ICR Consilium Conscience
31 March 2023
Insights from Advanced Therapies 2023: Leveraging communications for better outcomes
By Genevieve Wilson
Just 24 hours after the hastily arranged sale of SVB UK to HSBC hit the headlines, representatives from the world of cell and gene therapy development came together in London for the Advanced Therapies Congress – Europe’s largest cell and gene therapy conference and exhibition.
The Advanced Therapies Congress is a great forum for enabling people across the world to share knowledge and best practice in this most technical of scientific disciplines. Consilium clients participating included 4BIO Capital, who offered advice on what VCs look for when selecting investments, SparingVision, who spoke on their gene therapy approach for inherited retinal diseases, and Purespring Therapeutics, whose team was out in force with back-to-back meetings.
The overarching message which spilled out of every session was: collaboration and the creation of relationships is key to success in this industry. This encompasses everyone from academics and patient associations to investors, regulators and payors needing to pull together in order to convey a clear message about why advanced therapies matter for the future of healthcare.
As a professional communicator, it was interesting for me to participate in one of the event’s roundtables focused on leveraging communications for better outcomes. In other words, connecting the dots between each of those stakeholders through the use of communications, ultimately, to advance their scientific programs. As someone whose working day revolves around effective communications strategies, it was enlightening to hear about the communications challenges faced by those sat around me, which included academics, scientists, CEOs, and other representatives from companies big and small.
For some at the table, it was a question of ‘How do I communicate my highly technical science in a way that both investors and patients can understand?’ For others it was ‘When beginning to communicate on behalf of a company, where do you start? On LinkedIn or with some news?’ These are the questions we are often asked by our clients to which we answer that it all comes down to establishing the story, messaging, and crucially, the value proposition early on.
One attendee voiced their concern around the gap of knowledge within the academic space around how researchers can translate their projects into viable businesses, stating that navigating this career path from a PhD can feel daunting. The consensus was that technology transfer offices on their own are not sufficient, and that the UK should follow the example of the US, where many universities offer business degrees which students complete alongside their science degrees, allowing them to begin building a commercial infrastructure around their expertise from the point of higher education onwards.
Another participant raised the question that, as there are so many products out there in the market and in development (“There are more drugs than patients!”) – how do we educate people working within labs on where the unmet need really is, and therefore, where they should be focusing their research? Again, good communication – in this case to academics and researchers – is key to success.
One clear concern emerged: that while the industry is good at talking to its own members, there is a pressing need for companies and researchers in the space to gain critical outside perspective, to understand how their work is seen by lay decision-makers and the public.
At a time when the future financing strategies of advanced therapy companies and other innovation-driven companies have been thrown into sharp retreat by the implications of the SVB fallout, this was a timely reminder of why good communication matters.