By Betsy Raymond Stevenson, posted January 4, 2013
By Betsy Raymond Stevenson, posted August 26, 2012
Last week, I watched a biotech CEO struggle with his very reluctant recognition that he needs to make a significant increase in his budget, and his time, for communications. The struggle was visceral: he won’t be able to measure how this money and time will support the company’s pipeline. It would be less painful for him if the increase was going to areas with a benefit he can quantify, like meetings with investors or setting up a sales and marketing function
This CEO is not unusual. Companies need to measure their return on investment and unquantifiable areas, like communications, like reputation, are hard to measure. This unquantifiability too often acts like an invisibility cloak because these areas don’t show up in standard ROI systems. This invisibility is dangerous. Revenues are quantifiable. Trust, respect, goodwill are not. But the loss of them in the biopharmaceutical industry has led to substitutes like the Sunshine Act, like billions of dollars in fines, that are only too measurable.
By Betsy Raymond Stevenson, posted June 19, 2012
Making the almost impossible to describe understandable
Yesterday, I sat down with some of the best science communicators I have ever met. They had just finished a presentation, ‘Understanding Biotech in the News,’ where I found myself cribbing descriptions that I fully intend to steal. In the interests of full disclosure – I have no connection with their company, BiotechPrimer, at all.
When I asked Stacey Franklin, BiotechPrimer founder and owner, and instructors Timothy Fawcett, Ph.D. and Karin Lucas, Ph.D., for their advice on explaining biotechnology processes and science in general to laypeople, their responses affirmed basic principles of good communications (don’t assume, avoid jargon). Their application of these principles and their ability to provide almost soundbite length explanations of complex topics is what sets them apart. Following are some examples:
A biologic is a substance derived from living material, such as cells or tissues, to treat or cure disease. These living materials include protein therapeutics, vaccines, organs and tissues, and cell therapies. Biologics are usually injectable, topical or surgically implanted.
How to make a biologic: You force a cell or organism to make a protein in a genetically modified cell.
On types of vaccines:
What we call 1st generation vaccines are made from whole pathogens (bacteria, viruses). The most well-known vaccine still made this way is the flu vaccine.
2nd generation vaccines are made from pathogen sub-units, particles from a bacteria or virus which are enough to stimulate the body’s antibody response
We are looking forward to a 3rd generation called DNA vaccines. With these, DNA from the pathogen is injected into your cells which than make the viral protein, stimulating your antibody response. Two anticipated benefits from DNA vaccines are that they will be less expensive to produce and much more stable. This means that there would be no need to keep them refrigerated, a transformational technology for disease prevention in tropical developing world countries. InOvio is in Phase 1 trials.
You can learn more about BiotechPrimer at biotechprimerinc.com. And, please share your own best descriptions of biopharmaceutical processes and concepts here. I invite all readers who like your work to steal it, but you will have full credit in your comment! Seriously, the more ‘best communication practices’ we share, the better the understanding of the biopharmaceutical industry as a whole.
By Betsy Raymond Stevenson, posted June 18, 2012
Orphan Disease Forum – Specialized Marketing & Sales & Beyond: A Vision for Orphan and Targeted Therapies
BIO’s Orphan Disease Forum is hosting a panel on Wednesday morning of interest to anyone involved – or soon to be involved – in sales, marketing or communications for an orphan disease therapy. I asked Donna LaVoie, the panel moderator and President and CEO of LaVoie Strategic Communications, Inc., if she would give us an advance look at the topics that will be addressed.
More biopharmaceutical companies are developing and launching orphan drugs, an area pioneered by the biotech industry. LaVoie’s panel reflects this heritage. It includes Jayne Gershkowitz, Senior Director, Patient Advocacy & Public Policy, Amicus Therapeutics, Inc.; Rogerio Vivaldi, SVP and Head of Rare Disease Business Unit, Genzyme, a Sanofi Company; Mark Rotera, Global President, Aegerion; and Kyle Brown, Founder and CEO, PatientCrossroads. LaVoie herself, was with Genzyme and involved in the first approval for Cerezyme®, a groundbreaking therapy for Gaucher’s Disease.
According to LaVoie, the most common error made by companies new to commercializing an orphan drug is to approach the market as if it were a traditional product. Large-scale marketing campaigns and brand focus show a lack of understanding of the tightness of an orphan disease community and how they share news. Personal relationships are the heart of any approach intended to connect with patients, their families, patient organizations and physicians. This is done through the use of Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) who come to know the physicians and families in their territories personally. It is hard to overstate the importance of patient registries.
Early access programs will be discussed. For example, should the FDA be more active in employing these?
It will be important for any company moving forward with their first orphan drug to educate their marketing team. Donna recommends using case studies, at least three, to show the unique nature of orphan disease communities and how they communicate.
If you would like to learn more, sign up for the panel: it is session 1220, running from 8:30 – 9:45 am on Wednesday, June 20.
By Betsy Raymond Stevenson, posted June 12, 2012
If you were at last year’s BIO International Conference in Washington, D.C., It’s likely you noticed the Massachusetts Pavilion – whether you had an interest in Massachusetts, or not, – simply because of the crowds. They were there for major announcements, like the State’s formalized life sciences relationship with Israel; and high-level presentations, like the one by Governor Patrick, not to mention the party celebrating Massachusetts as the location for BIO 2012.
BIO 2012 is only a week away. Figuring that I am not the only communications person gearing up for the event, I went to the man who handled the BIO communications for his organization so spectacularly last year to ask some questions. That man would be Angus McQuilkin, Vice President for Communications for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
What is your advice for public relations and investor relations professionals looking to get the best results for their organizations and make the most of their time at BIO?
Framing what your announcement is going to be is key. Announcements of broad interest to the industry as a whole, with international partners, will get more attention than others. So, frame your announcements by their broad impact on the sector and pull in partners from other parts of the world to join you in making them. That’s certainly what we’re planning to do with the Center. It’s always a good idea to attend others’ press events so you can see what does and doesn’t work. I recommend people put some on their calendars, even if they are not impacted directly.
For those who didn’t know, you can request the media registration list from BIO. It’s best to reach out to reporters ahead of time before their calendars fill up. The local media market will matter a great deal this year, too, because the Massachusetts super cluster is a window to what is going on in the life sciences around the world. Local media can help get key messages out to an important audience.
There will be an increased focus on social media this year, so think through your social media strategy and spend some time on it. You can take advantage of the Buzz Center (new this year) to leverage and learn how to use it for the future.
Spend energy building relationships with companies, international organizations and media who attend. I do this every year, plus the legwork of establishing more relationships. You can’t overstate the importance of relationships in communications. Go out and create a network with the people who participate in BIO each year. And, of course, stop by the Massachusetts Pavilion!
|Raymond Stevenson Healthcare RSHC Copyright © 2012|