Bridging the gap between clinical promise and real-world results
Title: President, Real-World and Late-Phase Research
Cynthia Verst was once a Ph.D.-bound biochemistry student, working through structural and cellular biochemistry at the University of Illinois with every intent of staying in academia. Somewhere along the way, however, she became more interested in the practical applications of research than the moon-shot science, and, after a series of conversations with a mentoring professor, she found the PharmD track, an amalgamation of biology, chemistry and real-world medicine that fit her interests.
"And that's where I fell into the good graces of biopharma," she said.
Now, more than 20 years later, Verst makes her living at the same intersection of potential and practicability, leading the Real-World and Late-Phase Research division at Quintiles ($Q), the world's largest CRO.
Quintiles makes most of its money--about $3.8 billion in revenue last year--by handling clinical development for drug and medical device developers the world over, running the trials that help determine whether such products win regulatory approvals and make their way to patients.
But the process hardly ends there. Whether a drug secures formulary approval or reimbursement is of vital importance to its market potential, and stakeholders increasingly expect sophisticated real-world data from life sciences companies when weighing those decisions.
That's where Verst comes in. She's in charge of the company's fastest-growing business, one that specializes in running post-market studies, creating patient registries, pooling outcomes data, keeping tabs on real-world safety and charting health economics. And it's a sizable operation: Over the past 10 years, Quintiles has worked on more than 1,000 late-phase studies, and the company's in-house database hosts roughly 60 million patient records.
And for Verst, who came to Quintiles in 2011, the benefits of real-world data extend beyond drugs already approved. Across the industry, the smartest companies are thinking about outcomes earlier and earlier in the process, she said, a trend that will help bring about better medicines for unmet needs.
"If you think about a biotech company looking to bring a drug to market, even if it's preclinical, it's really worthwhile to start with the end in mind," Verst said. "What are those barriers to entry from a pricing and reimbursement perspective? What is the hurdle to be overcome?"
And Verst, a veteran of Procter & Gamble's ($PG) pharma business, applies that same forward-thinking philosophy to her career. Through two decades in the industry, Verst has seen more and more women in decision-making positions, and, as "success begets success," that trend has helped her get to where she is.
Now, as a leader in her own right, Verst wants to make sure she's there to provide a mentoring voice to the next generation, much like the professor who steered her toward pharmaceuticals back in college.
"When I hang my hat one day, walking out of my building, knowing that my career is sunsetted, I'm not going to remember EPS impact or whether I met my net new business goals but rather the notion of helping and fostering mentorship," she said. "That's what's important."
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-- Damian Garde (email | Twitter)