Agency rides the rare-disease wave


Siren Interactive hires more executives, moves to downtown Chicago

Siren Interactive, a relatively small agency specializing in rare-disease therapies marketing, is taking some big steps forward as its business continues to grow. The company has hired Suzanne Tsuchiya, an industry veteran formerly with the agencies Abelson Taylor and closerlook, as president; also Neil Rubenstein, a 15-year veteran of the agency business, as senior manager, media and analytics. Two other appointments were also announced. Wendy White, founder of Siren, remains as CEO; this year she is also the president-elect of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Assn., and member of the board of the Global Genes Project. At the same time, the company is moving from Oak Park, IL, to downtown Chicago.

Siren Interactive performs many conventional services for pharma manufacturers, including strategy, digital marketing and agency-of-record status. But the company has also spearheaded activities that dominate rare-disease therapy development: patient advocacy; community engagement; even patient recruitment programs. Its latest service offerings include: patient advocacy landscape assessment, early stage patient engagement, influencer mapping, and clinical study recruitment acceleration.

One of the hallmarks of the rare disease category (which is traditionally defined as diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 patients in the US, but includes “ultra-orphan” diseases with a few hundred or few thousand patients) is that drug developers have learned the value of working closely with patient-advocacy groups both to develop suitable drugs and to manage what for many is an intense, chronic condition. Rare diseases are also an environment where some patient-advocacy groups play a leading role in funding development programs and even commercializing some drugs. At the same time, manufacturers have identified rare diseases as a market opportunity where competition is less intense, FDA approvals can be streamlined, and drug pricing can be robust. Rare-disease therapies accounted for a third of FDA drug approvals in 2012.

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