Veteran pharma communications leader Jeff Winton has launched his own agency, Jeff Winton Associates.

Winton departed Alkermes in November as the company went through a restructuring, he said. Between then and the new agency’s launch this month, Winton began volunteering as a healthcare policy advisor to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, providing counsel to the candidate on brain disease and substance abuse disorder.

He cofounded the new agency with Jim Modica and is kicking off with two clients in the life sciences industry. He has brought on five senior-level consultants to work with these clients. The company is virtual for now, but Winton expects to establish locations in Boston and Chicago.

“The people I’m starting with are people like myself, career communications people who have all been in-house at various points,” Winton said. “I put together a very experienced team of people who have been in clients’ shoes and know how it is to hit the ground running with no ramp up time.”

The agency is staffed with these in-house experts because it is primarily focusing on work with early-stage life sciences startups. Winton said the locations in Boston and Chicago put Jeff Winton Associates in the heart of these quickly expanding health startup environments.

The agency is focused on providing a full suite of communications and public affairs services to clients that often do not have an in-house comms function. Winton said he’s looking to provide a “one-stop shop” to these companies without the price tag of a larger agency.

“Certainly there is a time and place for big agencies, but a lot of clients don’t need big international agencies that have a global footprint,” he said. “So many companies are at a stage where they aren’t big enough to start building an in-house team. They are at a point where they need to bring somebody on to provide that counsel, and don’t have the budget or need to hire one of the big agencies.”

Previously, Winton led public affairs at Alkermes, a Boston-based pharma focused on substance abuse. He spent nearly five years at Astellas as head of corporate affairs and chief communications officer. He also worked in comms leadership roles at Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer and Roche earlier in his career.

“We see the real need right now with smaller startups, early-phase companies that are at a point where they need to start getting the message out about who they are, what their mission is and helping develop their brand. They want somebody to look at the totality of their need, including investor relations, government affairs, diversity and inclusion, communications and patient advocacy.”