In this issue of ZRG Life Sciences Perspectives, we take a look at important innovations in the global effort to contain and defeat SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 by recognizing five companies innovating in this space. John Staines and John McFarland share insights into the importance of building diversity in the boardroom. We also take a look at the capital invested in Life Sciences in 2020 and at several key board moves in this sector.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we want to recognize several important contributors to the fight. The companies recognized as innovators here have driven new and improved technology in patient prognosis and care, vaccine delivery, and testing.


A pioneering molecular diagnostics company, Inflammatix received a $1.1 million awarded from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to continue the development of a rapid diagnostic test that reads the immune system to help clinicians better determine which COVID-19 positive patients are at greater risk of a more severe clinical course. This will lead to more appropriate patient disposition, optimal use of limited resources, and cost savings.

Arcturus Therapeutics

Developer of a potential singe-shot messenger RNA vaccine to inoculate against the coronavirus, the mRNA medicines firm has been approved for a Phase II study of its ARCT-021 candidate by the Singapore Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and is set to begin its Phase II study in the United States. These efforts promise to deliver an effective vaccine with a differentiated clinical profile that requires only one dose to create protection.


An innovate provider of at-home tests from food sensitivities to thyroid hormone levels, Everlywell received FDA authorization for a COVID-19 test home collection kit. This allows individuals to collect and send samples to Everywell’s lab partners who conduct PCR testing (considered the gold standard for diagnosing COVID-19). This promises to increase testing levels overall while also taking pressure off designated testing sites.

Mesa Biotech

Renowned for its PCR-based rapid point-of-care testing platform for infectious diseases including SARS-Cov-2, Mesa Biotech has expanded the availability of nucleic acid PCR amplification to point-of-care diagnostics. This is helping healthcare providers rapidly scale a highly accurate PCR-testing capability. This success was recognized commercially when Thermo Fisher Scientific announced on January 19, 2021, that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Mesa Biotech for $450 million in cash with payment of an additional $100 million in cash contingent upon the completion of milestones after the transaction closes.


Velano Vascular

Developer of the PIVO needle-free blood draw device, Velano Vascular’s product has become particularly helpful for managing the clinical challenges of the COVID-19 surge in ICUs. Use of PIVO has eased the stress placed on coronavirus patients who need either multiple lab draws per day and allows staff to reliably obtain blood sampling while minimizing the need to access central venous catheters (CVCs) placed in critically ill patients.

Diversity Is Your Competitive Advantage

We live in a time where we want instantaneous gratification, everything at our fingertips, right now, right here! That includes building diverse teams, even when it has not always been a focus for your company. Many organizations of recent are touting the hiring of a Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DE&I) leader, a diverse executive or board member. This is a great first step, but not a long-term solution. Why? DE&I is not about achieving a number, and it is not a short-term fix.

Building a culture that is tolerant, respectful and embraces different ideas is the right DE&I strategy. Why? DE&I is the right lever to achieve your long-term business strategy. Your customers and consumers are diverse, so to understand their needs, to develop the right products and services, the right service delivery, the right innovation culture, you must start by having a team that mirrors your customers and consumers.

Here are some ideas that can help lay the groundwork for the continued building of your team, so that all your employees can thrive and be successful. To develop the right DE&I strategy, there are many levers that you can pull:

  1. It starts with sponsorship from the top. Sponsorship, not to hire the token diverse executive, but to put in place the right components to support the hiring and development of diverse talent.
  2. Build the right, grassroots support. The best way to do this is to develop Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), led by employees, not senior executives.
  3. Develop an inclusive, supportive culture. Start by developing measures of success at all levels. Reinforce it through employee communications and reward mechanisms.
  4. Work with HR to develop the right tools in your succession planning process and your talent development. Make sure your leadership competencies are not biased towards a certain group. Make sure, as you develop these tools and processes, that they are inclusive of different backgrounds and experiences.
  5. Ensure your rewards systems are balanced and have no adverse impact.
  6. Celebrate differences, and publicly acknowledge that differences lead to better understanding of your customers and their needs.
  7. Ensure your innovation and product development processes embrace these differences.

Diversity can be a competitive advantage as most companies unsuccessfully focus on one or two key hires. We stand by ready to support you in this incredibly rewarding journey that will maximize your business outcomes.

- John Staines and John McFarland

2020 Invested Capital – Life Sciences

Despite the many challenges facing the global economy and investors in 2020, they year saw the third consecutive annual increase in invested by VCs, PE firms, and corporates in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies. In total, $487 billion in capital was raised, eclipsing 2019’s approximately $325 billion.

