Vertex gears up sales force for CF drug launch

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Biotech firm Vertex, fresh off the introduction of Incivek for hepatitis C, is busying itself with launch preparations once again. The firm said it's hiring across the company to support the anticipated debut of cystic fibrosis (CF) drug VX-770.


Submissions to regulatory authorities in the US and Europe are timed for next month. And, much like it did last year around this time, Vertex is bulking up globally by hiring for 150 jobs, and a total of 500 by 2015, much of that in sales and marketing.


“We're going to repeat it all heading into next year with the anticipated approval of VX-770,” said spokesperson Dawn Kalmar. “Obviously, it's a much smaller market [than Incivek's]—there are about 4% of people with CF who we believe VX-770 is most appropriate for. It will be a small commercial force but one we're ramping up.”


CF, an inherited chronic disease affecting the lungs and digestive system, strikes about 30,000 children and adults in the US and 70,000 worldwide, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.


Across the pond, Vertex's European affiliate is growing its commercial organization, too, she said.


To support its science culture, Vertex said it also introduced two new programs to help scientists learn about and stay connected to the commercial part of the company: a ride-along program enabling researchers to shadow sales reps for a day and another that gives scientists a seat on hiring committees for certain commercial employees.


Both programs are meant to foster collaboration across the organization, especially among groups that otherwise may not talk to or even see one another.


“When you think about this from the researcher's perspective,” said Kalmar, “they've poured years, decades of their careers into developing one new medicine, and then handing it over to someone to represent their scientific work in the commercial world to customers and, ultimately, to physicians and patients who will be using these medicines. It's a big responsibility that we feel our sales force is carrying with them.”

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