Donna LaVoie President and CEO
"Companies should be ready to address hostile short-selling and unsolicited takeover bids, develop rapid responses to special meetings and activist demands, and vigorously engage with institutional shareholders, proxy advisory firms, and potential regulators."
How did 2022 unfold for LaVoieHealthScience (LHS)?
2022 was a good year for LHS, despite the market seeing an overall downturn in IPOs after unprecedented capital going into the sector. It was a year of reflection and looking at the portfolio of companies we support, and we are currently focusing on commercially minded companies as we see a significant number of them in the biopharma space getting closer to commercialization.
How has the post-pandemic and shifting regulatory environment impacted demand for LHS offerings?
We are increasingly seeing companies coming to us that want to fully interpret a message across various assets and platforms into a digestible story for capital, a strategic partner, or professional audiences. As a proprietary message development and positioning platform, LHS Immersion is extremely helpful as there is a tangible result in terms of how companies can take their story forward. This process articulates investor, corporate, and brand positioning for key stakeholders and aligns our clients’ company mission, vision, and identity. Using this approach, we partner with established and emerging companies to develop integrated communications programs that make complex science more digestible and that build influence and awareness to reach the right stakeholders, with the right message, at the right time.
In 2022, we used this framework in preparation for a drug launch in the breast cancer space as the clinical trial was somewhat misunderstood and the aim was to tell a clearer story. The LHS Immersion process leads to the development of a blueprint plan and timeline of communications activities for tactical execution and pulling key messaging through to the right audiences in a complex markrt. There has always been an appetite for Immersion, but over the past two years, LHS has seen increased demand and has been working more on differentiation positioning and connecting firms with key stakeholders in their efforts to move forward and attract capital and strategic partners as well as professional audiences.
Which key themes currently stand out for LHS to incorporate into clients’ strategic messaging?
While it makes sense for all companies to consider sustainability as part of the messaging from an early stage, the reality is that it is contingent upon the stage of development at which firms are at. In this environment of economic uncertainty, early-stage firms need to focus on development and capital. We have a small segment of our client base that we have done ESG consulting, but those tend to be the companies that have market caps in the half a billion to several billion-dollar ranges.
Health equity is a key trend in the life sciences space. LHS has a global alliance with Omnicom Public Relations (OPRG) and has done a significant amount in this space from a thought leadership standpoint, and it makes sense as their client base is large pharma. Health equity conversations are being led on the pharma side and possibly big biotech, but the smaller companies still need to be educated on it; they know it exists and are beginning to incorporate the thinking in clinical trials, although there is more work to be done. Although health equity is important, especially at the later stages, shareholder activism should now be at the front and center for any company. One of the potential challenges public companies may encounter is aggressive moves by activist investors looking to leverage the economic turmoil for corporate takeovers. Companies should be ready to address hostile short-selling and unsolicited takeover bids, develop rapid responses to special meetings and activist demand, and vigorously engage with institutional shareholders, proxy advisory firms, and potential regulators.
What are your thoughts on the current regulatory environment in the US, and what are LHS’ main goals for 2023?
The Inflation Reduction Act is a big deal, demonstrated by the focus of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. Drug approvals and pricing is top of mind. We are currently in a difficult environment where the investors will be cautious and really would want to understand the regulatory environment as well as reimbursement before investing in this space. LHS is evolving with the market and is investing in practice development, prioritizing our services, zoning in on commercially minded companies, and putting resources around that segment. We are also expanding into digital health.