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‘Swimming in Partner Soup:’ 2018 ASAP BioPharma Keynote Addresses Challenges of Tech Collaboration on Prescription Digital Therapeutics (Part 1)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dr. Corey McCann is a man who wears many hats—scrubs, academic cap, campaigner, jester, and even hardhat. As the first of two keynote speakers at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference “Creating Value and Innovative Partnerships by Driving the Alliance Mindset,” Sept. 24-26 in Boston, Massachusetts USA, he provided a lively presentation in which he showed the audience how he switches his hats with aplomb. In his captivating talk, “Lost in Translation: Communication, Confusion, and Consensus in Strategic Alliances,” the physician, scientist, entrepreneur, healthcare investor, and founder/CEO of Boston-based Pear Therapeutics, Inc., delved into the timely but tough topic of the alliance management interface between biopharma and tech.

Colleague Brooke Paige, CSAP and vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics, introduced McCann by lauding his many “heroic” accomplishments as founder of several startups, a trained boxer with endless energy, and highly approachable executive whom colleagues nicknamed “Snacks” because he rarely stops for a full meal.

McCann then delivered a clever, sometimes humorous, talk from the C-suite about the small, innovative company’s partnering with big companies in their quest to pioneer prescription digital therapeutics for the treatment of serious diseases, including addictions.  The cognitive behavioral therapy-based treatment is software that comes with a doctor’s prescription. The software responds and morphs over time, according to the needs of the patient. The downloaded product requires an access code from the physician.

“We are swimming in partner soup,” announced McCann as he talked about the challenges of Pear’s ample pipeline, which involves 10 products that require separate approvals from the FDA because of the unique framework of prescription digital therapeutics. “You will see us aggressively partnering across all of these verticals,” he continued, while flashing a slide of Pear’s pipeline.

Alliance management at Pear must bridge two distinctive worlds. Pear’s team is “half and half,” he explained: pharma is based in the Boston area; tech is based in the San Francisco Bay area. “We brought these two very disparate sets of people together” in one company—but to do that required a lot of effort to enable tech and pharma to understand the lingo of each’s area of work.   

“One of the things I would like to interweave into this talk is this idea of communication between alliance partners, and nonverbal cues, and how we are productive or nonproductive,” he said, while providing the example of etiquette surrounding the exchange of business card. “Even for those of us who think we have a handle on this very basic skill—this handing of paper to another human being—there is ambiguity.”

“How do entirely different disciplines communicate?” he asked the audience.  “There is an interface between tech and biotech. How tech people communicate with one another is very different than how biotech people communicate with each other.”

People in the two industries dress differently, he then explained. A person in the Bay area might “eat avocado toast and ride a scooter to work. … If I’m interacting with the tech team, I make sure to pet their dogs they bring to the office,” he explained in a sea of laughter from the audience. “One of my personal favorite examples is this issue of language. When pulling Pear together, we used the acronym API—which means Application Program Interface in tech, but for biotech, it means something different”—Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient.

It actually took a while for the two teams to figure out this discrepancy, he explained, again as the audience rippled with laughter. But in the end, the two industries found the glue that holds them together: “Impacting the patient. That is the rallying cry for us. That is how we approach partnership—through good and bad.”

Stay tuned for more of ASAP Media’s coverage of Pear CEO Corey McCann’s keynote and other sessions at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference.  

Tags:  2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference  Alliance management  Alliance Mindset  biopharma  Brooke Paige  cognitive behavioral therapy  creating value  C-suite  Dr. Corey McCann  partnering  Pear Therapeutics  prescription digital therapeutics  software  Strategic Alliances  tech 

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