The Evolution of Medical Affairs & Communications into Strategic Partner

APR 13
Pharma and biotech companies continue to accelerate the adoption of outsourced services to optimize commercialization strategies, a topic highlighted in our recent Pharma Outsourcing and Hub Services blogs. In the third blog in this series, we focus on the role and rapid evolution of Medical Affairs and Communications (MAC) teams into an essential driver of product development and commercialization strategies. While MAC teams drive strategies across the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device sectors, this blog is focused on the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors specifically.
Key Functions of MAC Teams
Historically, MAC professionals were viewed as optional support functions primarily focused on product registration, launch activities, and marketing efforts. While these activities required strong medical expertise, MAC professionals were largely excluded from the opportunity to opine on or influence pre-launch strategies. This dynamic is shifting, with prevailing market trends creating momentum for MAC teams to drive commercial product success, through the deployment of effective strategies that communicate precise medical and scientific product information to physicians, healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients. The market trends fueling this shift include:
  • Adoption of evidence-based medicine based on RWD/RWE and Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR)
  • Expanding market need for clear medical writing and communication capabilities delivering digestible, real-world insights on complex therapies
  • Patient-centricity driving product development roadmaps and commercialization strategy design
  • Impact of digital and AI-based solutions on external engagement and real-time insights
  • Acceleration of outsourced MAC services
Medical Affairs and Communications professionals, including Medical Science Liaisons (MSL), typically hold advanced degrees enabling them to translate complex clinical, evidence-based insights into a digestible narrative along with views on changes to the current standards of care and any regulatory considerations. In coordination with curated communication strategies, MSLs engage with external constituents (physicians, HCPs and patients) to drive product awareness and clinical education, the cornerstone of a patient-centric approach. MAC teams also glean valuable insights from their external engagement and deliver it back into pharma’s cross-functional teams to inform commercial strategy, regulatory affairs, clinical development design and market access. This approach has yielded broad-ranging benefits to product development speed, real-world effectiveness, and market success; it also organically pulled MAC teams into the strategic design much earlier in the planning process and paved the pathway for future product launch strategies. Leading MAC platforms are also at the forefront of adopting digital capabilities to disrupt the traditional channels for information delivery and digestion. As MAC professionals adopt digital solutions, those solutions will accelerate their ability to deliver real-time insights to external constituents, provide easier access to Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs), quickly disseminate RWE/HEOR insights externally, and deploy more effective marketing campaigns. As the Medical Affairs Professional Society noted recently:
“Monitoring the impact of both the scientific exchange and digital domains, which have become the echo chambers of science, provides a pulse reading of the therapeutic landscape. This allows Medical Affairs to have credible scientific exchanges that evolve along with the changing disease dynamic, noteworthy events, and evolving new classes of therapy.”
Recognizing the vital role of MAC services, both pharmaceutical and biotech companies are increasingly outsourcing MAC services to leading platforms. As a result, the global MAC market is currently estimated to grow at a 12%+ CAGR to over $3.5B by 2030 - positioning it as one of the fastest growing outsourced services in the broader pharma outsourcing landscape.  The ecosystem of outsourced platforms continues to expand their MAC-related capabilities, further supporting the role of MAC teams as strategic partners that help shape commercial strategies.