While Pharmaceuticals companies led the way with $180 billion committed in 983 deals, the industry group with the highest deal activity 2020 was Biotechnology with 1,998 (and $105 billion of committed capital). Ranking #2 in both categories were investments in Drug Discovery companies as $130 billion was invested through 1,787 deals.

Several industry stalwarts have seen executive and board changes over the past several months. Among the relevant moves listed, Johnson & Johnson has appointed Dr. Nadja West, former U.S. Army Surgeon General, to its Board, and Novartis's Dr. Srikant Datar has left the board to become Dean of Harvard Business School.


Taysha Gene Therapies, Inc. (NasdaqGS:TSHA)
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NasdaqGS:VRTX)

Taysha Gene Therapies recently reported the appointment of Kathy Reape, M.D., and Laura Sepp-Lorenzino, Ph.D., to the company's board of directors.



Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)
Johnson & Johnson announced that Dr. Nadja West, retired United States Army lieutenant general and former United States Army Surgeon General has been appointed to its Board of Directors. Dr. Nadja West brings decades of strategic and operational experience in national and international executive leadership, strategic planning, and healthcare management. Most recently, Dr. West served as the 44th Army Surgeon General, and Commanding General of the US Army Medical Command from 2015-2019. Prior to that role, Dr. West served as the Joint Staff Surgeon from 2013-2015, Deputy Chief of Staff for Support, US Army Medical Command from 2012-2013, and Commanding General, Europe Regional Medical Command from 2010-2012. Dr. West currently serves as an Independent Director on the Boards of Nucor Corporation and Tenet Healthcare Corporation; serves as a Trustee of the National Recreation Foundation, and Mount St. Mary's University; and as a Board Member of Americares, and The Bob Woodruff Foundation.



Novartis AG (SWX:NOVN)
Novartis AG announced following his appointment as Dean of Harvard Business School as of January 1, 2021, Srikant Datar has decided not to seek another term of office. The newly formed Customer & Technology Solutions (CTS), effective February 1, 2021, will be led by Robert Weltevreden. Chief Digital Officer, Bertrand Bodson, had previously indicated that his next aspiration is towards leading a global business. Therefore, he will step down from the Novartis Executive Committee on February 1, 2021. The Board of Directors intends to designate Simon Moroney as Chairman of the Compensation Committee, subject to his election as a member of the Compensation Committee.


Bayer Aktiengesellschaft (XTRA:BAYN)
The Supervisory Board of Bayer AG announced the appointment of Sarena Lin to the company's Board of Management as of February 1, 2021. Lin will become the company's Chief Transformation and Talent Officer. She will be responsible for Human Resources, Strategy and Business Consulting and drive the accelerated transformation of Bayer. Additionally, she will serve as Labor Director. Lin will be based at the company's headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany. She will join Bayer from Elanco Animal Health Incorporated, where she is a member of the Executive Committee, responsible for the areas of Transformation and Technology. She previously worked in senior positions at McKinsey and Cargill, among others. Lin holds citizenship from the United States of America and Taiwan. She speaks English, Mandarin Chinese and basic German.


Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE)
Pfizer has announced the appointment of Patrick van der Loo as Regional President for Africa and the Middle East (AfME) region. Patrick's Pfizer experience spans more than 20 years in leadership roles with multiple successes across geographies. In his new role as Regional President for AfME, Patrick will lead commercial operations to bring scientific breakthroughs in vaccines, oncology, rare diseases, internal medicine, hospitals, and inflammation & immunology, to serve patients. In his previous role, Patrick served as the Developed Asia Cluster Lead and General Manager for Pfizer's Hospital Business Unit, responsible for leading and executing Pfizer's commercial and cultural strategy in Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.


Sanofi chooses EUROAPI as the name for the future leading European company dedicated to the development, production and marketing of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API). Sanofi also announced the appointment of Karl Rotthier as the EUROAPI future Chief Executive Officer, effective January 18th. Karl Rotthier, 53 years old, is a seasoned leader with a strong API business experience. He was most recently the Chief Executive Officer of Centrient Pharmaceuticals, and had the opportunity throughout his 29-years international career in the Netherands, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Singapore, to also drive operational carve-outs and spin-offs. Karl will lead the creation of EUROAPI together with the new company Management Team towards its growth ambitions. EUROAPI will employ 3,200 skilled employees and be headquartered in France. A planned IPO on Euronext Paris would be evaluated with a decision expected by 2022, subject to market conditions


AbbVie Inc. (NYSE:ABBV)
Carlos Alban has informed AbbVie that he will retire as AbbVie's Vice Chairman, Chief Commercial Officer, effective at the end of the first quarter 2021. Jeffrey R. Stewart, AbbVie's Senior Vice President, U.S. Commercial Operations, will succeed Mr. Alban as Executive Vice President, Commercial Operations.

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