In 2021, Purohit Navigation president Anshal Purohit found herself asking two related questions: What makes our people work best? And what delivers the best work?

While the previous year had been upended by COVID-19, Purohit says the agency weathered the immediate crisis thanks to a strong internal support system, sturdy client relationships and an already-established work-from-home
policy. On the other hand, 2021 was “more of a period of optimization,” she explains. “We found a new spirit and character as a firm. Everything else got stripped away and we were forced to rely on each other in different ways.”

As a result, Purohit felt confident moving to a fully remote model, even though the company retains its Chicago offices. “That has freed us up in the caliber of hiring we can do,” she adds. Head count remained steady in 2021 at 50 full-timers.

Another initiative that began in 2020 and crystallized last year was Purohit Navigation’s investment in its strategy and critical analytics teams. The agency also tweaked the way it structures its account teams: Each one is now assigned a dedicated strategic planner, most of whom have advanced degrees in health, to help bridge the gaps between project management, creative and scientific capabilities.

Clients responded favorably, Purohit reports. “The partnerships we have always enjoyed have been the ones where we can entrench with our clients early and kind of carry them through,” she says. “And we have more of those now than ever.”

By way of example, she cites the agency’s work with Star Therapeutics. Purohit Navigation began working with the company a couple of years ago and led it through a “corporate de-stealth,” developing a brand identity and logo. Over that time, Star raised more than $100 million in financing.

Two other examples of the agency’s ability to cover strategy through launch stand out to Purohit: exploratory strategy work on a point-of-care COVID diagnostic and surveillance code for LumiraDx, one of eight clients Purohit Navigation added to its roster in 2021, and a rolling global launch for Hepcludex, Gilead’s antiviral treatment for chronic hepatitis D. After Gilead snapped up the German virology biotech MYR, which developed the therapy that would become Hepcludex, Purohit Navigation won the account based on a prior working relationship with Gilead on its liver portfolio.

2021 revenue was flat at an MM+M-estimated $19 million, though Purohit is quick to note that “the beginning of this year is stronger than the beginning of last year for us” — which is perhaps a testament to the aforementioned period of optimization.

As Purohit Navigation enters its 37th year as a woman-run, independently owned firm, Purohit is proud of the company’s ability to endure and thrive without compromising its values.

“There have been ups and downs over the years, but we’ve done this for a long time,” she says. “In large part, it’s because we’re anchored in research and have people who are willing to go the extra mile for their colleagues, themselves and our clients.”

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

There have been so many amazing innovations. There are books I wish I had the talent to write (such as One Hundred Years of Solitude), technologies I wish I had the aptitude to invent (such as Curiosity) and service platforms I wish I had the foresight to conceive (such as Airbnb). That said, I’m quite happy learning from ideas while on my path looking forward, trying to find new innovations of my own. — Purohit