When Dan Bobear left Palio six years ago to found the Patient Experience Project, he did so feeling slightly disillusioned about the state of the business.

“I thought what everybody needed was a more authentic approach to communications,” the agency president recalls. “In my mind, co-creating with patients, physicians, and caregivers was a much better way to develop a rare-disease strategy than to hand it to a creative team and let it gin up what was needed.”

Such an approach, Bobear reasons, more or less ensures a degree of relevancy. “They’re the ones who help put it together, right? It kind of makes sense,” he deadpans.

PEP came into its own during 2017, more than doubling its revenue to $16.9 million from $7.4 million in 2016, and increasing its staff count from 34 to 50 full-timers.

None of this went unnoticed. In April, PEP announced it had become a part of the Life Sciences Commercialization Services unit of Water Street Partners, alongside The Access Group, Dohmen Life Science Services, and several other firms. The move, not surprisingly, was motivated by Bobear’s desires to scale up and shed some of his administrative responsibilities.

patient experience project agency

“We needed more infrastructure and we needed scale — that was all on my back,” he explains. “It’s great for our clients, because we can now provide the whole suite of services.”

The PEP approach resonated with clients during 2017, with new business representing 84% of its growth. Additions included a Spark Therapeutics gene therapy, patient services work from Mallinckrodt, a pipeline molecule from Loxo Oncology, and Horizon Pharma’s nephropathic cystinosis drug Procysbi.

“Where the industry is going is where we are positioned,” Bobear explains. “We’ve worked on a lot of rare diseases and gene therapies. It’s what we’re built to do. The clients we work with really matter.”

At the same time, Bobear worries about how PEP’s growth will affect its culture, especially as it seeks to staff up in the months ahead. “Old-school folks kind of don’t understand us,” he says.

Bobear believes PEP has a trump card in the form of its Saratoga Springs, New York, base. “We’re three hours from Boston and three hours from New York, so we’re very central to where we need to be,” he continues. “There are tremendous colleges nearby and we’re able to attract a lot of top intellectual talent. You’d think it would be harder to attract people than it actually is.”