Why Communicators Should “Fiercely” Tune in to Cell & Gene Therapy Trends
May 7, 2021
One of the most exciting therapies to emerge over the last decade, cell and gene therapy (CGT), is a virtual blank slate for communicators. How can communications professionals advance broader awareness and support business objectives in this space?
During the recent Fierce Pharma PR & Communications Virtual Summit: The Communicator’s New Reality, Kristie Kuhl, Managing Partner of FINN’s Health practice, moderated a session with Kerry Beth Daly, Head of Corporate Communications, Atara Biotherapeutics, and Carrie Fernandez, Vice President and Head of Communications, Global Oncology, Takeda, to discuss the opportunities for pharma communicators in this sector. The panelists shared their views on the importance of clarity in defining new therapeutic approaches in CGT, the role of the value story, and best practices.
Communicating from awareness to appreciation
For communicators, CGT scientific innovations can be uncharted territory. Kerry Beth Daly discussed the need for basic education in communications, from awareness (definitions, how the science works) to appreciation (why it matters and how this new therapeutic approach will help more patients take action). Communicators have a responsibility – and a tremendous opportunity – to educate and elucidate the value of CGT’s now.
Engaging and involving stakeholders
When communicating with stakeholders who are watching businesses evolve, it is vital for professionals to include specific messaging related to M&A and employees. The panelists felt this is especially true in in the CGT space, where deal-making is happening at record speed. All communicators in this space should keep deal-making in mind when determining their approach, according to Daly. Positioning the company, and its scientific platform and pipeline, through this lens early-on ensures that the company’s communications are attracting potential partners. Setting expectations appropriately for all internal audiences and external stakeholders – especially investment community, partners, and the media – is a must, according to Carrie Fernandez, who also highlighted that neither panelist has a therapy actually on the market yet. Going back to communicating awareness first, Fernandez said, “Communicators are playing in this risky space, but it’s worth the risk for how transformational it can be for patients.”
Maximizing academic institution partnerships
Academic institutions are often great partners for research into emerging therapeutics, but they can also be great partners in communications. Fernandez stresses this “golden rule” when working with academic institutions: when planning joint communications, academic partners need to get something out of the initiative, too. Lean into the partnership with the alliance manager and explore mutually-beneficial messages and outlets. It’s critical to elevate your academic institutions’ initiatives as well as your own company’s.
As communicators, we have a new story to tell in how CGT is poised to make a direct impact on the lives of many with unmet need. While the field is evolving quickly, we can raise awareness and educate, champion stakeholders of all kinds in our messages, and highlight the promising research of academic partners. This panel delved into the unique qualities of CGT, the communications opportunities in CGT programs, and the opportunity to employ previously untried communications strategies. The takeaways the panel provided can help communicators make smarter, strategic decisions as we dive into the next wave of biopharma innovation.