Dudnyk, an independent since inception, started off 2019 with what can best be described as a significant event in the company’s 25-year history — but not necessarily a defining one.

In Q1, the Horsham, Pennsylvania-based agency was acquired by Fishawack Group for an undisclosed sum. Fishawack had said it wanted to add an East Coast healthcare marketing agency of scale to its healthcare communications specialist network.

Dudnyk president Christopher Tobias, for his part, says his company was motivated not only by the promise of continued operational independence but also by the client-service opportunities conferred by the U.K.-based Fishawack. Specifically, he pointed to the network’s ability to support commercialization of orphan drugs in Western Europe.

“Last year we had two launches for Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, one in the U.S. and one in the EU, and it’s only going to become more and more common for us to be doing that,” Tobias says. He adds that the global launch, for hereditary transthyretin-related amyloidosis (hATTR) treatment Onpattro, was “by far the largest we have conducted.”

The Onpattro AOR assignment, which extended to the Asia-Pacific region as well, included a large disease-awareness initiative to identify those suffering from hATTR, an ultra-rare progressive condition. “Because we’re dealing with patient populations that are so small, our clients are all looking to find patients across the world and expand their reach,” says EVP, creative director Laurie Bartolomeo. “So the partnership with Fishawack comes at the best time in our evolution.”

The Onpattro work capped off a year in which Dudnyk boosted revenue by 22.5%, from $16.9 million in 2017 to $20.7 million. The agency added nine staffers, to raise its total to 106.

Dudnyk enjoyed a solid year in terms of new business as well. In its first foray into pro-bono work, the agency selected Simon’s Heart to be the beneficiary of its time and talent. The agency also grew its number of AOR engagements from six to eight. New clients Eyevance and Macrogenics joined mainstays like Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Sun Ophthalmics, Takeda and PTC Therapeutics on the agency’s roster.

On the other side of the ledger, Dudnyk no longer works on Takeda’s HAE drug Takhzyro. The relationship ended in the wake of Takeda’s acquisition of Shire, which developed Takhzyro.

2018 marked the agency’s fourth consecutive year of growth, and Dudnyk is keen to extend the streak. Tobias and Bartolomeo say business was up in the first few months of 2019, with the agency seeking to push deeper into molecular medicine and gene therapy. The goal: to bring on two or three such clients per year.

“When you look at the R&D environment in late Phase III, 75% is in biotech, not big pharma,” Tobias says. “That doesn’t mean big pharma isn’t important, but the pendulum has shifted to the side of biotechs driving research investment and launches, specifically in rare disease and oncology.”

And it’s these kinds of clients — the makers of groundbreaking therapies — that aid agencies like Dudnyk in employee recruitment. “That’s an upside for us,” says Bartolomeo. “We’re grateful for the types of opportunities we have.”