Medical communication used to be based on slide presentations, graphs, and research papers. Now more and more pharmaceutical companies are using apps, kiosks, and digital presentations at conferences to help patients and doctors alike better understand how their drugs work. SciMentum, a Hamilton-based medical communications company, is at the forefront of this digital revolution in healthcare communication and is growing rapidly at American Metro Center.
“What we are heavily involved in right now is health care provider education,” says Mark Hardy, the creative director at Nucleus Central, a services division within Nucleus Global, SciMentum’s parent company, that is staffed by both creatives and scientists and which brings SciMentum designs to life.
Nucleus Global, a medical communications group comprising 14 separate companies in 11 locations across the globe, was started in England by Stephen Cameron in 1986. Since then the group has blossomed. Nucleus has four offices in the U.S., with the American Metro location being the largest. A hundred people work for the Nucleus Global companies based here, of which SciMentum is just one. SciMentum has been in Hamilton since December, 2013, starting with just three employees. It now has 15.
Hardy is a New Jersey native, growing up in New Brunswick and studying at the Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers University. He then headed up the University relations department for web and art at Rutgers, bringing the two disciplines together. Hardy is Nucleus Global’s “big idea” guy, and likes to tell big stories. “A lot of designers struggle with the big ideas,” says Hardy, but Mason Gross was conceptual-based, meaning his training has allowed him to focus on the big ideas needed to communicate the mechanism of action of different drugs to different audiences.
The scientists, illustrators, and graphic designers all work together at SciMentum. “We have to learn it through osmosis. It is a company full of Ph.D.s and we have to ask them questions while we design the kiosk or apps. A lot of times agencies will hire another digital agency, whereas we do it together, and that is why we are successful,” says Hardy.
“We are competitive because the science and creative are together. We have a big part to play when trying to get business from the larger companies as we can serve it up on a silver platter. This is how we visualize your new campaign, this is how we visualize your educational video, and we can go full tilt just on the pitches — this is what we think it should look like,” says Hardy.
The company provides communications support to pharmaceutical companies, helping them plan for scientific conferences, edit and publish research articles, educate the public and medical professionals about new drugs on the market, as well as develop internal communications and training documents. The company is a mix of scientific and creative individuals, all helping to promote and publish the latest scientific and medical findings. Having experts in medical communications means that these pharmaceutical companies can be assured that their publications, presentations, and marketing material all comply with GPP2, the good publication practice that all pharmaceutical companies need to apply.
The companies under the Nucleus Global umbrella provide support to 19 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies in the world. Each of the group’s companies will deal with a certain client, product, or division within a company. This allows Nucleus Global to maintain a “firewall” between different clients who might be competing. Though there are a number of companies within the Hamilton complex, they do not work as one, and access is restricted between staff at different agencies.
SciMentum gets a lot of its work through word of mouth, as scientists and managers move between companies and discuss with their colleagues. The firm chooses not to advertise, and if you did not know such a company existed, you would think such work is done in-house by the pharmaceutical companies. The various agencies also share opportunities within the Nucleus Global group. If one agency cannot work for a client because of a conflicting interest, the opportunity might be passed to another agency within the group that, because of the firewall between different agencies, can work on the project.
Extensive growth is one of SciMentum’s main objectives and the company is looking to take on more employees this year. Kelly Reiser, client services director for SciMentum, barely has time to catch her breath. “We have a lot of work,” Reiser says. SciMentum is often up against tight deadlines and as the company has grown recently it has taken on new accounts, as well as expanded the amount of work from its current clients.
SciMentum attributes its success to its people. The firm only hires medical writers with advanced degrees, people with intricate knowledge of their field and are capable of interacting with the scientists, investigators, and directors at their client companies on the same level. “I think our biggest challenge is staffing because we have such high standards and won’t compromise them,” says Reiser, who hopes the company can attract more people to the Hamilton office so the growth can continue.
Reiser, who graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and is a mother of three, loves working for SciMentum, choosing to commute in from Villanova, Pennsylvania, each day, even though there are competing companies closer.
SciMentum’s specialty is oncology, and its scientific division is led by Nene Anadu, who, as director of editorial and scientific services at SciMentum, oversees all scientific staff members.
Anadu has a Ph.D. in medical chemistry and molecular pharmacology, graduating from a dual-track program at Purdue University in 2006. “In SciMentum we all have Ph.D.s on the scientific team. We strive for all our staff to have advanced degrees,” she says. Her thesis was on anti-cancer natural products.
“We would take extracts from yeast and fungi and isolate the anti-cancer compounds from them and then modify or synthesize based on those natural compounds and then test them on cancer cells,” Anadu says. “You can isolate 400 compounds out of one microorganism and keep testing to try to understand the function of all of them and what is going to work in humans.”
Her interest in cancer research started when working at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland. Anadu, born in Nigeria, came to study for a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, 20 years ago. After graduating from GMU in 1999, she then worked at the NCI before choosing to pursue her doctorate at Purdue. It was there that she really got her training in cancer, and also started to develop a passion for medical writing and communication.
“My passion for medical writing came when one of the professors I was working for needed more funding, so I spent the first year of my grad school writing grants and applying for different types of support,” says Anadu. “What you do then is look at research and look at what is happening in the therapeutic space and you try to best describe your scientific approach and to back it up with results. I found that I really enjoyed the writing aspect of things. That’s why straight out of grad school my first job was in medical writing.”
Anadu has been in medical communications for eight years, working for several other agencies as a medical writer before moving to a director level position with the Nucleus Global group three years ago. Initially Anadu was with SciMentum’s sister company Articulate Science before the position for her opened up at SciMentum early last year.
SciMentum allows her to keep abreast of all the research and development in the field. “I like the idea of remaining informed about everything that is happening with the latest developments and the latest drugs within therapeutic oncology. It is such a dynamic field. Each different increment gets you that one step closer to the cure,” says Anadu. “As we are seeing more and more we are getting a better understanding of how these diseases really work and getting a better idea of how best to address the underlying issues of different types of tumor.”
As well as the top pharmaceutical companies that the agency represents, it also has smaller clients with exciting new drugs that they are bringing to market.
SciMentum will work with a company through all stages of drug design, clinical testing, and medical use, and this is something that the team relishes, as it allows them to both satiate their scientific urges as well as see how their work impacts actual patients.
“Sometimes when you are in the lab, you might never see that drug come to fruition but with this you are going all the way from bench to clinical studies to patients surviving because of those drugs. It is really nice that you get to be a part of that, where you get to communicate how these drugs are developed and the key important issues that patients and physicians need to know,” Anadu says.
— Andrew Tate
Nucleus Global, 300 American Metro Boulevard, Suite 131, Hamilton 08619; 609-981-4001; fax, 609-981-4002, www.nucleus-global.com.