Top 100 Agencies 2015: Cambridge BioMarketing

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Cambridge BioMarketing's launch of Alexion's Every Day with HPP shows orphan prowess
Cambridge BioMarketing's launch of Alexion's Every Day with HPP shows orphan prowess

Cambridge BioMarketing had plenty of remarkable days in 2014. There was dust when walls got knocked down for expansion. There was tequila when the margarita machine came around for office parties. And there was even financial drama when Everyday Health acquired it for around $38 million. But the day that sticks out most in CEO Maureen Franco's memory is Valentine's Day, when the agency launched a campaign for Vimizim, an enzyme-replacement therapy for a genetic condition called Morquio A Syndrome, so rare it affects as few as one in 200,000 to 300,000 patients. 

“With orphan drugs, you get to meet these patients, and they so want to get the therapy. So with any product launch, it's an outstanding experience. But this one was really special.” It was an important push for BioMarin, “and the CEO has said publicly that launch has exceeded expectations and targets.”

The year also included two other launches—Myalept, an injection therapy for ultra-orphan disease generalized lipodystrophy, also launched in February. And then Cambridge rolled out a campaign for Ruconest, from Salix Pharmaceuticals, for the treatment of acute angioedema attacks in adult and adolescents patients with hereditary angioedema.

New clients for 2014 include Aegerion's Juxtapid, for patients with homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia; an unnamed product for Zx Pharma targeting hypercholemia in heart failure; and some consulting business with Mylan. And it became the AOR for BioMarin's Naglazyme, an enzyme-replace­ment therapy for the treatment of mucopoly­saccharidosis V. (So far this year the company is on track for significant growth, hoping to expand again in Cambridge and thereby possibly add a West Coast office.)

Internally, she says the shop focused on investments in two key areas. First, it's beefed up its medical strategy group, hiring mostly PharmDs and PhDs. “We get in very early with these rare diseases, and they need a significant amount of market development and patient engagement. So medical is a big part of that.” 

And it's also shored up its digital hiring. “Rare diseases have always been ahead of the game in digital,” she says. “There was no one else in your town with the same diagnosis, so patients evolved from using chain letters to AOL list serves. We've continued to build on that, and social and CRM are really big. It goes beyond finding the specialists treating these patients to reaching physicians who might be finding and suspecting these conditions. Digital has to do the heavy lifting.”

Key appointments include Alisa Shakarian, creative director, art; Lisa Hazen, chief strategy officer; and John Skolis, director of digital strategy.

The most notable departure, of course, was former chairman Steve West. “He had been functioning as an adviser for some time, with no direct client contact any longer, but he wanted to be fully retired,” she says. “Finding that perfect match for acquisition takes a lot of time, and it was tough. So there were some stressful days trying to manage that process.”

But so far she says integrating into Everyday Health has been satisfying. “Its data is amazing and it has great mobile expertise. The culture is really entrepreneurial, like ours, and it's all been respectful and exciting. It's a company that understands the orphan-drug world and appreciates that it's a window into personalized medicine.”

And that, she says, is the biggest challenge facing the industry in the months and years ahead. “Big pharma has to change and think more about the individual patient and personalized medicine. There isn't one type of breast cancer--there are 10. The mass market approach is going to need to evolve, to become more sophisticated.”

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