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Revenue was $5 million in the firm’s first full year


“To emerge as the agency of choice for healthcare challenger brands — those that face challenges, such as going up against a bigger, entrenched, better-funded competitor or one with superior data” 
— Frank X. Powers


“The confluence of several trending factors will mean a brand’s success will be directly linked to its ability to demonstrate greater value”
— Lorna Weir

Elevate Healthcare’s successful first full year providing early stage counsel to companies launching specialty products might not even be managing partner Lorna Weir’s best accomplishment in 2016.

At Elevate’s first holiday party, which took place at an axe-throwing venue in Philadelphia, Weir walked into the throwing cage, wielded her axe in a way chief creative officer Barry Schmader describes as “unique,” and effortlessly hit the bull’s-eye. 

Lorna Weir

managing partner: Lorna Weir

“It was humbling,” jokes managing partner Frank X. Powers. “She had a real Braveheart thing going on.” Clients might not be familiar with Weir’s axe-throwing prowess, but they are increasingly aware of Elevate’s finely targeted approach. By the end of 2016, the agency had accumulated 11 accounts and generated $5 million in revenue. Five of those have since expanded into full AOR relationships, while a sixth will upgrade to AOR status closer to launch. Kaléo’s opioid overdose treatment Evzio was the agency’s first AOR account. 

“It was exciting work, and it was exciting because it was our first work together as Elevate Healthcare,” Weir says. Of course, the agency’s steady expansion wouldn’t have been possible without infrastructure. Schmader compares Elevate’s first year to driving a car while simultaneously customizing and finishing it. “Starting from scratch is hard,” Powers adds. “Last year we were working on card tables. It’s liberating to have our office infrastructure and full team in place.”

Among last year’s key additions were chief scientific officer Kathy Nelson, formerly of Vox Medica, and executive director, HR and workplace operations, Lisa Tamborello, formerly of Calcium. They were joined earlier this year by director of client engagement Regina Brown.

Unlike many other firms, Elevate has just two men — Powers and Schmader — among its leadership. “Everyone has worked together before,” Weir says of the staff. “We’ve brought together people we respect tremendously and who want to do things differently.”  

The agency also strives not to pigeonhole its talent. All staffers have an alias after their title: Weir is “the liberator,” Powers is “the motivator,” and Schmader is the “ideator.” These allude to the firm’s ability to apply strengths across functions. 

“It takes a broader cross-disciplinary team to deliver on the challenges of healthcare strategy today,” Powers explains. Elevate Healthcare has launched a self-promotion campaign to highlight this strength, as well as position the agency as the partner of choice for “challenger” brands — ones with some kind of handicap. “We have to check ourselves and remember we’re just entering year two,” Weir notes.