Increasing the Efficiency of Internal Systems Within Pharma

Patient Centricity is the driving factor behind Commercial Solutions at Clinical SCORE. With 2016 as “the year of the patient,” we are pleased to highlight Thought Leaders from within the space:

It is widely known that the field of clinical research exhibits levels of risk aversion when it comes to innovation. How do you overcome this challenge, while maintaining a collaborative environment that supports change?
I find it helpful to build a roadmap or strategic plan of where I am trying to go, identify available resources, develop a communication process and see a vision of what good (or great) looks like.

I am reminded of the words of Tao Te Ching, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. A good artist lets intuition lead wherever it wants. A good scientist’s mind is free of concepts and is open to what is.” (Translation by Stephen Mitchell)

My grandmother said it like this: “I believe that I will run on and see what the end is going to be.”

In any case, we have to embrace the challenges of change, trusts in our instincts and do all that we can to communication and share information.

Once an innovative pilot is underway, how do you leverage internal communications to spread the
message about these pilots?

I leverage communication and build partnerships throughout the process, so that once the project has been completed, stakeholders are already familiar with what you were trying to achieve. Many in my target audience are also my collaborators in building the projects. I rely heavily on them for advice as it is developed and implemented. I also respect that diverse and multifaceted dialogue, even if it is challenging and uncomfortable, is at the cornerstone of innovation.

Communication is then leveraged by the people who have built it and have ownership in the process and its outcomes. They can defend it because we have embraced challenges as part of the process. This is also a critical aspect of sustaining the impact of a project over time in that it can more easily be imbedded in practical applications through this type of ownership.

The FDA currently has mandates that encourage sponsors to enhance diversity in clinical trials. Can you tell me about what you’re doing to support these mandates?

Clinical trial diversity is a top priority for Sanofi, and we are fully supportive of the FDA objectives to increase the presence of under-represented groups in clinical trials and outcome research. In 2013, I wrote a blog, Diversity in Clinical Trials and Why it Matters. It highlights the importance of diverse representation in clinical research and partnering with organizations committed to this cause.

People from under-represented racial and cultural backgrounds are largely not effectively targeted by trial recruiters for studies. Recruiting for clinical trials is in itself a challenging task, particularly in an era of more targeted therapeutics with more precise inclusion and exclusion criteria. However, the results in many cases are generalized and applied to the larger population without the examination of data based on the prevalence of occurrence in the real world. It is important that we understand these unmet medical needs across diverse patient populations as we bring new treatments, medicines, vaccines or devices to market.

At Sanofi, we seek to offer healthcare solutions in the most devastating conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immunology, care rare disease and cancer. Being able to serve patients from diverse, targeted populations as partners of choice in our clinical research is one goal on which we are clearly focused.

In addition, my life work in population health research, advocacy, public speaking and community-based empowerment is a testament to a deep personal commitment to raising awareness of diversity and approaches to combat challenges strategically.

Melva T. Covington, MPH, MBA, PhD
Dr. Covington is currently a Senior Director, Field Medical Strategy Lead in the Diabetes Cardiovascular Disease Business Unit at Sanofi. She has held various leadership roles within the Global R&D organization at Sanofi since 2010. Her leadership skills, expertise and collaborations in public health, clinical research and analysis have spanned over 20 years, covering the range of lifecycle development and therapeutic areas. She has a background in public health, early intervention, pharmacoeconomics, strategic thinking and business management. Her goal is to apply these skills strategically and innovatively to address complex issues within healthcare systems, organizations and communities. Much of her work focuses on population-based disparities in health outcomes, operations management and cultural competency.

Prior to joining Sanofi, Melva led both Global and US-based teams in Health Outcomes and Pharmacoeconomics across a number of therapeutic areas at Lilly and Roche Labs. She is passionate about assessing integrated data and perceptions contextually and then applying that knowledge for targeted solutions to improve outcomes across diverse patient populations.

She has an AB in Politics/Economics from The Catholic University of America, Masters of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health and PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and MBA from Cornell University. Melva has authored numerous publications and is an impassioned public speaker.