How we are stay­ing con­nect­ed when we’re apart

Biotech Voices is a collection of exclusive opinion editorials from some of the leading voices in biopharma on the biggest industry questions today. Think you have a voice that should be heard? Reach out to senior editors Kyle Blankenship and Amber Tong.

I’ve al­ways been a peo­ple per­son and en­joy the en­er­gy of meet­ing face-to-face with oth­ers. So, when we shift­ed to work­ing in a vir­tu­al en­vi­ron­ment al­most a year ago, it was a hard ad­just­ment for me, and I know a dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion for many of my col­leagues as well.

When the world went in­to “lock­down,” I had been in my role at Take­da for less than a year, and in-per­son in­ter­ac­tions with col­leagues across the on­col­o­gy busi­ness had been a top pri­or­i­ty for me and my lead­er­ship team. Work­ing from home meant we could no longer take the pulse of the team by walk­ing the halls or read­ing phys­i­cal cues in a con­fer­ence room. Like oth­ers around the globe, we were com­pelled to find new ways to stay con­nect­ed and keep every­one en­gaged at the same lev­el as be­fore even though we re­mained apart.

While Covid-19 has brought chal­lenges un­like any we have faced be­fore, it has al­so pro­vid­ed us with op­por­tu­ni­ties and lead­er­ship lessons that will guide us as we nav­i­gate a new, hy­brid world of work­ing to­geth­er.

Equip lead­ers to ef­fec­tive­ly en­gage in a vir­tu­al world

Re­search shows that high­ly en­gaged teams de­liv­er sig­nif­i­cant­ly bet­ter re­sults, yet many lead­ers have strug­gled to con­nect vir­tu­al­ly with col­leagues. It’s hard to show warmth and per­son­al­i­ty in a dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ment. Too of­ten, team in­ter­ac­tions be­come rote and im­per­son­al. To dri­ve en­gage­ment, vir­tu­al lead­ers must show their teams that they are ac­ces­si­ble and avail­able to sup­port them on both a per­son­al and a pro­fes­sion­al lev­el.

TIP: To help lead­ers be­come more ef­fec­tive in guid­ing vir­tu­al teams, stress the im­por­tance of more fre­quent touch­points — such as week­ly one-on-one meet­ings or in­for­mal of­fice hours — and lead by ex­am­ple. Pri­or­i­tize reg­u­lar check-ins with your lead­er­ship team mem­bers, just as you ex­pect them to do with those they man­age. It’s al­so im­por­tant to set goals and hold in­di­vid­u­als ac­count­able with clear dead­lines, which can help im­prove pri­or­i­ti­za­tion and or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Main­tain a gen­uine hu­man con­nec­tion

In a re­mote world, video or phone meet­ings are your on­ly op­por­tu­ni­ty to con­nect with col­leagues on a mean­ing­ful lev­el. Gone are the days of ask­ing peo­ple about their day or week­end over morn­ing cof­fee or when pass­ing each oth­er in the halls. I have al­ways be­lieved that tak­ing the time to ask per­son­al ques­tions and lis­ten to how peo­ple are do­ing emo­tion­al­ly is just as im­por­tant as check­ing off every item on a for­mal meet­ing’s agen­da. And this is even more im­por­tant to re­mem­ber in to­day’s en­vi­ron­ment. That’s why I’ve made a few im­por­tant tweaks to my day-to-day, build­ing more time in­to my cal­en­dar to catch up with peo­ple — of­ten de­vot­ing as much as half an hour to talk about our lives out­side of work — and spac­ing calls to avoid feel­ing rushed and to main­tain my en­er­gy.

TIP: Re­mem­ber, your en­er­gy im­pacts oth­ers — so make sure you’re giv­ing every con­ver­sa­tion the fo­cus it de­serves.

Use video when pos­si­ble, but nev­er shame oth­ers for turn­ing it off

When in­ter­act­ing with col­leagues in per­son, it’s easy to con­vey en­thu­si­asm through non-ver­bal cues and fa­cial ex­pres­sions. How­ev­er, in our cur­rent vir­tu­al world, it is up to each leader to find al­ter­na­tive ways to set the tone for the or­ga­ni­za­tion. I’ve per­son­al­ly found that the best way to demon­strate my en­er­gy and pas­sion is to be on cam­era as much as pos­si­ble, though I rec­og­nize that this ap­proach doesn’t work for every­one. At times video can be drain­ing in­stead of en­er­giz­ing, mak­ing it es­sen­tial to strike the right bal­ance.

TIP: Use video fre­quent­ly, but don’t make it a re­quire­ment. While there is ab­solute­ly no shame in tak­ing a break from video when need­ed, more of­ten than not, peo­ple will fol­low your lead, turn­ing cam­eras on and be­com­ing more en­gaged in con­ver­sa­tions as a re­sult.

Don’t take your­self too se­ri­ous­ly, take what you do se­ri­ous­ly

There is noth­ing light about the pan­dem­ic, or about fight­ing can­cer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see the hu­mor in the every­day — whether it’s a dog bark­ing through your con­fer­ence call or your makeshift of­fice that used to be a clos­et. When you’re able to laugh at your­self and with your team, the en­er­gy can fill the vir­tu­al room and make peo­ple feel less iso­lat­ed. Re­search has al­so found laugh­ter is linked with high­er mo­ti­va­tion and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

TIP: Have fun! Send col­leagues a meal from a lo­cal restau­rant to share a vir­tu­al lunch. Hold an ug­ly sweater con­test. A lit­tle lev­i­ty and hu­mor can go a long way in build­ing a team and a hap­py, en­er­getic work en­vi­ron­ment, es­pe­cial­ly when work­ing re­mote­ly.

