The pandemic has led to soul searching for many people, especially when reflecting on their passions and priorities. While some business leaders might view this as unsettling for their organizations, I was reminded by this Forbes article that leaders have a responsibility to find the positive in challenging situations. We know organizations are only as good as their people, and so as we get back to a new normal, we have a unique opportunity to transform the workplace for our employees. The article hinges on three key pieces of advice for providing the best employee experience: embrace disruption, tap full-brain potential, and provide a safe place for employees. For Vertex, these three points all come back to one thing — nurturing a culture fueled by enterprise-wide innovation where all employees can thrive.
Innovation is one of our core values at Vertex and permeates throughout our business. Most visibly, our scientists embrace innovation — be it new modalities and technologies or collaborations combined with internal expertise — with the ambition to improve the lives of patients through the development of innovative medicines. But scratch the surface and innovation is not limited to our scientific strategy. It’s a global mindset embraced by all our functions across geographies. That is why we say, “innovation is our lifeblood.”
Forging partnerships to deliver novel solutions
Exemplifying our innovative approach outside of the lab, in Summer 2020 we launched the Mucolab call for projects in partnership with the French Cystic Fibrosis Society (SFM). Mucolab set out to unearth solutions that might contribute to reducing the burden of disease for patients living with cystic fibrosis (CF), optimizing the patient care pathway from CF centers in hospitals and into patients' homes.
Working with SFM and an expert jury, we invited innovative start-ups from the French technology sector to submit their proposed solutions. After evaluating ideas from a shortlist of applicants, AdScientiam was selected for their MuCopilot solution, a smartphone-enabled self-measurement and remote monitoring tool that allows patients and health care professionals to remotely measure relevant clinical biomarkers to track CF progression in real time. Working in partnership with SFM and AdScientiam, Vertex is committed to helping develop and implement MuCopilot, contributing €500,000 over 3 years to deliver a meaningful solution to the patients we serve.
Introducing decentralized clinical trials
As technology evolves and events such as COVID-19 accelerate the push towards virtual interactions, the traditional clinical trial model that requires patients to do all their assessments and tests at a physical site visit may not always be possible. One solution is decentralized clinical trials (DCTs) that provide efficiencies to study sites that are often busy, support conducting trials quicker, and recruit patients more effectively. To date, our clinical trials have required high touchpoints from physicians, which required our clinical teams to think creatively when it came to moving towards a model of DCTs. Key strategies our clinical teams employed that allowed this innovation and success included:
Home health nurse visits for when touchpoints are required.
E-consent, which simplifies the process of securing consent.
Early engagement with trial sites to ensure they are involved and engaged in the study.
Running successful DCTs was made possible by our teams who identified some of the key areas of concern for study sites, such as being overwhelmed by the number of tools required in trials. We embraced the disruption the pandemic has thrown at us to pilot solutions that will benefit us, our study sites, and patients well into the future.
What’s more, through nurturing a safe environment that empowers people to be their authentic selves, question the status quo and speak up, we encourage our teams to embrace challenges and setbacks to further drive innovation. Although ultimately successful, implementing DCTs required resilience and this crucial capacity to persevere through challenges. For example, the first 10 patients could not log into the e-consent platform, but our innovation culture meant we understood the issue and tried again with success.
Innovation is paramount to deliver uncompromising commitment to patients
Fostering a culture of enterprise-wide innovation — whether that’s mobilizing in response to the pandemic to ensure business continuity or collaborating with external partners on a shared mission for the patients we serve — takes passion, resilience and a willingness to disrupt norms. Much like our ability to learn from challenges and setbacks, our innovation journey at Vertex is one we will continue to learn and evolve from. As we adapt and transform for the success of our people and to deliver solutions for patients one thing won’t change — innovation will always remain at our core.