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Q&A with closerlook’s David Ormesher and Fishawack Health’s Ross Toohey

Med Ad News caught up with David Ormesher, CEO of closerlook, and Ross Toohey, chief commercialization officer of Fishawack Health, to talk about Fishawack’s acquisition of closerlook, what made the deal so attractive on both ends, and what the acquisitio

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David Ormesher

Ross Toohey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q&A with closerlook’s David Ormesher and Fishawack Health’s Ross Toohey

Med Ad News caught up with David Ormesher, CEO of closerlook, and Ross Toohey, chief commercialization officer of Fishawack Health, to talk about Fishawack’s acquisition of closerlook, what made the deal so attractive on both ends, and what the acquisition promises for clients.

Med Ad News: closerlook was a proudly independent agency for years. What prompted you to seek a buyer?

David Ormesher: We started the process last year, in late 2020. We were one of the fortunate agencies that actually prospered during COVID. In fact, 2020 was our best year in our history. As you know, we’ve occupied this space as a digital-native and analytics-driven agency. And with the pandemic, suddenly, all of our clients were pivoting to digital because sales forces were sitting at home.

So we were growing like crazy, and it occurred to me that while our clients were certainly enjoying the capabilities that we had around digital and analytics, and analytics-inspired creative and messaging, we were missing some pieces of the pie, particularly around medical communications, and really true AR capabilities with a global footprint. Because half of our clients are global, they were asking us to take what we were doing on the digital analytics side and extend it and expand it globally, so I finally came to the realization that for the sake of our clients, we needed a partner. We needed the ability to scale and bring breadth and depth to our offering.

And so we started on a journey, and talked to dozens of investors and companies, probably did 25 management presentations, which are these exhausting three-hour presentations of our management team to their management team. But it was a good exercise, and at the end of the day it became clear to me that of all the folks who we were talking to officially, Fishawack was by far the best partner.

Med Ad News: What made Fishawack so appealing?

David Ormesher: I think it came down to a number of categories. One, there was a really good sort of vision and cultural fit. Fishawack is an entrepreneurial company. They’re led by entrepreneurs, they still have that entrepreneurial drive. Secondly, they have just real depth across initially three key areas — medical communications, consulting, commercial — and now really some depth in market access and outcomes. Those are some key areas that, if you went to a big network agency, they would be scattered about. But Fishawack really had a vision of bringing these things together and creating a global commercialization platform for biopharma, and with the same entrepreneurial drive and fire that we enjoy at closerlook, it seemed like there was going to be a good fit.

And frankly, it was very complementary, because when we looked at our client lists and our capabilities, there was very little overlap between them. This was one of those cases where, you know, like peanut butter and jelly. One plus one equals three, whatever metaphor you want. It just felt like it was a really good fit.

Ross Toohey: Yes. And by the way for the record, Dave is absolutely jelly!

I’m the chief commercial officer at Fishawack, so part of my remit is helping the organization grow and provide better value to clients. What we’re doing is solving the problem that has been presented by this massive increase in the volume and velocity of therapeutic launches. There are more therapies being launched, faster and in a more complex environment than ever before, and at the same time, what it means to commercialize a therapy today is vastly more complex than it was just 10 years ago. And with what COVID did to the market, the need for analytics in channel management and the number of audiences we have, all of it has become more complicated than ever before.

So we have to move faster launches in a more complex environment and what that results in is the need for a single integrated partner that can help commercialize therapies in this increasingly complex world. And so the way that Fishawack has gone about doing this is by seeking the best of the best, so we’re scouring the market to find the best talent and the best capabilities, and bring them together under one roof and one team, removing all of the barriers that typically exist in a network like independent, siloed P&Ls and complicated org charts. We’re removing all of those things in order for these teams to work together efficiently, and for the benefit of the client.

It’s been a personal dream for me to work with Dave and the team because my legacy agency 2e joined Fishawack a couple of years ago, and I had admired closerlook from afar. They had really complementary capabilities and it was a company that I had a lot of respect for, and it was one of the first companies as we started talking about you know who should be looked at in the marketplace. It was like they were top the list for me, so the fact that now David and I and our teams are on the same team is like a dream come true. And that’s kind of what Fishawack is all about, it’s helping making that happen and we’re in a very luxurious position to be able to afford and accommodate that and to create those opportunities for our teams and for each other.

Med Ad News: What has been the reception to the merger by your clients and teams?

David Ormesher: So far everything has been very positive. closerlook has always prided itself as being a very open and transparent company, and so we were very quick to bring our entire team together, under a sort of a cone of silence, and let them know what we were working on, and ultimately let them know that this is our future and this is our partner.

Across the firm there has been real enthusiasm and excitement, everybody in leadership and everybody who works with clients saw the magic in this right away. They’re already coming to me with opportunities that they have seen with our clients, with needs that we couldn’t have met in the past, that now we can. And because we have this trusted relationship with our clients, our clients are now thrilled.

