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.

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; 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.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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Tillman Gerngross, Adagio CEO

Q&A: Till­man Gern­gross ex­plains why his Covid mAb will have an edge over an al­ready crowd­ed field

If anyone knows about monoclonal antibodies, it’s serial entrepreneur, Adimab CEO, and Dartmouth professor of bioengineering Tillman Gerngross.

Even the name of Gerngross’ new antibody startup Adagio Therapeutics is meant to reflect his vision behind the development of his Covid-19 mAb: slowly, he said, explaining that “everyone else, whether it’s Regeneron, Lilly, or AstraZeneca, Vir, they all valued speed over everything.”

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Susan Galbraith speaking at Endpoints News' virtual EUBIO21 summit

Imfinzi/treme­li­mum­ab com­bo scores As­traZeneca an­oth­er OS win — this time in liv­er can­cer

Is the tide turning on AstraZeneca’s battered PD-L1/CTLA4 combo?

A single priming dose of the experimental tremelimumab, followed by Imfinzi every four weeks, beat Nexavar (sorafenib) in helping a group of liver cancer patients live longer in a Phase III study, the company reported, meeting the primary endpoint.

Specifically, the two drugs extended overall survival for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma who had not received prior systemic therapy and were not eligible for localized treatment.

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FDA's vac­cine ad­comm unan­i­mous­ly sup­ports Mod­er­na's boost­er in same pop­u­la­tions as Pfiz­er's boost­er

The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee on Thursday voted 19-0 in support of expanding Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine EUA for booster doses for certain high-risk individuals. FDA is expected to authorize the Moderna booster shortly.

Similarly to the Pfizer booster shot, Moderna’s will likely be authorized for those older than 65, adults at high risk of severe Covid-19, and adults whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 puts them at high risk of serious complications of Covid-19. But unlike the Pfizer adcomm, where FDA had to scramble to get the committee to vote in favor of a booster, this committee was unanimous with the Moderna shot.