While this has been an emo­tion­al and chal­leng­ing year for all of us, it al­so pro­vides a great op­por­tu­ni­ty to change the way we con­duct and ap­proach work for the bet­ter. It’s up to each leader to chart the path to a new nor­mal, lever­ag­ing all that we’ve learned in a vir­tu­al en­vi­ron­ment to stay con­nect­ed, en­er­gized and en­gaged with col­leagues in a new, hy­brid world.

The Price of Re­lief: Ex­plor­ing So­lu­tions to the Ris­ing Costs of On­col­o­gy Drugs

In 2020, The National Cancer Institute estimated about 1.8 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States, while the costs associated with treatment therapies continued to escalate. Given the current legislative climate on drug pricing, it’s never been more important to look at the evolution of drug pricing globally and control concerns of sustainable and affordable treatments in oncology.

Lat­est news on Pfiz­er's $3B+ JAK1 win; Pacts over M&A at #JPM22; 2021 by the num­bers; Bio­gen's Aduhelm reck­on­ing; The sto­ry of sotro­vimab; and more

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For those of you who attended #JPM22 in any shape or form, we hope you had a fruitful time. Regardless of how you spent the past hectic week, may your weekend be just what you need it to be.

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A $3B+ peak sales win? Pfiz­er thinks so, as FDA of­fers a tardy green light to its JAK1 drug abroc­i­tinib

Back in the fall of 2020, newly crowned Pfizer chief Albert Bourla confidently put their JAK1 inhibitor abrocitinib at the top of the list of blockbuster drugs in the late-stage pipeline with a $3 billion-plus peak sales estimate.

Since then it’s been subjected to serious criticism for the safety warnings associated with the class, held back by a cautious FDA and questioned when researchers rolled out a top-line boast that their heavyweight contender had beaten the champ in the field of atopic dermatitis — Dupixent — in a head-to-head study.

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Robert Califf, FDA commissioner nominee (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

Rob Califf ad­vances as Biden's FDA nom­i­nee, with a close com­mit­tee vote

Rob Califf’s second confirmation process as FDA commissioner is already much more difficult than his near unanimous confirmation under the Obama administration.

The Senate Health Committee on Thursday voted 13-8 in favor of advancing Califf’s nomination to a full Senate vote. Several Democrats voted against Califf, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Maggie Hassan. Several other Democrats who aren’t on the committee, like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, also said Thursday that they would not vote for Califf. Markey, Hassan and Manchin all previously expressed reservations about the prospect of Janet Woodcock as an FDA commissioner nominee too.

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Michel Vounatsos, Biogen CEO (World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard)

Bio­gen vows to fight CM­S' draft cov­er­age de­ci­sion for Aduhelm be­fore April fi­nal­iza­tion

Biogen executives made clear in an investor call Thursday they are not preparing to run a new CMS-approved clinical trial for their controversial Alzheimer’s drug anytime soon.

As requested in a draft national coverage decision from CMS earlier this week, Biogen and other anti-amyloid drugs will need to show “a meaningful improvement in health outcomes” for Alzheimer’s patients in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to get paid for their drugs, rather than just the reduction in amyloid plaques that won Aduhelm its accelerated approval in June.

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CRO own­er pleads guilty to ob­struct­ing FDA in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to fal­si­fied clin­i­cal tri­al da­ta

The co-owner of a Florida-based clinical research site pleaded guilty to lying to an FDA investigator during a 2017 inspection, revealing that she falsely portrayed part of a GlaxoSmithKline pediatric asthma study as legitimate, when in fact she knew that certain data had been falsified, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

Three other employees — Yvelice Villaman Bencosme, Lisett Raventos and Maytee Lledo — previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced in connection with falsifying data associated with the trial at the CRO Unlimited Medical Research.

Susan Galbraith, AstraZeneca EVP, Oncology R&D

Can­cer pow­er­house As­traZeneca rolls the dice on a $75M cash bet on a buzzy up­start in the on­col­o­gy field

After establishing itself in the front ranks of cancer drug developers and marketers, AstraZeneca is putting its scientific shoulder — and a significant amount of cash — behind the wheel of a brash new upstart in the biotech world.

The pharma giant trumpeted news this morning that it is handing over $75 million upfront to ally itself with Scorpion Therapeutics, one of those biotechs that was newly birthed by some top scientific, venture and executive talent and bequeathed with a fortune by way of a bankroll to advance an only hazily explained drug platform. And they are still very much in the discovery and preclinical phase.

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‘Skin­ny la­bels’ on gener­ics can save pa­tients mon­ey, re­search shows, but re­cent court de­ci­sions cloud fu­ture

New research shows how generic drug companies can successfully market a limited number of approved indications for a brand name drug, prior to coming to market for all of the indications. But several recent court decisions have created a layer of uncertainty around these so-called “skinny” labels.

While courts have generally allowed generic manufacturers to use their statutorily permitted skinny-label approvals, last summer, a federal circuit court found that Teva Pharmaceuticals was liable for inducing prescribers and patients to infringe GlaxoSmithKline’s patents through advertising and marketing practices that suggested Teva’s generic, with its skinny label, could be employed for the patented uses.

A patient in Alaska receiving an antibody infusion to prevent Covid hospitalizations in September. All but one of these treatments has been rendered useless by Omicron (Rick Bowmer/AP Images)

How a tiny Swiss lab and two old blood sam­ples cre­at­ed one of the on­ly ef­fec­tive drugs against Omi­cron (and why we have so lit­tle of it)

Exactly a decade before a novel coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, Davide Corti — a newly-minted immunologist with frameless glasses and a quick laugh — walked into a cramped lab on the top floor of an office building two hours outside Zurich. He had only enough money for two technicians and the ceiling was so low in parts that short stature was a job requirement, but Corti believed it’d be enough to test an idea he thought could change medicine.

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