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MSC Nordics

Team profile: Magha Ranjan

By | Company update | No Comments

Megha Ranjan has just joined us as a management consultant. She has an interesting background, both from dentistry and medical affairs at big pharma Bayer India. Now based in Stockholm, Megha brings 6+ years of experience in the biopharma industry ranging from forecasting to competitive intelligence and M&A due diligence projects. Before joining MSC in April, she worked with a medtech supporting launch of a new technology in the infusions market. Welcome Megha!

Can you tell us about your background?

Hi, my name is Megha. I have a diverse and unusual background in life sciences – not the common route of planning on being a consultant from age three. Instead, my career has been shaped by my appreciation of the idea that “anything is possible if you have got the nerve.”

I am Indian, and it is in India I finished my bachelor’s in dental surgery. At that time, I was motivated and determined to use my newly learned skills and knowledge of medicine in the community. I therefore steered my education towards the public health sector and completed my master’s in healthcare management. My professional career began when working with some of the key large scale public health programs in India addressing women and child healthcare, AIDS and tuberculosis.

During this time, I became fascinated by the pharmaceutical industry and later switched to the other side of the table by joining the Women’s healthcare medical affairs team at Bayer India. I gained a range of experience working with medico-marketing, medical information, observational studies and publications management. I also had the opportunity to learn the art of strategy and product branding. During my time at Bayer, I became more and more interested in the strategic planning and strategy execution behind launching new drugs to patients. Especially, in the combination of the macros such as strategy and the micros such as analytics, clinical trial preparations and regulatory preparations that really is the foundation of a drug launch. This brought me to life sciences consulting world.

I have been a consultant for more than four years now, and it has provided me with the opportunities to work in different geographies, with big, mid- and small-sized biotech companies. I have learnt the art of valuations of life sciences ventures and the due diligence processes which goes into valuations, go-to-market strategies and portfolio evaluations. I appreciate that my experiences have helped me grow and explore the different aspects of the life sciences industry as a whole and opportunities to use my acquired knowledge in a range of industry verticals.

“I have been most proud of not restricting myself to a particular domain. I have been able to grow, excel and navigate through the challenges in the different roles I have had.”

Why did you choose to join MSC?

Having previously worked predominantly in the US and EU5 markets, I found it appealing that MSC is involved in the Nordic Life Sciences industry. Also, that they work on a wide range and variety of strategic projects for early-stage assets/drugs in different therapy areas.

It was also important to me that MSC reflected the values and culture I had been looking for when continuing my professional journey.

What do you look forward to most in joining MSC?

I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with my colleagues and at the same time learn from them and their experiences which will enable us all to grow together as professionals. I also look forward to the fun we will have along this exciting journey and working with the multi-cultural team which will help me grow personally too.

What are you most proud of in your professional life thus far?

In my professional life, I have been most proud of not restricting myself to a particular domain. I have been able to grow, excel and navigate through the challenges in the different roles I have had.  Keeping up with this tradition, I am determined to continue to excel and grow in my current role too.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy reading preferably history, historical fiction, cooking, swimming, painting, movies (diligently follow Marvel Universe and Star Wars) and video games.

Megha Ranjan, management consultant
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Clinician treat bipolar patient

A clinician’s perspective on bipolar – not all innovations hit gold

By | Business Development | No Comments

When working in the biotech industry, it’s easy to keep a sole focus on the discoveries and innovations that could revolutionize whole treatment landscapes. But how well do biotech executives know the needs of patients, caregivers, and physicians? Do innovations meet the actual needs, are there obstacles other than pricing, or are all improvements just welcomed? We asked our colleague Tatiane, a former clinical psychiatrist, about her perspective on some of the most debilitating psychiatric diseases. First out: bipolar disease.

Imagine the average Tuesday morning in a psychiatric emergency room, there’s a new patient called Maria. Maria is a 32-year-old architect that explains that she’s been monitored by the FBI for the last couple of months, and lately, they’ve been sending agents to observe her from the roofs of her neighbors’ houses. When she goes to work every morning, she knows they are sending someone to follow her every movement and send the information to the US government. They also have access to her computer and mobile, and she’s sure they have bugged her house, even though she couldn’t find any devices when she dismantled most of her furniture. She explains that the monitoring started when they found out she could time travel, moving to certain points in the past or the future, as she wishes. All she needed was a quiet place and a bit of concentration. Maria is certain that this power can be a useful tool for the FBI, but she is not sure if they want to recruit her as an agent or use her as a “lab rat” to understand the origin of her power to try to reproduce it in other people. She explained that she was sleeping on average 1-2 hours per night the last week, and while describing her situation she is very agitated.

