscious leadership and authenticity in her team. No doubt her investment banking background has been helpful in raising $17 million in funding to help her actualize her mission to serve the needs of multiple stakeholders — patients, researchers, and drug companies — in the rare disease community.
“The model in rare disease drug development needs to be redefined, starting by putting the patient at the center,” she says. “We need to balance bold and courageous bets to make meaningful change, in a way that is intentional and earns the trust of patients and communities. Two of our primary team values are having the courage to steer into hard problems and being authentic and transparent.”
Another one of RDMD’s values is “be playful.” “While we take our work seriously, there is a lightness in everything we do,” Nancy says. “We try to optimize every challenge as an opportunity for learning, and when viewed that way, challenges are a welcomed and necessary opportunity for growth.”
One of the biggest challenges, she says, is to continue to engage and empower patients to participate in drug research when research itself is fundamentally time-consuming, ongoing, and often unpredictable.
Nancy takes the time to talk and listen to foundation leaders, researchers, and patients to learn from them directly, and clears her calendar to meet with families who come to visit RDMD so she can hear from in person. She continually seeks different ways to engage the entire rare disease community through meaningful partnerships that align incentives.
Taking inspiration from a piece of advice offered to her — courage is not the absence of fear but rather persevering in spite of fear — Nancy is willing to take risks, always grounded in evidence and research. She encourages others to learn from their mistakes, to remain scrappy and innovative, and to find ways to turn perceived problems into opportunities.
Having a clear vision and measurable plan is key to leadership, she says, followed by hiring the best people and getting out of their way. She is a leader who inspires her team, her investors, and her customers with her candor and ability to find the path forward. And she wins others over with her authenticity.
Nancy is recognized for her ability to help others see their own potential more clearly. “When I see someone’s potential, I like to help them believe in their own potential as much as I can,” she says. Mentorship is important to Nancy, who sees these relationships as a way to advocate for others to understand themselves better, to create more authentic and aware learning and growth.(PV)
Committed to Innovation
Raising the bar… by pioneering new technologies to treat patients
Troy Wilson, Ph.D.
Title: President, CEO, Founder
Company: Kura Oncology
Troy Wilson, Ph.D., is a self-confessed serial entrepreneur. He has founded multiple successful biopharmaceutical companies that have developed new technologies and products for patients, including including Kura Oncology, Avidity Biosciences, Araxes Pharma, Wellspring Biosciences and Intellikine. In addition to his position as president and CEO of Kura, Troy continues to serve as executive chairman of the board for both Avidity and Wellspring.
“I am passionate about creating companies and product candidates that positively impact patients, employees, stockholders, and society,” he says. “I pride myself on embracing innovation — technical, business, and organizational — to build great companies that execute at the highest level and bring value to patients.”
He measures success as delivering innovation to patients and exceptional returns to shareholders, and his ultimate professional goal is to bring new medicines to patients.
Troy is the type of leader who has his hand firmly on the tiller at all times. His unflappable nature allows him to steadily run his company, regardless of whatever barriers may stand in his way.
Colleagues are inspired by Troy’s desire to make an impact. “I lead by example, and I communicate early and often,” he says. “I also lead in a way that’s inspiring, strategic, passionate, and fun.”
The best professional advice Troy ever received was to share credit generously and take responsibility personally. “I’m honest with myself and my team about challenges, and I show compassion so that we can come together as a team to overcome them,” he says.
Troy serves as a mentor because he has been fortunate enough to have had several mentors, both formal and informal. “They have provided me with invaluable perspective, guidance, and advice,” he says.
The promise of curing cancer motivates Troy to go to work every day. His leadership has fostered a diligent team collectively working hard to accomplish Kura’s overarching mission: to help patients with cancer lead better, longer lives. This commitment extends also to Troy’s support of charitable organizations such as the American Cancer Society.
Colleagues say Troy has garnered much respect from other industry leaders for his calm, thoughtful demeanor and his penchant for strategic thinking. Anytime colleagues speak with him, Troy is present, engaged, and receptive to feedback. He thinks through every situation and scenario that could impact Kura, resulting in a work culture that thrives on passion and resilience.
Troy considers recruiting, retaining, and inspiring great people to be his greatest challenge. He recalls his experience navigating Avidity through a very challenging time in its history, prior to completion of a corporate collaboration with a strategic partner and closing a substantial Series C financing, when the company was running low on cash and employee retention was important.
“Your integrity and reputation are everything,” Troy says. “It’s also crucial to have employees who feel valued, challenged, and part of a team.”
Colleagues note there is tremendous transparency with Troy and Kura’s board and a genuine desire to have constructive dialogue, solve problems together, and face challenges head-on as a team. They can laugh together because they don’t take themselves too seriously, but at the same time they take the business and science very seriously. This remarkable dynamic can be attributed to Troy’s leadership.
In the wake of his string of successes, Troy shows no signs of slowing down. Kura’s continued evolution, pipeline advancement, and new scientific insights have been critical in bringing products to market that can positively impact patients’ lives. Troy’s work at Kura is a great demonstration of how scientific pursuit and in-depth biological understanding can translate into helping those in desperate need of new treatment options.
The desire to help improve the lives of patients is at the heart of Troy’s work. He has an overt respect for people with cancer, particularly those who do a service to others by participating in clinical trials.
Troy’s ability to attract top-tier talent speaks to the type of leader he is, as well as the confidence he has in surrounding himself with a talented group of colleagues. His recipe for success is to hire the best and the brightest, empower them, and success will follow.
“Every organization has a culture, and it’s the CEO’s responsibility to ensure the people and culture are aligned and support the vision,” Troy says. (PV)