With Alistair Macdonald set to retire after 20 years at Syneos Health, the integrated search solutions company needed someone to take over as CEO. Company management chose to promote Michelle Keefe, currently president of medical affairs and business solutions, for help.
Keefe will take on his new role and responsibilities as CEO during a dynamic time in drug discovery and development. To share her perspective on her career, the fascinating state of the industry, and the road ahead, Keefe tuned into Outsourcing-Pharma.
OSP: You’ve had quite an impressive career in life sciences, including 4.5 years at Syneos Health. Could you please share some of your career highlights and how these roles have prepared you to lead Syneos Health?
MK: I spent over 30 years in the healthcare industry. Since joining Syneos Health in 2017, I have played a critical role in driving the continued transformation of our business activity, including its second consecutive year of double-digit growth expected in 2022. Among other achievements, these include launching Kinetic, our modern customer engagement capability, building integrated solutions such as full-service commercial and medical affairs, and collaborating to drive the growth of Syneos One, our unique end-to-end offering.
Prior to Syneos Health, I was Global Group President and Chief Development Officer of Publicis Health, where I was responsible for the Contract Sales Organization (CSO), Medical Affairs and Specialist Agency functions. Earlier in my career, I spent 20 years at Pfizer, with increasing levels of responsibility culminating as Regional President – collaborating with fellow clinicians to launch meaningful medicines – and leading market development for the service of New York City Visiting Nurses.
All of these positions have allowed me to dissect the work we do through different lenses, preparing me to take on the role of CEO. This opportunity is a milestone – a milestone I’ve been working on my entire career. I am extremely honored to take on this role and look forward to continuing to build on our successes as we accelerate to become a smarter company and a high-performance healthcare leader.
OSP: Please share your views on some of Syneos Health’s key achievements/projects in recent years.
MK: Over the past few years, Syneos Health has made significant progress growing its business and developing innovative, integrated, technology-based offerings, positioning us for long-term success, including:
- The acquisitions of StudyKIK and RxDataScience, which have expanded our digital clinical trial delivery, enhanced our patient engagement strategies, and increased data-driven innovation for our customers.
- Continued strength in our Commercial Solutions segment, which experienced its second consecutive year of double-digit growth.
- Announcing our comprehensive medical affairs service offering, further linking our real-world evidence, health economics and outcomes research, medical science liaisons, medical communications and advice specialized in an integrated solution.
- Strategic initiatives and partnerships with notable organizations to help customers improve access to clinical trials and achieve better patient outcomes, including Science 37, Medable, Ride Health, Komodo Health and Aetion.
- Unveiling of our Site Advocacy Group (SAG) to accelerate decentralized delivery of clinical trials.
- Launched a Patient Voice Consortium to advance behavioral insights and diverse patient perspectives across the product development continuum.
Additionally, to support our long-term success, we strive to lead our industry through our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. As of December 31, 2021, 68% of our total workforce were women and 32% of our employees in the United States identified with minority ethnic groups. Additionally, in 2021, 33% of our new hires in the United States were minorities. To help our diverse workforce thrive, we’ve expanded our Employee Resource Groups to a total of nine in 2022. As our employee footprint continues to grow globally, our ERGs help drive engagement and community.
OSP: In your opinion, what are the most daunting challenges facing drug development and clinical research? So how can companies like Syneos Health help pharmaceutical companies and their research partners overcome these obstacles?
MK: There remains a strong need not only to advance clinical trials to bring studies closer to the patient (regardless of where they live), but also to increase the diversity of clinical trials.
These two challenges are a top priority at Syneos Health. With our innovative expertise in trial design, we aim to create new ways to accelerate patient access, improve retention and increase diversity. Over the past year, we have expanded our capabilities to bring trials closer to patients by providing the best in home nursing services through the Illingworth Research Group.
We also launched our Patient Voice Consortium to better support patients and improve patient outcomes with behavioral insights, especially among underserved and underrepresented populations, and unveiled our Site Advocacy Group (SAG) to accelerate delivery. decentralized clinical trials.
Our acquisition of StudyKIK provides sites and sponsors with access to technology-driven, insight-driven solutions that aim to accelerate clinical trial recruitment, retention and diversity. Additionally, our collaborations with Medable, Science 37, Ride Health, and Elligo Health Research also allow us to bring trials closer to patients and increase diversity in trial participation.
Additionally, Kinetic, our modern engagement capability, includes applied data science, experience strategy, and performance analytics for use in clinical trial patient recruitment, commercialization support, and management. data progress.
OSP: Please tell us about some of the major projects and products/services you will be watching in your new role, and why they are notable.
MK: Today, Syneos Health is no longer a CRO and a CCO. Today, we are an integrated solutions organization that approaches market opportunities with a product development mindset. Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of seeing what our more than 29,000 product development-minded employees can accomplish together to deliver solutions that truly meet our customers’ needs.
As CEO, my commitment to society is that we will continue to build on this momentum, delivering innovative and integrated solutions to meet our customers’ most pressing needs. As a global community of Syneos Health professionals, we will remain committed to protecting patients, developing life-changing therapies, and creating a collaborative and exciting work environment.
I will also focus on accelerating Syneos Health’s integrated value proposition, enabling a smarter business through technology-driven insights. Additionally, I have always believed that attracting and developing talent and building diverse teams is what drives exceptional performance. I will continue our DE&I work and strengthen our Total Self culture so employees can bring their authentic selves to work every day.
OSP: You have promoted Michael Brooks to the new position of COO. Could you please explain why Syneos Health has decided to add this position, and what makes Mr. Brooks the ideal person for this position?
MK: As someone who truly believes in building high performing teams and recognizing top talent, I was thrilled to appoint Michael as the company’s first COO. In this new role, Michael will lead throughout the global product lifecycle, clinical development, medical affairs and commercial all reporting to him. He will have a strong focus on creating greater customer success through integrated solutions and technology-driven knowledge.
Since joining Syneos Health nearly a year ago, Michael has fully immersed himself in our business. He has more than 25 years of experience in clinical development and commercialization and a solid experience in the transformation of business units and companies, the definition of strategies and the implementation of high value-added solutions. His deep industry experience, coupled with what he has accomplished at Syneos Health to date, makes Michael the ideal person to help us achieve our goals for business success.
OSP: Do you have anything to add?
MK: Syneos Health is in a period of considerable growth. As I shared with employees after my appointment, as we enter this next chapter, I know our possibilities are limitless. We are always committed to our customers, offering them proactive solutions to change the lives of patients. And because our employees are our greatest asset, I am equally committed to them and excited to move forward – together.