Getting Schooled on MedTech: How This Biotech Buff Made the Switch

I will never forget the interview process for my first professional job as an Account Coordinator at Dorland Sweeney Jones, a health care public relations firm. I was fresh out of college and knew nothing about health care. My soon-to-be boss told me to seriously consider whether I wanted to get into health care PR, because once I did, I would be niched and never get out.

(I got the job, circa 2000)

Almost 20 years later, I can confirm she was right, and I couldn’t be happier that she was! I can’t envision myself practicing PR outside of health care, and what I love about it (among many things) is the diversity of the work. Even when you think you’ve seen it all, something new comes along. That’s a lesson I am still learning today, given my recent switch to medtech PR.

Most of my career has been spent in pharma and biotech. At Dorland, I managed clients like Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb, and more than one now non-existent biotech company. I also spent nine years at Genentech/Roche where I lived and breathed biotech 24 hours a day. I was completely immersed, from which reporters were covering what, to what new antibody drug conjugate trials were posted on clinicaltrials.gov. Even my jewelry was biotech – packing essentials for a medical meeting were comfy (but stylin’) flats and my DNA helix necklace.

 

I made the switch from biotech to medical devices by joining Abbott. But as the head of Public Affairs for an ophthalmology business, I became singularly focused on ophthalmology, and never really became engrossed in the medical device sector the way I was previously in biotech. (Go ahead, ask me something about corneal cross-linking!)

This was all well and fine until May 2017 when I joined Health+Commerce. We are a PR firm with expertise in medical devices and related technologies in fields ranging from cardiovascular disease to diabetes to men’s health. I knew devices and diagnostics from my days at Abbott and Roche, and at first, I thought there would be more similarities than differences. And in large part, that’s the case. But all of the sudden, there was a whole new world of reporters, thought leaders, industry and professional groups, regulatory guidelines, obscure acronyms (“AF” in cardiology means something totally different, ahem)…As the PR Practice Leader, I needed to get up to speed QUICK! Who knew health care could be so complicated?

(Point proven.)

And so get up to speed quickly, I did. With a little help from my friends, I found a ton of great resources that have been tremendously informative – my new “go-to sources” every morning while I drink coffee at my desk before the kids get up.

It’s a small health care world out there, so I thought I’d share my list of top medical device resources for anyone who finds themselves in a similar position as me – moving from pharma/biotech to medtech/devices. It’s just a start – suggestions encouraged.

Happy reading!

Must reads/follows:

  • BioWorld MedTech – formerly Medical Device Daily, this is my “read this thing if I can only read one thing.” The downside is that it’s subscription-based, but that’s a trend now for good reporting, for better or worse.
  • Medtech Strategist and Medtech Insight –  also subscription. Great for in-depth trend stories, especially when you really need to get granular on a topic, disease area, competitive space, etc.
  • Qmed – though this site says it’s for medical suppliers, the news section does a great job on original content covering the broad medical device space, and has some veteran device writers on staff who really know their stuff.
  • AdvaMed Smart Brief – daily newsletter from the medical device industry group (think PhRMA, BIO). Free and in my inbox daily! Also great for keeping up on deals and financings.
  • Healio on Twitter (@GoHealio) – a variety of med device news across multiple disease states and specialties.
  • Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) – the FDA may be all about Scott Gottlieb right now, but building a deeper understanding of the branch of the FDA regulating your company or clients is always a good idea. (Next up for me is learning more about the FDA’s new Digital Health Innovation Action Plan). Here are the relevant Twitter handles:
  • GenomeWeb – a great way to get my daily high-science / genomics fix!
  • BusinessWire – I set up my preferences to receive relevant corporate press releases every day.  Great way to keep track of competitors. If you use BW, be sure to set this daily email up!
  •  MedtechWomen – medtech isn’t any different from pharma/biotech in terms of a gender gap, especially in senior positions, but this group is working hard to change that and is led by some of the most powerful women in the business I’ve met, including several CEOs. I can’t wait to attend the annual MedtechVision 2017 conference this month!

Consumer media covering the space in unexpected ways:

Just as there are blurry lines between pharma and biotech these days, so are there subtle differences between what you might call medical devices vs. medtech. But one thing is clear: unlike pharma, medical devices are embracing technology and digital health as a MUST HAVE component for success, and incorporating consumer design, wearables and software into their innovations. And many of these companies are start-ups, adding another level of entrepreneurship to the mix. So I’ve added outlets like these to my daily reading:

When you just can’t let go of biotech:

Of course, I have to keep at least one foot in biotech – it’s my passion. But since I don’t have the same amount of time to spend keeping track of all things biotech every day, I generally limit myself to these two “at-a-glance” but indispensable resources:

  • Timmerman Report– Footprints is hands down (see what I did there?!?) my favorite read of the week. At $149/year, it’s a steal.
  • Endpoints News – Another free newsletter in my inbox every day!

Would love to hear your thoughts on any other go-to resources in the medtech and device space. And in case you were wondering, the woman who gave me that advice to be careful about a career in health care PR is still in it herself, of course.

– Krysta Pellegrino

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