Patient Heroes

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PharmaVOICE Staff

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These visionary thinkers are driving innovation around scientific breakthroughs and new technologies on behalf of patients.

Empathy. Action. Reflection.

Sparking innovation by…
having an experience-designer mindset

Jena Daniels
Title: VP, Patient Success
Company: Medable Inc.
Education: B.S., Biology and Public Health, Boston University
Personal Awards: Award for Innovative Clinical Trial Design, Stanford University; Excellence in Research, Stanford University; 25 Peer Reviewed Publications, most notably featured in JAMA Pediatrics
Community Awards: Outstanding Senior Community Service Award, Boston University
Associations: Member, Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative; Member, Center for Health Technology and Innovation, American Heart Association Member, Novartis Biome Big Brothers Big Sisters; Member, Engaging the Next Generation of Adult Jews
Hobbies: Horseback riding, adventuring outdoors, motorcycles, skydiving, exercising, cooking
Twitter handle: @jena__daniels

Three years ago, Jena Daniels was sat down by a colleague and asked what legacy she wanted to be part of at Medable.

This provocation led Jena to ideate novel ways to bring the lived experiences of patients and caregivers into the workflows and solutions at Medable. Supported by her colleagues, she aimed to disrupt the legacy standard of how to operationalize patient engagement by enabling patients and caregivers to help inform, guide, and influence decentralized clinical trial technology at Medable. This ensured that patient and caregiver experiences were embedded earlier into the process than ever before.

She worked alongside expert advocates to best understand how to amplify and embed their perspectives into the DNA of Medable, cultivating a culture of patient-centricity working with and on behalf of patients and caregivers.

This evolution of patient engagement was also influenced by her previous work as a clinical research manager for Stanford University’s School of Medicine. During her time at Stanford, Jena learned first-hand the importance of patient advocacy and how life for patients and their families does not just stop when deciding to participate in a clinical trial. She experienced first-hand how a decentralized clinical trial model improves health equity and access to research in various clinical studies.

She took these experiences to her role at Medable to establish a diverse patient and caregiver advocacy council and supportive network that most recently influenced the creation of a new department, Patient Success, whose mission is to improve the experiences of patients and caregivers by offering equitable, inclusive, and diverse clinical trials.

The council and extended network empowers expert patient advocates to guide and inform the company’s product and research teams to develop meaningful, actionable, and patient-focused solutions. The council is also available to support Medable’s clients.

Jena, a current clinical trial patient herself, is personally invested in all Medable’s patient engagement programs.

She relentlessly works to expand their scope and size, to bring additional advocates with specific lived experiences into the process to further diversifying the patient and caregiver perspective. These patient and caregiver advocates allow Jena and her colleagues to work with a wide variety of skill sets, experiences, and indications, as well as geographic and demographic diversity.

Bringing the patient voice forward requires authenticity, Jena says. “As we are part of an industry on the precipice of disrupting the legacy standard of executing clinical trials through democratizing and decentralizing them, I think it’s more important than ever before to maintain integrity, keep an open mind, and focus on equity as we cultivate a culture of human-centered research and design that improves the lives of the patients and caregivers,” Jena says.

Dealing with a changing landscape means welcoming the challenges that come with it and adapt quickly. “Whether that’s by providing optionality, sharing resources, being clear and concise with our intention/reasoning, or something else, I think it’s imperative to be resilient in the face of ambiguity and adversity so that we can better problem solve to demonstrate our understanding of needs and show flexibility when under pressure,” she says.

Jena leads by holding herself and others accountable for the choices made to cultivate, find, and support the potential in the team as a whole, as well as for each person individually.

She looks for team players with lived and personal experiences directly related to their roles who also enjoy seeking out and bringing insights from external sources to the team.

“Additionally, I look for those who seek new challenges, pursue self-growth, and are passionate about a specific hobby or activity that is unrelated to work,” she says. (PV)

Forward ever, backward never

Blazing new trails to…
create the next generation of medicines with patients and not simply for patients

Anthony Yanni, M.D.
Title: Senior VP, Global Head of Patient Centricity
Company: Astellas Pharma Inc.
Education: M.D., Hahnemann University School of Medicine (now Drexel University School of Medicine); MBA, University of Massachusetts; BS, University of Scranton
industry Awards: eyeforpharma Most Valuable Clinical/Access Initiative award (2019) Sanofi
Company Awards: Innovation Award (2013) Sanofi, Medical Intelligence and Patient Perspective team in support of research projects
Hobbies: Exercise, especially running, reading: business topics and history

Anthony Yanni, M.D., has that special something that people call magic. His humane, inspirational approach turns even the biggest challenge into something possible. Like succeeding in his quest at Sanofi to bring patient-centricity front and center to all phases of drug development and beyond.

Within a short period of time, Dr. Yanni was able to move the notion of deriving medical insights increasingly from patient perspectives from an obscure job title to a core part of drug development.

At Sanofi, Dr. Yanni’s initial focus and expertise were on R&D. But he realized that if engaging patients was going to have real impact, it would need to reach all the way to the marketing and delivery of new treatments. He created an infrastructure with that in mind involving not only the company but also outside partners. Dr. Yanni achieved the rare feat in accomplishing a comprehensive patient-centric strategy that is noted as a true success by cancer patient advocacy groups.

In a little more than 18 months, Dr. Yanni, as senior VP, global head of patient centricity, is repeating the same success at Astellas. Colleagues call him the soul of Astellas’ patient-centricity movement, and he has done it from a base in Scranton, Pa., for a company founded in Japan in the middle of a global pandemic.

For Dr. Yanni, his current role has always been a career goal and his next plan is to press forward until patient-centricity becomes a standardized part of the drug development process, like the regulatory and medical functions. “Patient-centricity should become a part of business as usual, such that no one would think of developing and producing a new medicine without it,” he says. “For me, that means helping create a standardized and impactful method of integrating the patient, the caregiver and the healthcare provider into new medicine development.”

Dr. Yanni sees his role as an honor. “I’ve been given the privilege of applying my passion for clinical care of patients to the creation of wholly new processes and structures that I hope will shape the way the industry approaches drug development and delivery in the future: with the patient and not simply for the patient,” he says. “This has been a source of great professional satisfaction for me.”

Colleagues say Dr. Yanni is an inspirational leader who motivates everyone he works with to do what is best for patients. He is a great visionary and communicator. And he is a deeply analytical and data-driven leader who has put patient integration in drug development and delivery front and center by demonstrating tangible and measurable impact of his work.

Even during the pandemic, Dr. Yanni’s leadership never wavered. “I encouraged creativity, precisely because most of us were isolated and surrounded by the mundane,” he says. “I asked my teams to think about how they could innovate, find ways to work that created space for themselves and their families, and new ways to deliver value as a patient-centricity division. Large and small activities resulted from this free-flowing interaction, which had the advantage of moderating the stress and relentless nature of our new environments.”

Dr. Yanni believes in mentoring both ways — both up and down the seniority scale. “My No. 1 best practice is simple: listen,” he says. “I also encourage my mentees to learn and to teach. They should never assume they’re not ready yet to contribute. Perhaps most importantly, I make them aware that lofty professional goals can be aligned with the greater good: career success does not require the sacrifice of a commitment to society.”

There are many in the industry who can craft theories about being patient-centric and share slide decks on those theories with patient groups and other audiences, but he has brought this movement to fruition in not just one but two large pharma companies. This requires a leader with both a compelling vision and a mastery of implementation, two qualities that are not often found in one person. That is Dr. Yanni’s magic. (PV)

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