The Mix Tape | Special Edition – Cell and Gene Tx Journey to Commercialization: Drug Approval & Post-Approval

In part 2 of our Special Edition Series – Cell and Gene Tx Journey to Commercialization – Abbey Jenkins (CEO, Gamida Cell) and Izzy Tyszler (VP of Commercial, Zevra Therapeutics) join ADVI Health’s Director of Health Policy and Reimbursement, Alicia Silver, to discuss commercialization of gene and cell therapies. Abbey and Izzy share their key learnings from past experiences leading commercial teams, including advice on how best to prepare for commercialization



Welcome to The Mix Tape.

Paige Nelson:

I’m Paige Nelson.

Melyssa Nocar:

And my name is Melyssa Nocar. Thank you for joining us for part two of this special edition of the Mix Tape featuring women leaders in cell and gene therapy.

In this series, we are discussing the journey from manufacturing to commercialization, providing a forum to share experiences, areas of expertise, and insights for the future.

Paige Nelson:

In today’s episode, we are focusing on the approval and post-approval process in the journey to commercialization. Our guest, Abbey Jenkins, CEO of Gamida Cell, and Izzy Tyszler, VP of Commercialization at Zevra Therapeutics, will discuss key learnings from past experiences, how to prepare for commercialization, and the challenges and opportunities facing the cell and gene therapy industry.

Melyssa Nocar:

We hope you enjoy this discussion, led by my colleague and friend, ADVI’s Director of Health Policy and Reimbursement, Alicia Silver.

Alicia Silver:

Hi, I’m Alicia Silver. I’m Director of Health Policy and Reimbursement at ADVI Health where I specialize in helping clients in cell and gene therapy.

Today we have with us Abbey Jenkins from Gamida Cell and Izzy Tyszler from Zevra Therapeutics. We’re so thrilled to have you both with us.

Can we just get started by having you both give a couple of sentences of introduction about yourselves, your titles, your companies, and then a little bit about how you got into this industry.

Abbey Jenkins:

Hi, I’m Abbey Jenkins. I’m the President and CEO of Gamida Cell. At Gamida Cell, we are turning cells into powerful therapeutics and we’re excited to have our first product recently FDA approved to cell therapy for patients with hematologic malignancies called Omisirge.

And I’ve been with Gamida Cell for a year, Monday will be a one-year anniversary for me. And I’ve been in the industry for over 25 years, mainly focused on commercializing products for patients and often I’ve had the opportunity to work in categories where there was a high unmet need.

But Gamida Cell is my first chance to bring what is a potentially curative therapy forward for patients with cancer. So I focused on product launch and helping companies operationalize toward commercial stage.

Izzy Tyszler:

Hi, everyone. Izzy Tyszler. I’ve been in the industry, especially in rare disease over 16 years now. And I’ve been primarily in various different commercial roles from operations to also project management but obviously in the last few years focused on launch strategy.

I had the fortunate opportunity of joining AveXis, which is now Novartis Gene Therapies, back in 2017 and working with the team to bring the very first pediatric gene replacement therapy to spinal muscular atrophy.

So I really got huge, great exposure into gene therapy at that point, both from manufacturing and really transitioning the company from clinical stage to commercialization, which was fantastic.

Not only was it just bringing another rare disease to the market, but in gene therapy, which has never been done before. So we learned a lot. I’m currently VP of Commercial at Zevra Therapeutics, that is focused around rare disease and I’m excited to be here.

Alicia Silver:

Well, thank you both for your introductions. I think it’s just helpful context as we move into the podcast. Moving into our commercialization topics, I really want to talk about advice that you would give companies small, medium, large as they’re moving from clinical stage to commercial launch.

What stumbling blocks have you seen in the past? Any other advice that you would give for successful launches?

Izzy Tyszler:

I would say depending what size you are, but if it’s the first product you’re bringing to the market, a first asset, I think it’s always really key from leadership but also all functional leads, to come together and create a readiness work stream. Not only identifying what each functional leads role is or how your interdependencies within each, because being the first commercialization process, a lot of people may not understand why something that has to be developed six months prior needs to be connected to someone within medical affairs and or CMC and quality.

So really developing a work stream together, identifying why it’s important for all this to be together, and I think also how you want to work together. Going from clinical to commercialization is a very different mindset. Of course it’s important, there’s a lot of different objectives, but it really changes things and just the evolution of the company, both from a financial and resourcing, it really is a whole different component that oftentimes people get tripped up on because people are wondering, do we really need this? Why is this important?

And I think if you establish that work stream, talk about the roles of each functional lead, and how those interdependencies are connected, you really establish a collaborative culture and I think that has been done really well in my past and sometimes it hasn’t, and you just have to work through that.

And the sooner you can get that done, the better, because then you can handle some of the challenges that may come about because we all come across challenges when we get ready for commercialization.

Alicia Silver:

I love that, Izzy, I love what you said about the mindset shift. I think that’s really important and of course the cross-functional readiness team is something that I think everyone can take back as a learning.

