Monday, November 22, 2010

Executive Spotlight: Cheryl Hankin, Founder and CSO of BioMedEcon

Cheryl Hankin
Cheryl Hankin, Ph.D., is the founder of BioMedEcon and serves as the company's president and chief scientific officer.

Hankin’s experience in health economics and outcomes research includes roles as director of outcomes research Johnson & Johnson companies, assistant professor at Boston University School of Public Health and research health scientist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence.

BioMedEcon provides health economics and outcomes research for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, drug delivery and medical device companies. Hankin offers extensive experience in comparative effectiveness research, competitive product analysis, and pricing, coverage and reimbursement.

Q: It looks like your career has spanned the industry, academia and the public sector. What led you to start BioMedEcon?

A: Several years ago, I was in the public sector working with post-traumatic stress disordered veterans in the VA system and noticed that they weren’t getting better. It occurred to me that we had large scale claims databases that provided all sorts of information about the types of care, medications, surgeries, procedures these patients received. This was maybe 15 or 20 years ago and I said, “Why not mine this information to find out what works best for these patients?”

Q: At the time were you involved in patient care?

A: Yes, I was a clinical psychologist working primarily with extremely traumatized patients. I was so interested in identifying best practices for these patients that I applied for and received grant funding from the VA to complete dual post-doctoral fellowships in health services research and mental health. I became a research scientist at the VA Health Services Research and Development Centers of Excellence, where my interests broadened to include other illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. I had very early and excellent training in this field before it was in vogue.

Q: How did your career progress from there?

A: ALZA Corp., a drug delivery technology company, had a need for a health economics and outcomes researcher. This was my first foray into private industry. ALZA was acquired by J&J and I joined J&J to head up outcomes research for one of their companies on the East Coast.

Prior to receiving my doctorate, I was a corporate accountant working with Silicon Valley hi-tech start-ups. I really enjoy that entrepreneurial energy and longed to return to it. So, in 2004, I started my own company and I have never looked back. Health economics and outcomes research is the perfect combination of my skills and interests in patient care, research, corporate finance and marketing.

Q: What is the primary focus at BioMedEcon today?

A: We work with new and emerging companies as well as well-established pharmaceutical manufacturers to identify and demonstrate the value of their products. The therapeutic “space” we work within includes respiratory disease, acute and chronic pain, dermatology, diabetes, obesity, endocrinology and psychiatry. Our clients find us solely by word-of-mouth referrals based on the recommendations of those who know our work, and our client relationships are long-standing.

Q: What kinds of questions are you answering?

A: In this highly competitive and cost-conscious environment, we serve as the bridge between clinical research and commercialization with answers to questions such as: What is the unique value proposition of our client’s product and what is the most meaningful manner in which to demonstrate this value to health plans, providers and patients? Our mission is to optimize product access, coverage, pricing and reimbursement. We collaborate closely with public and private payers, clinical opinion leaders, high prescribers and patient advocacy groups to ensure that these value propositions are meaningful and compelling.

Q: How, then, do you go about demonstrating that value?

A: We use a variety of techniques to demonstrate value. We may re-examine clinical trial data, create study protocols, identify additional endpoints for inclusion in pivotal trials, conduct market research with payers and providers, prepare systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses, develop pharmacoeconomic models, convene expert panels and advisory boards, examine large-scale retrospective databases, develop and validate measures, conduct chart reviews—the possibilities for creative approaches are endless. We also develop and implement publication and presentation plans to ensure that these compelling and meaningful results are appropriately disseminated.

Q: With comparative effectiveness an important piece of the health reform legislation, what’s happening in this area for BioMedEcon?

A: It’s certainly a burgeoning field, and we are seeing a growing interest in our capabilities from new types of  "consumers." For example, physician groups and professional associations have asked us to help them demonstrate their ability to provide "accountable care." In another case, a professional medical society has asked us to identify patient and provider characteristics associated with variation in patient adherence to treatment. In yet another example, a healthcare institution has just asked us to examine risk factors associated with the occurrence of specific “never events” (adverse events that should never happen and that are not reimbursed by CMS, such as hospital-acquired infections). So, our client-base now extends beyond the traditional pharmaceutical industry. I believe this is due to both the potentially broad impact of health reform legislation on all sectors of healthcare delivery and to our proven track record in demonstrating value.

Q: What keeps you awake at night?

A: I love the work that we do. I stay awake at night not because I’m worried or unhappy, but because I get carried away with the intricate and delightful puzzles we are presented with. I may be thinking about an economic or financial forecasting model, or a presentation we’re preparing, and before I know it, the hours have slipped away. I’m very lucky. I can’t think of a more enjoyable occupation.

CHI-Advancing California biomedical research and innovation

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