The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Tag Archives: Social Media

Biotech Trends in 2011: Social Media in Biotech and Healthcare

Use of social media by pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, and industry observers will continue to grow in scale, value and importance this year. The emergence of Twitter as a public health surveillance tool and the pending (still pending…) release of the FDA’s social media guidelines will contribute to this growth in the short term, and we’ll continue to keep an eye on novel developments.

This post is the first in a series briefly outlining the biotech industry trends we’ve been following on the blog and noting some recent developments, plus directions for 2011.

Biotech Trends Update — Social Media for Biotechs: Building Momentum Toward Critical Mass

In December, I wrote a post listing the top 3 reasons biotech companies should use social media and noted that we would be following adoption and use of social media by biotechs as one of our Trends in 2010.

The 2010 Dose of Digital Dosie Awards held voting for finalists this week, including for Best Facebook Page, Best YouTube Channel, Best Twitter Feed and Best Blog (in a number of categories).  The pharma and healthcare social media wiki that Dose of Digital maintains is a growing list, but still doesn’t include very many biotech companies. 

So, why haven’t we seen more social media among biotechs? 

Is it fear of FDA admonishment?  This blog post/video clip from Future of Pharma spends some time blaming the FDA’s evolving social media policy.  If the FDA were the problem, though, pharma companies wouldn’t be moving into social networking either.  But they are.

Is it fear of creating reporting obligations because of casual mentions of adverse events?  Looking at one community shows that a significant number of reportable adverse events could be unearthed; but Dose of Digital doesn’t view this as a risk or an excuse for avoiding social media, and explains why here.

The real answer is simpler: the value of a social network is the network.  Until a critical mass of biotechs seed a social media presence, most other companies will not realize sufficient value in being online themselves.

The critical mass is starting to build: Michael Gilman, the Founder/CEO of Stromedix is on Twitter, as is Richard Pops, the CEO of Alkermes.  On Twitter, they interact with investors, journalists and patient communities; which points out that it’s not just a critical mass of other biotechs that creates social media value. 

For example, the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is running a series of ads on Facebook to recruit patients to its trials; one of their sites is using Craigslist and individual patients are reporting about their experiences with the trials on blogs and on Facebook.  The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the McGill University Health Centre are also using social media for outreach.

My bottom line: social media will be an increasingly common tool for biotech companies in business development, corporate communications, patient recruitment and for employee recruitment and development.  The sooner you start the more expertise you’ll have.

Trends Update — Social Media: Upopolis Keeps SickKids’ Patients Connected

One of the fantastic uses for social media in healthcare (a trend we will be following this coming year) is to connect communities of patients to each other and to their friends and families when those connections would be difficult to make or maintain IRL (in real life). 

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto started up an initiative to do just that, with the added twist that it’s built entirely for young patients.  It offers  personal profiles, personal blogs, instant chat and child-friendly games, and as spokesperson/nephrotic syndrome patient Zachary Starkman says:

“When I’m here for long periods and I’m not able to get to Marnie’s Lounge (the patient recreation room at SickKids) and chat with my friends, I feel isolated, lonely… This will really help me feel connected with everyone.”

The SickKids network is called/run by Upopolis.  It was founded by Christina Papaevangelou, who watched the struggles of her friend Katy McDonald when she was treated for cancer in 2002.  The network was developed by Kids’ Health Links Foundation, in partnership with TELUS and McMaster Children’s Hospital and runs as a SaaS solution hosted by TELUS.

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Biotech Trends in 2010: Top Three Reasons Why Biotech Companies Should Use Social Media

Tech startups use social media avidly [rabidly?], but biotech companies? Not so much.  Biotech companies should be blogging, tweeting and linking in like mad, though.  Here’s why:

  1. Your customers (pharma companies) do it.  More and more pharma companies are active in social media. Take a look at this article in the December issue of Life Science Leader (h/t @FiercePharma) or read the Dose of Digital blog any day of the week and you’ll be directed to interesting information about how products are being developed, tested and marketed. These are things you need to keep in mind as you move through your own product development process. Also, lots of pharma folks are on LinkedIn, so if you are as well, you’ll maximize your ability to reach out through personal connections when you’re building a constituency for your partnering deals.  Here’s my Twitter list of BioPharma news and analysis.
  2. Your investors do it.  Check out this Twitter List of Canadian VCs, Angel investors and other funders.  Look at what they’re talking about, and you’ll see you don’t have to tell people what you ate for lunch (or disclose your latest lab results) to convey that you’re doing something interesting that other people are interested in.  Check out the CVCA’s blog, Capital Rants or the Maple Leaf Angels blog.  In Toronto? Stop in at the MaRS blog or the R.I.C. blog to see where investors will be and what they’re thinking about.
  3. Your peers (other startups) do it.  If you’re not participating in online conversations, you’re missing a world of good advice and perspectives.  Click over to Rick Segal’s blog or  StartupCFO, Mark MacLeod’s Blog. It doesn’t really matter that these guys aren’t involved in biotech. Lots of startups are facing similar issues to yours — funding, staffing, etc. and getting out of the biotech bubble from time to time can be a good thing.  Plus, being at a startup is isolating, particularly in biotech with its strong incentives to run a virtual company, so go online to find peers, mentors and other resources.

If this all sounds reasonable, but you’re still skeptical, or not interested, then find someone in your organization who’s excited about it, regardless of their actual job, and set him/her loose.  [Not totally loose, of course. Common sense is critical online because it's hard to hit "undo" on the web, and appropriate confidentiality remains key to biotech ventures.  But all your people have common sense and discretion, right?]

We’ll be keeping an eye out for biotechs and other bioscience companies that are making good use of social media as part of our Biotech Trends series this coming year.  Other suggestions for 2010 biotech trends?  Let us know

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Jeremy Grushcow Quoted by Lexpert on Social Media

Lexpert Magazine article that came out yesterday quotes our illustrious Jeremy Grushcow. The article about law firms and social media cites Jeremy’s experience using social media to facilitate real life connections between people in his network. Also featured were blawging expert Simon Fodden and his co-operative Canadian legal blog Slaw, where Jeremy contributes weekly posts on biotech highlights.

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FDA Meeting on the Internet, Social Media and Online Drug Marketing

Following some perplexing moves by the FDA, including cracking down on Google search ads, the agency convened a two-day hearing on the use of the internet and social media for online drug marketing last week.  The goal of the hearings was to seek comments from

“all interested parties, including, but not limited to, consumers, patients, caregivers, health care professionals, patient groups, Internet vendors, advertising agencies, and the regulated industry … [in order to] help guide FDA in making policy decisions on the promotion of human and animal prescription drugs and biologics and medical devices using the Internet and social media tools.”

If you are interested in the topic, you can:

  1. Watch the whole thing via an archived webcast (until they take it down, but then you can read the transcript);
  2. Search #FDASM on Twitter and read the real-time reactions; or
  3. Read yesterday’s genius FiercePharma post by Tracy Staton that boils the whole thing down to a delicious executive-summary-type bite-size blurb. [See what I did there, FiercePharma headline writers?]

I highly recommend #3.

The FDA is collecting comments until February 28th (2010), after which it will digest the whole lot of them and formulate some guidance (likely) or regs (less likely) that will shape online behaviour.

P.S. Thanks LogoTwitter!

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