Abbey Jenkins:

Sure. I’ll build on what Izzy said because I could not agree more that I’ve had a few opportunities with companies moving from that clinical to commercial stage. And sometimes you have people at the company that have only worked at the clinical stage and they want to be a part of having that commercial experience, but they don’t know what that means.

So I could not agree more. Helping people have a vision of what is going to be operating at commercial stage, both what it means, what a launch entails, what commercial entails, starting to create clarity on roles and responsibilities, especially for new roles. I think that’s one of the key friction points as people move into that commercial stage where you’re adding these roles, these people that’s never existed before. Sometimes they take on responsibilities from other people who were playing that role until a specialist could be hired and redefining what it means to do this work, who does the work, how we do the work.

So as much what it means to be commercial, as how do we work at commercial stage? And how is that different? I think just more tactically in terms of the stumbling blocks, where I’ve seen stumbling in commercial prep, is market access. So I’ve had the opportunity to build out market access. I can definitely say at Gamida Cell we had amazing world-class market access preparation, and we were able to achieve greater than 70% commercial payer coverage within 90 days of our product approval because of the two years of work that had been done to pave the way for market access.

Alicia Silver:

How do you think about commercialization from a patient perspective? As you’re moving towards commercialization, how are you involving patients and sort of getting them ready for these life-changing, life-saving therapies?

Abbey Jenkins:

Many pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, are putting patients at the center of all we do. I think one element is thinking about how your product is ultimately going to be delivered to the patient. Is it something where it’s a retail therapy, is it a cell therapy? There’s going to be a very different role the patient plays in how the product ultimately gets delivered and administered to them.

And then thinking through that, through the lens of the patient journey and really understanding the patient journey from different patients. Because while many patients may be diagnosed with the same condition, their path to being diagnosed and their path to treatment and ultimately arriving, presenting themselves for the treatment you’re working on could be very different.

So really getting a broad view, conducting market research, conducting focus groups to the degree your therapy involves a setting where you could observe patients. That’s something I’ve had experience with as well. So if that’s an option and still allowed by the facility, that can be a great way to really better understand what the patient is experiencing and how your treatment may fit in.

Izzy Tyszler:

I think also, and to start off with the market access component, that story of what you’re talking from a patient or those that are caring for those living with unique diseases, it’s the value story as well. In order to win not only logistically to get that product to them, but what is it from a market access, the value story? How is this clinically different from anything else?

Even if there is no products approved often for these diseases, you still have to prove to that team that’s evaluating that therapy of why this is important. Of course, the families are fighting for it, the physicians, but they need to understand that value story. And putting the patient at the center is the most important. I think what’s important though is if you’re doing that, walk the talk. If you really are putting the patient at the center, to be fair, that journey for the industry has to start even prior to establishing a company.

You need to be talking with those in the rare disease or other cell gene therapy potential diseases, what is important to them, even before preclinical studies start to understand to that patient group what is the most important? What is the biggest unmet need? And working with the researchers to help develop that. And that to learn the research understanding, that starts in the very beginning. They help influence the natural history studies potentially, right? That’s very important in cell and gene therapy, as well as rare diseases.

They’re helping to identify what those endpoints are, what’s meaningful to them, because often you see sometimes yeah, a drug can get approved, but from the actual patient perspective they’re like, “Well, there’s nothing here that’s helping me.”

But there’s some instances that one little measurement that maybe others, drug authorities or payers, don’t think it’s important, but you have years of research to say, no, this one point change is the most meaningful because for instance, my child is still able to use their finger so they can move around in their wheelchair.

Just even that one thing. So it starts in the very beginning, understanding that and continuing involving the patients and the caregivers along the different stages because things will change. And people are nervous. They say, well, you don’t want to get too early involved with the patient organizations, and I completely disagree. You start as early as possible. You have a level of transparency. This is a very tough industry and we don’t always win when we’re going out for something.

But as long as we have that conversation, we talk about the risks, we talk about how we’re doing it in the most compliant manner, they will be behind the lines championing on everyone just as we’re championing them on.

Alicia Silver:

I want to talk a little bit about the treatment centers for a little bit because we’re thinking about the payer and the patient, but we also have to think about the provider. And I think what’s unique here is we’re not just talking about small molecule drugs, but we’re talking more about complex therapies that are administered in really specialized settings.

So when we’re thinking about treatment center relations and how we’re getting our network set up for launch or any words of advice for our listeners from your experiences launching cell and gene therapies in the treatment center space?

Izzy Tyszler:

Specifically around the gene therapy, working with the market access team that I was able to collaborate with, identifying what are these key centers? At that time, we didn’t have the multicenter from a clinical trial perspective, so we really had to start building that understanding and bringing in a gene replacement therapy from an institution perspective.

There are a lot of people that, I don’t know about this. There’s a lot of unknowns. And so the biggest thing I would tell individuals that you’re bringing in potentially a new mode of administration, different type of potentially cell or gene therapy, working with institutions very early on. Yes, you’re talking with the payers, you’re telling them, here’s the data that we have. But secondarily, you’re also talking to institutions and setting up multidisciplinary team meetings.

