Why we work

Fred Bassett | 20th July 2016

Every so often a moment comes around that defines us. 

Twenty five years ago I was an account manager in what was then BMP DDB Needham, and what is now Adam&Eve/DDB. I was busy learning the advertising and marketing trade. We were working on an advertisement for Volkswagen. Excited and energised by my work, I visited my parents replete with a rough-cut of the latest and - hopefully - greatest TV advertisement for the famous marque.

My Mum met me at the door. She seemed unusually reticent to hug. To kiss. To recognise the relationship that we had. Breathless with excitement, I explained that I’d been busy helping make my first TV advertisement. That I had a first cut of the finished article. That is was really very clever. And funny. And that I’d like to show her.

Brimming with pride, I inserted the tape and hit play. Mum responded as you would expect. Marvellous. Fantastic. Lovely to see. The words were right but unusually devoid of expression. 

Then she explained. Dad had been to an oncologist who had diagnosed a disease called Multiple Myeloma. She went on to recount what she had been told - that it was a blood cancer, that it resulted in the body producing an excess of a useless protein, and that although we could expect a chemotherapy-induced remission, the disease was ultimately fatal.

Several cycles of chemotherapy, a short remission, and two years later Dad died. It was one day before we were hoping to celebrate his sixty-fifth birthday.

 

Wind forward to the present, and Blue Latitude Health have just played a part in the launch of a drug for the treatment of multiple myeloma which had its EU marketing approval this year. We didn’t invent the drug. Neither are we the company bringing the drug to market. But over the last eighteen months, a team at BLH have committed themselves to clarifying and articulating the value of the treatment to the dedicated professionals who tackle the disease for the benefit of the patients that they treat.

When compared to the pace of our day-to-day lives, healthcare innovation seems to progress at a glacial rate. Yet when viewed with twenty five years of perspective, the extraordinary progress made becomes clear. Waves of innovation have brought Proteasome Inhibitors, Immunomodulators and now Monoclonal Antibodies to bear on myeloma. The results are astonishing.

In the 1960s, the median survival for newly diagnosed MM was less than a year. The prognosis for Dad in 1990 was a survival of 29 months. That number has extended to 10 years as of earlier this year, and novel agents and combinations have raised the prospect that the disease could become chronic in many patients. The thought that Dad might have lived a longer life and died of another illness is as real to me now as it would have been in 1990, and has greater meaning than any Kaplan-Meier curve.

It’s not just multiple myeloma where this progress is apparent. For example, Polio, AIDS and Hepatitis C have all been rendered chronic, or even cured, through similar cycles of scientific discovery and innovation. Each cycle of innovation and every dollar or euro invested in research is the product of the commercial success of previous waves of innovation.

It is sometimes said that the business model for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry is to recoup the cost of the development of the drug from the revenues gained from it. This is not right. It’s more accurate to describe the business model - as with almost all IP driven industries - as using the profits from current commercial success to invest in the next wave of innovation. Today’s commercial success fuels tomorrow’s breakthroughs.

Blue Latitude Health helps companies who innovate in healthcare unlock commercial potential in their innovations. We do this by combining a range of distinct skills to help clarify, articulate and enhance the value - clinical and societal - of the products and services our clients bring to market. When we excel at this, we are not only helping today’s healthcare professionals and their patients; we are also fuelling the cycles of innovation on which progress depends.

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