Agencies focused on biotech startups haven’t traditionally been the earliest adopters of advanced data and analytics. ApotheCom was among the few exceptions to that rule — and in 2021 it helped drive the agency’s success. Revenue leapt by 27%, from 2021’s take of $64 million to $81.2 million.

“One of the monumental pieces from 2021 was that we were able to deliver on what we’ve been saying for the last few years around using data and analytics for clients,” explains global CEO Elaine Ferguson.

Ferguson points to the moment one of ApotheCom’s new clients in the COVID-19 space — that would be a little outfit named Moderna — asked for an “impossible” task related to literature monitoring. Through a partnership with Sorcero, maker of a language intelligence platform for life sciences organizations, the Apothe-Com team was able to develop what the agency calls an intelligent literature monitoring system.

“The speed and scope of the content monitoring we delivered for Moderna wouldn’t have been possible with traditional solutions,” says global president Beth McMahon. “It was a great example of us applying innovation to solve problems, versus just innovating for the sake of innovation.”

The buzz that comes with innovation is a big part of what draws ApotheCom to biotech startups. By the end of 2021, about 60% of the agency’s clients fit that description.

Half of ApotheCom’s 2021 growth was organic, including extensions of relationships with traditional big pharma companies such as GSK, Novo Nordisk, AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson. But the other half of the growth came from new additions, with Moderna representing one of the biggest of the bunch.

Still, Ferguson and McMahon seem just as excited to speak about the smaller, younger biotechs — such as Attralus, a developer of therapeutics to treat systemic amyloidosis — upon which the agency has become increasingly focused during the last year.

“Biotech has been a huge focus for us on the West Coast and in Boston,” McMahon says. “We consider ourselves biotech experts and our teams love the entrepreneurial aspect of partnering with startups. It’s a fast pace that comes with companies that are scaling up quickly.”

Ferguson agrees, adding, “They might be small-scale, but for each of them, their products are so exciting. For them, it’s their technology and their baby. When you partner with them there’s an extra thrill, because you do feel part of the journey.”

Head count at ApotheCom jumped from 358 at the end of 2020 to 473 at the end of 2021. Medistrava, the unit at parent Huntsworth that houses ApotheCom (and counts Ferguson as its CEO), acquired analytics consultancy MedEvoke last year.

“It helped us accelerate the data and analytics capability,” she notes. “We had to not just talk the talk, we had to walk the walk — and to do that, we needed scale. It moved the needle for us.”

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