Last week, I had the pleasure of being part of BioNJ's Second Annual Diagnostics and Personalized Medicine Innovation Summit, which was held at Sanofi's US headquarters in Bridgewater, New Jersey. This year's meeting featured thought leaders in life sciences, diagnostics and personalized medicine including G. Steven Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Company, Elias Zerhouni, President, Global R&D at Sanofi, and Edward Abrahams, President of the Personalized Medicine Coalition. This group of distinguished speakers was also joined by panelists from GE Healthcare, Saladax Biomedical, BioNest Partners, Cantor Fitzgerald and The Mayo Clinic.
I am always impressed by the caliber of those professionals who are driving the evolution of personalized medicine; these people are catalysts and change agents in the historic shift taking place in healthcare delivery worldwide.
Among the interesting issues and challenges that were covered was what I consider to be perhaps the biggest challenge of all: the role of Health Information Technology (HIT) in realizing the promise of personalized medicine.
The age of personalized medicine has spawned the age of Big Data in medicine. The amount of information generated since sequencing the human genome is vast, growing, and challenging to manage, understand and act upon. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is how we integrate all of this information. Having vast amounts of information is useless if it can't be used to improve patient care and reduce healthcare costs.
Much like our highways, which have seen better days, our health information infrastructure needs serious work in order to allow the potential benefits of personalized medicine to be realized. The good news is that there are companies, like GE, Oracle, McKesson, Siemens and others who are hard at work trying to meet these challenges and build the infrastructure required to turn potential into reality for patients and healthcare providers.
The key takeaway from BioNJ's conference is that we are in the midst of a transformation in both medicine and technology; a transformation that requires greater integration between these two areas than ever before. And while any period of change can be extremely unsettling, it is also invigorating for those with a high tolerance for uncertainty and a hunger to challenge the status quo. Perhaps most exciting of all are the new leaders, companies and individuals, who are emerging and contributing to the advances being made both in medicine and technology.
Scientific innovations by leading companies such as Monsanto have yielded genetically engineered corn seed. These seeds are designed to generate toxins that kill corn rootworms but are harmless to humans. Unfortunately, according to Ian Berry’s recent WSJ article, the corn rootworm is outsmarting these genetically engineered seeds and spawning a new generation of resistant progeny.
The rising incidence of rootworm resistance is increasing the use of herbicides and insecticides. Syngenta, one of the world’s largest crop protection solutions providers, reported that sales of one of its corn insecticides more than doubled in 2012. Other makers of corn insecticides are also reporting increased sales in the wake of rootworm resistance.
Innovators in the agricultural and biotechnology industries are tirelessly working on solutions to rootworm resistance, thereby increasing yields and protecting the availability of one of our most valuable nutrition sources. Central to their efforts is the EPA’s guidance to rotate non-corn crops such as soy beans to reduce future resistant rootworm strains. Companies are also working on new seeds that target multiple rootworm resistance pathways.
The EPA has reported that it will convene a scientific advisory committee meeting sometime in 2013 to further discuss and review solutions to insect resistance. We will be interested in the content and outcome of this important EPA advisory committee meeting.
As the United States inexorably moves toward universal healthcare, patient compliance will be more important. Beyond the obvious health benefits associated with drug adherence – Medicare will offer financial rewards for proof that their members have improved their drug adherence.
Adherence – The Facts are Clear:
Non adherence Costs $177 Billion in US annually (approximately a quarter of total annual pharmaceutical revenues)
The New England Healthcare Institute estimates that $290 billion in cost is wasted each year on unnecessary hospital and doctor visits by people who failed to comply with their medication
20-25% of employer healthcare costs are the result of non-compliance
50% of people with a chronic illness are non-compliant
Timothy Hay reports in the Wall Street Journal that numerous companies are working on solutions to increase patient adherence to drug therapy. For example, Mango Health, Inc. invented an app that rewards points that can be redeemed for prizes and gift cards. Proteus Health, Inc. is innovating tiny digestible sensors inside pill that can be tracked and monitored. The first of these “so-called” digital drugs could be available as early as 2014 or 2015. Other solutions include innovations in bottle design. AdhereTech is testing designs that detect the amount of pills in a bottle. The bottle glows blue when it’s time to take your meds and red if you missed a dose.
In many respects improving drug adherence could have as much, or more, impact on the improvement of patient health than the development of new drugs. This kind of science and technology is exciting because it serves to improve patient care, reduce unnecessary healthcare spending and opens new avenues to innovation and investment in new technology.
Thank you Angelina Jolie. It was very refreshing to read the very sane and sober account of Ms. Jolie’s BRCA1 status and her brave decision to undergo prophylactic double mastectomy. Public disclosure of cancer status by celebrities can sometimes result in miscommunication or worse, wrong information. Ms. Jolie nailed it. Whether everyone agrees with her decision is another story but here’s the bottom line – her risk of breast cancer before surgery is 87% -- after surgery it is 5%.
