Recently, W2O acquired Arcus Medica, to not only accelerate, but deepen our scientific and medical communications offering. Now, nearly a month after we’ve joined forces, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mary Seideman, Co-Founder of W2O arcus.
We chat about how Arcus came to be, how our additional acquisition of ISO will help W2O make the world a healthier place through marketing communications, plus Mary shares some surprising albums she’d like to take with her on a deserted island.
Aaron Strout: There is a famous saying that “understanding the past is the key to the future.” To that end, tell us how you and your co–founders came to found Arcus.
Mary Seideman: Jon, Stan and I all have scientific and/or clinical backgrounds with in-house pharma experience. About seven years ago, all three of us were struck by the speed at which science is advancing. The breakthrough technologies that we hoped for 20 years ago, such as harnessing the immune system to fight cancer or gene therapy, are here today. So we started Arcus to provide a better product than what we were seeing in-house. We believe that understanding the science is critical to understanding how a drug can meet an unmet need. When we talk about new drugs, we always look to the past. Why was this drug developed? What science was used in order to design a better therapy? What are the unmet needs of a disease that can be addressed by this therapy? Communicating this scientific story to healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients so they can understand potential or existing clinical benefits of new therapies is more important than ever.
AS: How is Arcus different from other scientific and medical communication agencies?
MS: As I mentioned, all three founders have clinical and or scientific backgrounds, in addition to pharma experience. Jon has a Ph.D. from Cornell and had a long career as a bench scientist in industry, including at Centecor, and was an executive editor at Elsevier. Stan has a Pharm.D. and an M.B.A., and has experience in the field on sales and medical affairs teams, with recent experience as a senior product manager at Genentech. I trained as a pediatric oncologist and have an M.D. and a Ph.D., and in addition to years of bench experience in academics, I have held leadership roles in Medical Affairs and clinical development. We’re able to provide a true bench-to-bedside perspective on drug development, from both academic and industry viewpoints. I think that’s unique and a key factor in what makes us great strategic partners across the product lifecycle.
AS: How will the acquisition of ISO help W2O make the world a healthier place through marketing communications?
MS: Adding talent is always a plus for any team! The addition of ISO really establishes W2O Scientific Communications in the EU, where we already have such a strong PR/corporate communications presence. ISO will not only support the existing comms offerings, but allow us to create a significant global Scientific Communications footprint in the EU. Understanding the specific needs of EU affiliates will enable W2O to support companies in getting their drugs to the right patients at an international level.
AS: What do you think it means to be “results-driven”?
MS: It means we help our clients achieve 100% of their goals, 100% of the time. We work as strategic partners to provide them with the best solutions, based on our team’s understanding of the science, clinical practice and HCPs in their disease area. We always want the best results for our clients and that’s what we drive for with every project, big and small. There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter project for us. We make sure that every deliverable has been tailored to the exact needs of each client, to their specific drug, disease, audience and phase of the lifecycle.
AS: What intrigued you about joining forces with W2O?
MS: After all our years in the industry, both in-house and from an agency perspective, we wanted to partner with a team that is driven to create value for clients through data, creativity and innovation. From our first meeting with Jim Weiss, W2O’s founder, we felt there was a chemistry and a respect for science that would allow us to be an integral part of that process. Our experience with W2O has been remarkable because everyone is an expert in his or her field, deeply engaged and truly innovative. So for people who love to learn and to innovate, W2O is the ideal place to work. Equally important, there is a true team spirit that permeates everything we do.
AS: What is your approach to learning and staying up to speed?
MS: Our team is always learning something new. People come to us because we are experts in our field. I do a lot of reading – basic science papers, clinical peer-reviewed publications. I also learn a lot from our team, by design. The W2O Arcus team is a group of lifelong learners – that’s one of the critical personality traits we look for, regardless of the role. We do a deep dive and generate the relevant framework and facts to make strategic decisions. We made a decision early on that we would favor intellect over experience in hiring, and that decision has paid off in spades.
I also keep abreast of the industry through our extensive KOL network. W2O Arcus has relationships with hundreds of KOLs across a number of disease states, and we often call upon these scientific, clinical and/or translational experts to keep us on the forefront of clinical decision-making and scientific breakthroughs. You can read about a topic for days, but speaking to an expert who sees patients, day in and day out, gives you an entirely different, real-life perspective. Being able to access a global expert in oncology, neurology or a multitude of other disease areas is an incredibly interesting and rewarding part of my role.
AS: What is a movie quote that has inspired you in business and your personal life?
MS: In my professional life, I’m motivated by something Tom Hanks says in A League of Their Own, “There’s no crying in baseball!” Over my lifetime, I’ve been lucky to train and work with some of the most amazing scientists and clinicians in the world – people who have solved some of the most difficult medical and scientific problems of our time. So I think there’s no complaining in baseball or at work. If we think hard enough, if we have the right people in the room, we can solve anything.
One of my favorite characters from a movie is Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. For all the twists in her case. she solved it by explaining the science of a home perm. I loved that.
AS: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
MS: Jon, my husband, introduced me to The National when we first started dating, and I still think their album Boxer is one of the best, and it always reminds me of a wonderful time in my life. But I would also gladly listen to a Post Malone or Pink greatest hits album.
AS: Mary, thank you for your time, we look forward to partnering together to disrupt the medical communications space for our clients!