One of the things which I really admired, Oliver Dennis as CEO [of Fishawack Health] makes it his point personally to call all of our clients. It’s under the rubric of a reference call, but he’s absolutely got his sales hat on, he’s positioning the opportunities for them. He called every one of our clients and to a person, they called us back and said, “Congratulations, we’re thrilled for you, but even more thrilled for us because we see the potential here, the potential benefit and value for us for our brand and for our team.” Our clients have been very excited about this.

Med Ad News: Where do you see closerlook growing within the Fishawack network? Do you think there will be expansion to other cities, or even maybe even other countries?

Ross Toohey: Well, we’re not really a network, in that we’re not a bunch of independent entities operating separately. One of the things that you quickly see within Fishawack is that we’re almost immediately able to staff accounts with the best talent, in the best location for the client. What happens is the people that are within a certain office cease to necessarily be exclusively allocated to that one company. For example, we have people in our St. Louis office that are supporting a client from Boston or from the UK, and we’ll have people from California that are part of the team in Oxford. What’s going to happen is it really opens the doors for Dave and I, and Dave’s team. … the short answer is, they’ve just acquired 17 offices across the world and 1,200 more colleagues, and vice versa. So, we’re excited about that. We are also very excited about having a presence in Chicago, this is our first foray into that particular market. We are very, very committed to the Midwest market. We think it’s a talent market that’s very untapped and so we’re extremely glad that we have two Midwestern offices already. So this one’s obviously a gem in the in the crown.

David Ormesher: And if there’s anything we’ve learned over the last few months, we’ve all built really good muscle memory on how to work virtually from anywhere in the world. We’re on a major pitch right now for a company in the West Coast and we tapped into some expertise from the UK. And it was just a phone call away. And, within 24 hours we had insights coming from that expert, a PhD, that’s going to help us on that pitch, and vice versa. Fishawack reached out to us a couple weeks ago and they had a big pitch coming up, and that part of the requirement is some analytics and data reporting, and so, within 24 to 48 hours we had to have our people involved in that pitch. So it’s actually moved, frankly a lot faster and smoother than I would have expected.

 

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AstraZeneca antibody cocktail fails to prevent Covid-19 symptoms in large trial

AstraZeneca said a late-stage trial failed to provide evidence that the company’s Covid-19 antibody therapy protected people who had contact with an infected person from the disease, a small setback in its efforts to find alternatives to vaccines.

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Astra antibody cocktail fails to prevent COVID-19 symptoms in large trial

(Reuters; )

June 15 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Tuesday a late-stage trial failed to provide evidence that its COVID-19 antibody therapy protected people who had contact with an infected person from the disease, a small setback in its efforts to find alternatives to vaccines.

The study assessed whether the therapy, a cocktail of two types of antibodies, could prevent adults who had been exposed to the virus in the past eight days from developing COVID-19 symptoms.

The therapy, AZD7442, was 33% effective in reducing the risk of people developing symptoms compared with a placebo, but that result was not statistically significant — meaning it might have been due to chance and not the therapy.

The Phase III study, which has not been peer reviewed, included 1,121 participants in the United Kingdom and the United States. The vast majority, though not all, were free of the virus at the start of the trial.

Results for a subset of participants who were not infected to begin with was more encouraging but the primary analysis rested on results from all participants.

FILE PHOTO: A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus linked to the Wuhan outbreak, shared with Reuters on February 18, 2020. NEXU Science Communication/via REUTERS

“While this trial did not meet the primary endpoint against symptomatic illness, we are encouraged by the protection seen in the PCR negative participants following treatment with AZD7442,” AstraZeneca Executive Vice President Mene Pangalos said in a statement.

The company is banking on further studies to revive the product’s fortunes. Five more trials are ongoing, testing the antibody cocktail as treatment or in prevention.

The next one will likely be from a larger trial testing the product in people with a weakened immune system due to cancer or an organ transplant, who may not benefit from a vaccine.

TARGETED ALTERNATIVES

AZD7442 belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies which mimic natural antibodies produced by the body to fight off infections.

Similar therapies developed by rivals Regeneron (REGN.O) and Eli Lilly (LLY.N) have been approved by U.S. regulators for treating unhospitalised COVID patients.

European regulators have also authorised Regeneron’s therapy and are reviewing those developed by partners GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and Vir Biotechnology (VIR.O) as well as by Lilly and Celltrion (068270.KS).

Regeneron is also seeking U.S. authorisation for its therapy as a preventative treatment.

But the AstraZeneca results are a small blow for the drug industry as it tries to find more targeted alternatives to COVID-19 inoculations, particularly for people who may not be able to get vaccinated or those who may have an inadequate response to inoculations.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, which has faced a rollercoaster of challenges with the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine, is also developing new treatments and repurposing existing drugs to fight the virus.