I am humbled by the bravery that Ms. Jolie and other women display when it comes to acting on this genetic information. My wife Sara made a similar decision nearly five years ago. Her calculus was similar. She possesses the BRCA1 gene mutation (and was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer) and, after a review of the facts with a genetic counselor, it seemed the only rational decision. No breast tissue, no ovary tissue – cancer risks are reduced dramatically (if not completely).
I am also grateful that we live in an era when cancer is no longer a death sentence. Through the ongoing quest to better understand cancer, and in the post human-genome-mapped world, we are now actually treating cancer biomarkers, not body parts or organs. We live in a world where the term "oncology" will perhaps be replaced with bio-oncology. We live in the age of personalized medicine.
Thankfully, today’s approach to cancer treatment is not via howitzer. Today, thanks to research, technology and innovation, cancer treatment can be personalized. Through new molecular profiling tools, we can offer personalized treatments based on a gene mutation or some other biologic disease marker. These innovations increase the efficacy of treatment, reduce side effects and minimize needless treatment (which also conserves resources better utilized elsewhere).
After seven years in Princeton, JFK Communications and its sister agency BioCore Medical Communications have relocated to Trenton, New Jersey. The capitol of the Garden State is experiencing a renaissance and we are happy to be a part of it.
Along with our new physical relocation, we are shifting professionally, culturally and creatively. From a pure pharmaceutical PR agency since we started in 2004, JFK has evolved and expanded our focus, leveraging and building on our true core strengths in scientific content development and distribution of client messages through multiple channels. Our new mantra – Science is Beautiful – reflects our passion for science and technology communications. And, regardless of where we base ourselves – we know that science and technology will be the driving force for our domestic and global economic recovery. Exciting times are ahead.
From drugs to medical devices; from alternative energy to chemicals and advanced materials; from electronic medical records to food science – JFK has the expertise, leadership and resources to support your strategic communication needs.
Read more about us in the recent issue of U.S. 1.
It happened again. The day was sunny and beautiful. A slight southwesterly breeze was blowing. I had an ear infection, so I want to see my GP. Then it hit. The clipboard, with four pages of forms, was handed to me. So I did what any good red blooded American coping with an antiquated healthcare system would do. I filled out the forms and gave them back to the receptionist.
But wait. It gets better. The GP took one look at my ear and sent me to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. After driving a half hour in traffic to see the ENT, I got to their office and, you guessed it, had to fill out more forms. If I didn't have an ear ache, I would have seen the humor in this. But as it was, it just made me more cranky.
According to HealthIT.gov, office-based physicians' use of electronic health records (EHRs) increased from 48% in 2009 to 72% in 2012--a substantial increase in just three years.
Check out this great infographic from HealthIT.gov on EHR utilization by the way (I love these things).
Utilization of EHRs is critical to modernizing the US healthcare system. The benefits of EHR adoption are well documented and include substantial reductions in medical errors, improved efficiency and workflows, reduced costs, improved health outcomes and (here's my favorite part), less aggravated patients.
Critics of EHR adoption (yes, there are critics for everything these days) cite the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as an obstacle, pointing to the challenges in protecting patient privacy as an issue.
Fortunately, the majority of physicians agree that HIPAA compliance does not prevent widespread utilization of EHRs.
It's time to abolish the clipboard and endless forms from doctor's offices. The next time you visit your doctor, if they hand you a clipboard filled with forms, ask them when they plan to join the rest of us in 2013.
Anybody involved in diagnostics and personalized medicine should register for the Second Annual BioNJ Diagnostics & Personalized Medicine Innovation Summit.
This year's event is being held on June 6th, 2013 at Sanofi's R&D conference center in Bridgewater, New Jersey.
Last year's event at Princeton University was at full capacity, so please register early to make sure you reserve your place. To register, please visit the BioNJ website.
When Makane George, President, Drexel University Public Relations Society of America invited me to participate in a panel discussion on Busines to Business marketing on February 7, 2013, I was encouraged that much of the discussion was devoted to the emerging role of social media.
I was privileged to serve on a panel of the following distinguished local experts:
Jessica Sharp, Principal, Maven Communications
Sara De Long, Assistant Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby
Melissa Marsili, Partnership Marketing Associate at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
Traditional B2B Experience
In simple terms the panel agreed that B2B marketing is a specialized function designed to help deliver key messages from one business to another. The goal of B2B marketing is to foster relationships and commerce between businesses.
