How we are stay­ing con­nect­ed when we’re apart

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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.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an­ti­body play­er

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.