AstraZeneca also said on Tuesday it was in talks with the U.S. government on “next steps” regarding a $205 million deal to supply up to 500,000 doses of AZD7442. Swiss manufacturer Lonza (LONN.S) was contracted to produce AZD7442.

Shares in the company were largely unchanged on the London Stock Exchange.

The full results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal, the company said.

Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/astrazeneca-says-its-antibody-treatment-failed-in-preventing-covid-19-exposed-2021-06-15

 

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Government

Former FDA Head Takes on Exec Role at Flagship’s Preemptive Health Initiative

Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under former President Donald Trump, took on a new role as chief medical officer of a new health security initiative launched by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences venture firm…

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Former FDA Head Takes on Exec Role at Flagship’s Preemptive Health Initiative

 

Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under former President Donald Trump, has taken on a new role as chief medical officer of a new health security initiative launched by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences venture firm that incubates and curates biopharma companies.

First announced Monday, Flagship’s Preemptive Medicine and Health Security initiative aimed at developing products that can help people before they get sick. This division will focus on infectious disease threats and pursue bold treatments for existing diseases, including cancer, obesity, and neurodegeneration. 

In a brief statement, Hahn, who served as commissioner from December 2019 until January 2021, said the importance of investing in innovation and preemptive medications has never been more apparent. 

“In my career I have been a doctor and a researcher foremost and it is an honor to join Flagship Pioneering in its efforts to prioritize innovation, particularly in its Preemptive Medicine and Health Security Initiative. The more we can embrace a “what if …” approach the better we can support and protect the health and well-being of people here in the U.S. and around the world,” Hahn said in a statement. 

During his time at the FDA, Hahn was at the forefront of the government’s effort to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. His office oversaw the regulatory authorization of antivirals, antibody therapeutics and vaccines, as well as diagnostics and other tools to battle the novel coronavirus. 

Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Hahn bore the brunt of verbal barbs aimed at the FDA by the former president for not rushing to authorize a vaccine for COVID-19 ahead of the November 2020 election. The second vaccine authorized by the FDA for COVID-19 was developed by Moderna, a Flagship company. 

Prior to his confirmation as FDA Commissioner, Hahn, a well-respected oncologist, served as chief medical executive of the vaunted The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Hahn was named deputy president and chief operating officer in 2017. In that role, he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the cancer center, which includes managing more than 21,000 employees and a $5.2 billion operating budget. He was promoted to that position two years after joining MD Anderson as division head, department chair and professor of Radiation Oncology. Prior to MD Anderson, Hahn served as head of the radiation oncology department at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Flagship Founder and Chief Executive Officer Noubar Afeyan said the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down economies and caused the deaths of more than 3.8 million people across the world was an important reminder that health security is a top global priority. In addition, the ongoing pandemic brings into “stark focus” the importance of preemptive medications. 

Hahn, who helmed the FDA for three years and before that served as chief medical executive at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has extensive experience overseeing clinical and administrative programs. Afeyan said the new division would benefit from Hahn’s experience as FDA Commissioner and help steer the Preemptive Medicine and Health Security initiative as it explores Flagship’s “growing number of explorations and companies in this emerging field.”

It is not unusual for former FDA heads to take prominent roles with companies. For example, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s first FDA Commissioner, took a position on the Pfizer Board of Directors weeks after departing his government role. He has also taken positions on other boards since then, including Aetion, FasterCures and Illumina.

 

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/former-fda-head-stephen-hahn-takes-cmo-role-at-flagship-pioneering-preemptive-health-initiative-

 

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Government

Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases – study

At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a new government study showed.

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Five U.S. states had coronavirus infections even before first reported cases – study

(Reuters) – At least seven people in five U.S. states were infected with the novel coronavirus weeks before those states reported their first cases, a new government study showed.

Participants who reported antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were likely exposed to the virus at least several weeks before their sample was taken, as the antibodies do not appear until about two weeks after a person has been infected, the researchers said.

The latest results build on findings from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that suggested the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in the United States last December, well before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed on Jan. 19, 2020.

A protective face mask lays, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, beside leaves at the lakefront in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., December 6, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon/File Photo

The positive samples came from Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and were part of a study of more than 24,000 blood samples taken for a National Institutes of Health research program between Jan. 2 and March 18, 2020.

Samples from participants in Illinois were collected on Jan. 7 and Massachusetts on Jan. 8, suggesting that the virus was present in those states as early as late December.

“This study allows us to uncover more information about the beginning of the U.S. epidemic,” said Josh Denny, one of the study authors.

The findings were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/five-us-states-had-coronavirus-infections-even-before-first-reported-cases-study-2021-06-15

 

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