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Willis Chandler, who previously led AmerisourceBergen’s (AB) health systems and specialty services organization, was recently named the organization’s president of biopharma services, strategic global sourcing and commercial solutions. Under his leadership, AB has integrated its patient services, innovative field solutions and consulting into one team.
Here, Chandler talks to Pharma Commerce about his vision for his new role, the investments AB is making to build out its capabilities, and its new cell and gene therapy (CGT) service line.
Chandler: Since I stepped into this new role, I’ve been fortunate to work more closely with our biopharma partners and dig deeper into the challenges they face in today’s dynamic healthcare environment. Through these conversations, one theme continues to emerge: biopharma companies want to work with a partner that understands the unique characteristics of their product and can deliver best-in-class support to simplify challenges across the commercialization journey.
One of my top priorities is identifying how we can continue to evolve and expand our services to increase the value we offer to biopharma companies and help them achieve the outcomes they desire—whether that is bringing a product to market in the US or Europe, accelerating patient access to a prescribed therapy or improving patient adherence to medication. We are focused on strengthening our portfolio of end-to-end global commercialization services through investments, strategic partnerships and innovative solutions to help our partners maximize product success and increase patient access.
I mentioned our focus on enhancing the support we offer biopharma companies across the commercialization journey. We are also prioritizing strategies and solutions that make it easier for companies to work with us and access our market-leading capabilities.
We know our partners value the services we provide—from outcomes research and economic modelling to patient services, reimbursement support and global market access consulting. We saw an opportunity to pull the expertise and capabilities across patient services, innovative field solutions and consulting into a unified offering—one that enables us to be more efficient and deliver an improved customer experience. Through this new alignment, we created one biopharma-facing team that can represent all of our capabilities. The move better positions us to serve as a consultative partner in which we can determine how best to leverage the breadth of AmerisourceBergen’s services and capabilities to meet the specific needs of our partners—no matter where their product is in the lifecycle.
More than anything, this new alignment reflects our commitment to continually elevate and evolve our capabilities to deliver an industry-leading customer experience. Biopharma companies are at the forefront of medical innovation—working daily to bring innovative new products, such as cell and gene therapies, to market. As their partner, we’re focused on making decisions and investments that better position us to help them overcome challenges, bring products to market and accelerate patient access to critical therapies. Since we integrated the groups into one team, we’ve heard positive feedback from our partners about their experience working with us. As we look ahead, our evolution as a partner will continue to be shaped, in part, by the conversations we have with biopharma companies about their needs, challenges and opportunities.
As the global pharmaceutical market continues to increase, we’re making important investments to expand our international consulting capabilities, particularly in Europe. While the US market is complicated by the sheer number of payers and reimbursement designs, the European market requires companies to navigate varying regulations and requirements across the different countries. As companies are developing their market access strategies, it’s critically important they understand the factors that influence the approval and decision-making processes related reimbursement, coverage and pricing.
We have an experienced team of consultants across Europe who are experts in real-world evidence and HEOR and provide valuable market access support. Given their expertise and deep understanding of the market, they are uniquely positioned to help biopharma companies build effective strategies to support product launches and maximize patient access. We’re making investments to increase our team and capabilities in existing and new markets, particularly as more of our partners look to bring products to market in Europe.
We’re also exploring opportunities to build on our market-leading patient support services. Today, our teams leverage automation and AI to power services that help us increase speed-to-therapy, support patient adherence and facilitate real-time data sharing between providers and hub service teams. Our goal is to increase automation across the provider workflow and patient journey to simplify patient access services, improve outcomes and create a more seamless experience for physicians.
Cell and gene therapies represent a rapidly growing segment within the specialty pharmaceutical market. Clinical trials for these therapies account for 10 percent of early-stage (Phase I or Phase II) clinical activity, and involve products intended for diseases with high unmet patient needs—offering tremendous hope for patients worldwide. However, the path from development to commercialization and, ultimately, patient access is lined with challenges that can restrict or delay market access and prevent patients from receiving the therapies they need.
As more CGT products move through the early development stages, we’re focused on enhancing the end-to-end support we provide CGT innovators and developing new solutions to help address needs of patients, providers, and payers. As part of our commitment, we formally established a new Cell and Gene Therapy service line, which will be led by Lung-I Cheng, PhD, who recently joined AmerisourceBergen as vice president of Cell and Gene Therapy. His deep understanding of the CGT market and experience in biopharma will be incredibly valuable as we evolve our capabilities as a partner and advance our CGT strategy. He will work with teams across AmerisourceBergen to build upon our existing CGT capabilities and develop new solutions that help innovators bring these products to market and ensure they reach the patients who need them. We are laser-focused on enhancing our technology and data integration and establishing a forward-looking team model so we can work with our customers in lockstep. Our goal is to build a robust CGT solution that can be tailored to the specific needs of biopharma companies, providers and the patients they serve.
AmerisourceBergen has a presence in more than 50 countries worldwide, with a particularly deep reach in North America and across Europe. Our geographic footprint coupled with our distribution capabilities and portfolio of commercialization services enable us to provide unique support to biopharma companies globally. We deliver services across the product lifecycle—from clinical supply support and commercial drug storage and distribution to market access consulting services.
One example that underscores our global capabilities is the role our teams have played in distributing COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. Through our network of businesses, including Alliance Healthcare, World Courier and Innomar Strategies, we’ve distributed more than 100 million COVID-19 vaccines across 30-plus countries and played a critical role in supporting clinical trials for COVID-19 therapies and vaccines.
As I mentioned earlier, more of our biopharma partners are looking to bring products to market in Europe. We’re well-positioned to support their needs due, in part, to our recent acquisition of Alliance Healthcare, a leading distributor of healthcare products in Europe. For example, we can offer differentiated value across the commercialization journey by integrating our consulting services with Alliance Healthcare’s manufacturer solutions and distribution capabilities. Through our joint capabilities and extensive reach across Europe, we can simplify challenges across the commercialization journey, help our biopharma partners maximize success and ensure crucial products reach providers and the patients they serve.