Revenue climbed 3.5% to $8.9 million
“We’ll focus on specialty pharmaceuticals, the small to midsize companies that allow us to use our unique structure”
“Biosimilars will become more and more important, and the Affordable Care Act will not change this year”
Timmy Garde, LevLane’s chief innovation leader, life sciences, says he tensed up when the call came through from Agile Therapeutics. While he thought the agency’s pitch for an AOR assignment from Agile had gone well, he knew it was competing against much larger agencies — some of them, he adds, publicly held.
Looking out over downtown Philadelphia, he picked up the phone. “‘You just blew us away with your structure and your thinking,’” he recalls the Agile exec saying. “That was a breakthrough and a revelation. They liked our partnership model. They liked that our resources go outside traditional pharma thinking and that we can use our insights in areas such as banks and retail to help them with a major product launch.”
LevLane enjoyed other successes on the client front, which spurred a small bump in revenue to $8.9 million in 2016, up 3.5% from 2015. Besides the Agile win for Twirla, a contraceptive, LevLane was awarded business from Alliqua Biomedical for ultrasound wound-healing devices MIST and Ultra-MIST, Biovance for a wound-healing product made from amniotic membrane allografts, and Interfyl for a product used for replacing soft tissue in surgery. It also landed Eagle Pharmaceuticals’ Ryanodex, which treats malignant hyperthermia.
Staff size increased to 57 full-time employees, up from 55 in 2015. Key hires included VP of strategy and client engagement Kevin Dunn, who arrived from Calcium, and account manager Matt Riley, who was previously on the client side at Agile.
Garde says the growth is satisfying because it aligns with LevLane’s focus on specialty pharma. “It’s very important we match up,” he explains. “We are not believers in having many clients, but ones that fit.”
The digital mindset, Garde adds, has settled in throughout the agency, to the point where it is as pervasive as its love of dogs (conference rooms are named after them). “We believe in keeping it simple. We try not to overcomplicate things. We like to get inside people’s minds and see what they need. And if we can create a well-informed professional and consumer, we’ve done well,” he notes.
As LevLane’s Life Sciences arm continues to evolve — Garde joined in 2015 to helm it — the agency is benefiting from its mix of pharma and non-pharma clients. “For example, we handle a local food market and do its communications, branding, and social media. Most of its customers are women, and that gives us insight into how women make decisions, which informs our work about how they make choices in healthcare,” Garde explains. “It’s one more way we are learning to leverage our thinking, especially when it comes to social media.”
He is similarly proud of LevLane’s work for Rothman Institute Orthopedics, tripling the presence of its Patient Ambassador program on TV, online, and social media.
The year’s biggest roadblock? Repairing the trust that was shaken in the wake of pricing scandals that dominated headlines in 2016.
“The challenge is to gain back the confidence of the people. Even though they were isolated incidents, they’ve given all of us a big black eye,” Garde says.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Ryanodex’s indication. The drug treats malignant hyperthermia.