One of many many patients

Maria was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 five years ago. She went through several months of depression, started taking antidepressants, and after only a few weeks presented an episode of mania. At the time she was full of energy, had no need for sleep, was talkative, and eventually started believing she had time travel powers. Since then, she received the prescription for an effective antipsychotic drug that makes her lose her power, forget about the FBI, and live a relatively ordinary life. Maria felt so well that two times since the diagnosis, she stopped taking her pills because she didn’t feel the need to keep treating a disease that doesn’t exist anymore. Besides, her mouth is always dry, and she had gained weight, and it can only be because of the medicine. The last time she took the pills was three months before the emergency visit.

There are so many Maria-type patients in the daily life of a psychiatrist. It is unthinkable that there aren’t better therapeutic solutions for these patients at this day and age. Although many of today’s drugs are effective in controlling the symptoms, bipolar disorder is still one of the most challenging diseases to maintain long-term stability.

So, despite having a technology that, on paper, could revolutionize the treatment regimen and is proven to work isn’t enough to change the treatment landscape. There are many more aspects to be considered for true success.

Digitizing therapies

Recently, new technologies have been developed focusing on better treatment response, adherence improvement, or complementary therapy solutions.

In 2017, the US FDA approved the first digital medicine that was based on the established antipsychotic drug, Abilify, used mainly for schizophrenia and manic episodes in bipolar disorder type 1. The smart pill, called Abilify MyCite, has an ingestible sensor that transmits information about the if and when of ingestion to a mobile app and a web-based portal. The idea of this smart pill is to solve the common non-adherence issue within psychiatric diseases by giving caregivers and physicians access to the information, so interventions can be made before the patient gets into a risky situation. Abilify MyCite is still available in the US but the company behind the sensor technology, Proteus Digital Health, filed for bankruptcy in 2020. This after raising almost 500 million dollars and having a valuation in the billion range. So, despite having a technology that, on paper, could revolutionize the treatment regimen and is proven to work isn’t enough to change the treatment landscape. There are many more aspects to be considered for true success.

Several other technologies have been developed and tested for mental health monitoring. Smartphones and smartwatches, for instance, have been used to analyze patients’ lives and behavior with the aim to find connections between people’s routine and their mental status. Information about physical activity, sleep quality, and changes in the device usage pattern can be used to identify red flags; as well as camera, keyboard, and audio data can help to identify psychiatric symptoms. An ongoing collaboration between Apple, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Biogen has studied data from iPhones and Apple Watch of 20,000 participants to identify links between device usage and cognitive function. Patients with different diagnoses could benefit from this type of monitoring, such as dementia, depression, bipolar disorder, substance addiction, and anxiety disorders. But naturally, those mental health tracking systems are controversial, have raised privacy questions, and typically require the consent of the person being monitored.

What can go wrong?

There are several drawbacks from both a medical and commercial perspective that must be regarded when looking at new technologies in the psychiatric space. The smart pill is expensive to develop, and the drug-sensor combination costs almost three times of what the same branded anti-psychotic in its regular form costs, and several times the generics price. Additionally, the reimbursement landscape can be complex with digital therapies. But most importantly, would it be the best way to address the non-adherence issue for this population?

Patients with schizophrenia and severe cases of bipolar disorder not rarely have a persecutory delusion, the idea of being followed, monitored, or having an unwanted and non-authorized microchip installed in their bodies is many times part of their delusions. How would the idea of ingesting a sensor that transmits information to an app resonate with our patient Maria, for instance?

Terms like digital medicine, software as a treatment, software as a medical device, virtual care, and smart pills, for instance, have emerged in the last years and indicate the industry’s interest in finding solutions to improve the established medical treatments using technology. Several acquisitions, licensing deals, and collaboration agreements involving start-ups and big pharma companies show that the most traditional players have already started focusing on innovative solutions.

What’s next?

The treatments available for bipolar disorder today work well and control the symptoms most of the time, if taken as prescribed. However, the challenge of treatment adherence remains. Bipolar patients often rationalize why they stop following their treatment regime of which the top reasons include:

  • the feeling that the medicine is no longer needed,
  • experiencing uncomfortable adverse side effects,
  • the feeling that they were better (more confident and more powerful) in hypomanic/manic state, or
  • the feeling that they are too depressed and hopeless about a long-term solution.

So, how should the issue of treatment adherence be addressed? What would make Maria and so many other bipolar patients adhere to the treatment for long-term stability and a chance at an ordinary life? Technological innovations have a great potential to revolutionize medicine, but a crucial step in the innovation journey is to understand the actual needs of patients, caregivers, and clinicians. Only then can innovations that truly change the treatment landscape succeed and give these patients a chance at a long, stable regular life.

By: Tatiane Abreu Dall’Agnol, Associate at MSC Nordics

Tatiane is a medical doctor and has worked as a clinical psychiatrist in several public and private institutions in Brazil, including outpatients’ consultations, psychosocial center care, psychiatric emergency care, and hospitalization.