Traditionally marketing has relied on public relations to:
Drive B2B initiatives through traditional print and digital trade media
Develop key message platforms to tell stories to specialty audiences
Prepare experts to serve and spokespersons for specialty business media
Produce various forms of public relations content
Engage target audiences via professional organizations and trade shows
Social media for B2B marketing
The panel engaged in a valuable dialog regarding the emerging role of social media in B2B communications. While the panel agreed that Facebook and Twitter hold some role, the predominant social media channels for B2B marketing include blogging, LinkedIn, and YouTube. JFK Communications is focused on providing clients with key social media strategies.
We work with organizations to determine their area of expertise and build editorial calendar of blogs. We work with clients to identify blog topics, blog authors and timing for certain blogs with key corporate and business events. We also work with clients to invite guest blogs from outside experts, customers and policy makers.
Effective blogs drive traffic to clients’ websites and all corporate social media channels.
JFK Communications works with clients to build their LinkedIn pages. LinkedIn is becoming one of the fastest growing and most powerful business-focused social media channels available. We work with clients to construct their Linked In pages for maximum effectiveness. This includes:
Linking blog posts to LinkedIn
Linking all Tweets to LinkedIn page
Linking all FB and YouTube content to LinkedIn
The most effective LinkedIn pages include an ongoing stream of status updates that link followers back to key business messages
One of the most effective means of communications is video. We know that online video content is more effective in driving purchasing decisions compared to traditional print narrative content. For B2B marketing, we help our clients build YouTube channels and production calendars. We work to produce and post videos for maximum viewing and viral sharing.
We work with clients to keep Twitter feeds full of content. A Twitter feed is a double-edge sword. If kept up and current is a very efficient driver of awareness and traffic. However, if neglected it only serves to irritate followers.
In B2B marketing, this expert panel agreed that traditional marketing strategies and tactics are here to stay, however the emergence of social media must be a part of all effective B2B marketing programs.
Is everybody ready? Great. Now repeat after me:
All Media is Digital.
All Media is Social.
Social Media is Public Relations.
Excellent. We’ve now cut through gigabytes of chatter, terabytes of noise and a virtual universe of pontification by “experts” on digital media, social media and the role of public relations in the new “communications paradigm.”
As somebody who has been working consistently in digital media since managing one of the first digital communications divisions of a multinational public relations firm in 1997, I’ve been an active participant in the evolution of digital communications. The technologies and tools we’re able to apply to our clients businesses today have enhanced our ability to communicate in so many ways.
Convergence is here. News organizations, magazines, entertainment companies, and media conglomerates are providing content that is seamlessly integrated between print, digital, and broadcast media platforms.
So why do some agencies, and clients, continue to have such a siloed view of the landscape? “Digital media.” “Traditional media.” “Social media.” Isn’t that kind of thinking just, you know, “so ten years ago?” Calling media “digital” misses the point that all media – at least all media that is still relevant—is now digital. And if it’s digital, it’s social, since the age of the unidirectional “website-as-electronic-billboard” was ending at about the same time that the iPod was becoming the newest must have gadget, and our cell phones were, for the most part, still pretty dumb.
Do you need a digital strategy? Or do you need a strategy that increases customer awareness of your product or services by integrating multiple content delivery platforms and delivering your messages to customers in multiple formats? Do you need a social media strategy? Or do you need a strategy that establishes an authentic dialogue between you and your most important target audiences and enables you to learn and adapt based on real time information? Digital and social media will be central to both, but both strategies are broader and allow for more than one tactical approach in their execution.
And what about public relations? The Public Relations Society of America defines PR this way:
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Establishing a dialogue, and building positive relationships with key audiences through two-way communication has always been a fundamental goal of public relations. Social media is a tool that can be used to accomplish this goal. Social media is public relations.
It’s time to free ourselves from the shackles of conventional thinking. The era of strategic convergence is upon us. Strategy should dictate the best tools for the job. Because a true artisan uses many different tools, and is expert in all of them.
So, once again, repeat after me:
All Media is Digital.
All Media is Social.
Social Media is Public Relations.
Thank you, and good night.
Despite GOP opposition, the Senate (89-8) and House (257-167) voted late last night to delay sequestration-related NIH cuts for two months. While this development simply kicks the can down the road, it does restore some certainty into the life science sector.
Unfortunately, under previous “continuing resolutions,” non-competing renewal NIH funding has been cut by 10 percent. This reduction will most likely reduce academic spending on research in 2013.
The big question remaining is, “does the 113th congress have the will to create a plan designed to provide long-term solutions regarding federal life science spending?”
While this and many other questions regarding the fate of the life science industry remain, we are still optimistic. Advances in genomics and companion diagnostics are creating unprecedented opportunities – especially in the field of oncology. Biofuels are emerging to help us realize energy independence, Agri-Bio science is helping to increase crop yields with less water and chemicals and we are making major advances in renewable chemicals and marine biotechnology.
We still believe Science is Beautiful.
To help support the protection of NIH research funding, please visit The Coalition for the Life Sciences and send a letter to your congressman/woman.