Overview of MAC Capabilities Across Pharma Outsourced Solutions
  • Lumanity (fka Cello Health), backed by Arsenal Capital Partners, accelerates and optimizes access to medical advances by transforming data and information into real-world insights and evidence that power successful commercialization and empower patients, providers, payers, and regulators to take timely and decisive action. As a consolidation of multiple commercial platforms including BresMed, Guidemark Health, Cyan Health, and Zipher Medical Affairs, Lumanity has emerged as a leading force in the outsourced MAC space by delivering compelling product narratives that drive external stakeholder engagement while informing internal stakeholder decision-making to ensure product success.
  • OPEN Health, backed by Amulet Capital Partners, is a global, multi-disciplinary provider of medical affairs services into the biopharma space, with a core competency within market access, HEOR, and medical writing & communications. Uniquely focused on delivering on a patient-centric strategy to drive outcomes, OPEN leverages comprehensive RWE, health economic modeling and an omni-channel engagement strategy to drive quicker, more effective commercial success.
  • Medical Knowledge Group, backed by Novo Holdings, is a leading outsourced commercialization platform focused on educating providers on the complex science and efficacy of specialty and rare-disease therapies through live engagements, digital media and direct interactions with HCPs. As one of the most acquisitive platforms in the MAC space, expected to continue under Novo’s ownership, the Company continues to expand its portfolio of therapeutic areas and digital capabilities to deliver best-in-class medical communications, commercial strategies and medical affairs consulting services.
  • Fishawack Health, backed by Bridgepoint, is a leading outsourced commercialization platform focused on medical communications, access, engagement, and strategic consulting into the pharma and biotech market. With a global presence spanning 14 cities worldwide, Fishawack is executive on an acquisitive-based growth strategy focused on the prevailing medical affairs trends as evidenced by the March 2022 acquisition of Policy Analysis, an integrated HEOR platform, the June 2021 acquisition of closerlook, an AI-based omnichannel engagement platform, and January 2021 acquisition of The Hive Health Group, a strategic communications and patient engagement platform.
  • Clinical Mind, backed by Renovus Partners, is a premier medical communications platform and SaaS-based physician engagement solution facilitating internal communication and insights among marketing and medical affairs team through proprietary workflows, virtual advisory boards, program tracking, contract management, and program analytics. Clinical Mind has continued to expand its medical affairs capabilities with the October 2021 acquisition of MedVal Scientific Information Services and PharmaWrite, platforms specializing in medical & regulatory writing, strategic communications, and publication planning.
  • Amplity Health, backed by Altamont Capital Partners, is a leading. multi-dimensional medical and commercial partner focused on delivering the expertise, infrastructure and data-driven insights necessary to drive a successful commercialization strategy. As part of a comprehensive solution suite spanning multiple commercial services, Amplity offers (i) outsourced medical affairs services with a network of MSLs and CTLs (Clinical Trial Liaisons) driving pre- and post-commercial product strategies and (ii) comprehensive, multichannel medical communications services driving targeted audience and customer engagement, leveraging the Real-Time Medical Insights (RTMI) platform to deliver a data-driven communication strategy across the product lifecycle. 
  • Propel Health (fka HealthSTAR Communications), backed by Windjammer Capital and H.I.G. Capital, is an independent network of healthcare agencies supporting brand strategy, medical communications, and engagement throughout the product lifecycle. Operating under the Fusion brand, the Company offers a comprehensive medical communications strategy based on evidence-based education through customized digital engagement. In combination with the other branded solution, Elevate Strategic Engagements (tech-enabled peer-to-peer engagement platform), Centron (integrated communications agency), and Propel Patient Engagement (tech-enabled patient engagement), Propel Health has established a uniquely differentiated MAC platform in the market.
  • Evolution Health Group (EHG) is a global medical communications agency comprised of four distinct branded divisions: Evolution Medical Communications, blulava, Maestro360, and Darwin Academy. As a full-service suite, EHG delivers strategic medical marketing and communication services across any therapeutic class at any stage in the product lifecycle (Evolution Medical Communications & Darwin Academy) alongside an innovation lab (blulava) tackling engagement and creative strategies, and engagement & event management platform (Maestro360).
M&A activity across the pharma outsourced sector and the shift to outsourcing MAC capabilities has been active over the last few quarters, fueled by both private equity and strategic interest.

Recent Pharma Outsourced Transactions
  • In January 2022, Cello Health (nka Lumanity) acquired a majority stake in Zipher Medical Affairs to attach more comprehensive medical affairs strategic consulting capabilities to the existing medical communications and health economic services suite.  
  • In January 2022, Novo Holdings acquired majority stake in Medical Knowledge Group (description above) from Court Square Capital Partners.
  • In December 2021, EVERSANA acquired Intouch Group, a full-service digital-first agency network providing enterprise solutions and data analytics to be attached to EVERSANA’s fully integrated commercialization services platform.
  • In November 2021, Kohlberg & Company acquired majority stake in Trinity Life Sciences from Parthenon Capital. Trinity is one of the largest full-service strategic commercialization platforms with expanding medical affairs division providing clients with evidence-based operational decision-making capabilities.
  • In October 2021, RLH Equity Partners acquired imre, an integrated provider of strategic and creative marketing services for life sciences companies, including brand strategy, digital marketing, social media, public relations, and data & analytics.
  • In October 2021, Ares Private Equity made a strategic investment into The Lockwood Group, a medical communications platform helping pharma clients advance strategic product objectives around new regulations, business models, payment approaches, technologies, roles and work practices.
  • In October 2021, TPG Growth and TPG Healthcare Partners made a strategic growth investment into BGB Group, a medical communications agency with broad service suite including medical marketing, strategic consulting, digital strategy, and promotional advertising.
  • In July 2021, Medical Knowledge Group (MKG) acquired majority stake in Conisus from Webster Equity Partners to expand MKG’s oncology-focused strategic medical communication services.
As we step back and reflect on both market trends and market activities, we believe the broad consensus about the transformative role that MAC services play and the resulting impact on pharma’s product design and commercial strategy will continue to fuel innovation, investment, and general sector growth in both the near- and long-term.
Colin Aldridge
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