I think that’s what the market access team did so well at AveXis is that it wasn’t just the provider, the actual individual that was prescribing, and then the nurse and the social worker, but we included the pharmacist, both clinical and commercial, because if they were part of the clinical trial, it was going to a very different location.

And so you’re bringing everyone at the table that really has an influence on that treatment in the institution up to the CFO. And they were very open to that, which I think was also really exciting working with the institution so early on. And you’re mapping this out. You’re talking about from the manufacturing perspective, here’s some things. You’re doing a gap analysis with the institution.

Do you need an SOP? Do you need someone to handle this? We have these potential services we want to offer, so from a prior authorization on the market access side, what do we need to do? So you’re really mapping that out and identifying all the key players, because every single person has that. And then even doing mock runs, the team we’re doing mock runs with these institutions to be like, okay, products on the dock. Now where does it go?

Because with cell and gene therapy, especially personalized medicine, you need to know where that drug is at every single waking moment. We used to laugh that if our delivery mechanism was in airplane mode, we’re like, “Well, we know it’s in the air. It’s going somewhere.”

But the minute it lands, we can track it.

Abbey Jenkins:

So Alicia, I would say I absolutely agree with Izzy’s comments, and I think that the consistent theme though is the cross-functional collaboration and having all of the key points of contact within your company’s organization, the medical, the sales, the payer and access team, specialized capabilities that might not exist for other types of product launches but are required for cell therapies or gene therapies like quality folks and logistics folks and distribution folks.

And all of those people actually have to huddle around, sort of swaddle, the transplant center and find their matched points of contact at the treatment center or transplant center. So the care coordination team, and it’s not just the transplanter, it’s all of the clinical and operational folks within that transplant center that are really going to make it possible end-to-end for the therapy to be available, accessed, and administered, making sure that you’ve got those key capabilities so that you can match what the transplant center needs because it is absolutely a team.

This isn’t like… Cell and gene therapies aren’t like retail oral therapies where essentially a physician is typically making the decision. There are multiple decision makers along the way and people influencing the decision to make it available and the decisions to ultimately administer it.

And you have to think through that. It’s much more complex from a commercial perspective.

Alicia Silver:

Looking back, you guys have long careers in this space. Can you tell me maybe one… Pinpoint one moment in your career, an experience where something went wrong, something didn’t go as planned, and what you took forward. How it changed your thinking about future commercialization strategies?

Izzy Tyszler:

I would say I think the biggest learning, oftentimes we’ve been fortunate enough to be in multiple launches. And in this day and age it is very humbling because you don’t get that many drugs getting approved, regardless in cell and gene therapy but just in general.

And I think what is sometimes when you’ve had a series of launches under your belt, everyone’s like, oh, it’s the same launch. You know what to do, block and tackle, go. And I think that’s where I always say, well, let’s make sure we’re focused and we’re tailoring our launch strategy to the unmet business need that we need to kind of consider for the families as well as the physicians. That’s really key.

And I think that, sometimes, people kind of go down the path, they’re part of the readiness work stream, they’re doing what they did before. They’re like, it worked before we’re good.

And to pressure test that is challenging. So hence why I started in the beginning, set the culture, set the guiding principles of how we want to work, because we need to keep pushing each other. There is every day technology is changing. Every day the market is changing even from the government side of it.

So you have to think of all these different factors. And although it might’ve worked and three months ago we’re like, yes, this is the way we want to go, we need to always kind of pressure test it. And one of my mentors has always said, “When you put a plan on paper, on slides, it’s already out of date,” because there’s something else that’s changing.

And so having that agility and being able to adjust, pivot where necessary, but also to have those conversations I think is really important. And in some launches, I might’ve not pushed as enough as I should have, and then I saw kind of that downward effect.

So that’s one of the things that I would definitely urge everyone, is that it’s at the table, we’re having a conversation. It’s not to say that you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s just let’s think about this because sometimes people bring things to my attention where I’m like, that’s a great point. I didn’t connect the dots on that. Let’s look into it.

Abbey Jenkins:

Your question is a hard one, Alicia, because I feel like when you launch so many things are going wrong. Hopefully not catastrophically wrong, but exactly what Izzy was saying. You plan and then the world is dynamic, and so you make the best plans that you can and then you have to adapt to the real world. And that’s something I remember executing in a commercial organization and our mantra was flawless execution.

And once I got to my first biotech startup launch, I was like… To my commercial team, I was like, “We are not seeking flawless. We are seeking executional excellence,” because when you strive for perfection, you won’t adapt quickly enough. You won’t take risks because you’re afraid to fail, and you’ll spend too much time dwelling on what didn’t go versus saying, whoops, or this is a learning opportunity. What do we need to do? How do we need to fix it? And be it more in a problem solving mindset.

I’ve had cold chain products arrive, not still cold. I’ve had the amount of product, if we’re having product coming in from another country, which I had a complex global supply chain, not in a cell therapy, but in a cold chain product nonetheless, where it got stuck at customs and you’re trying to get your products into three PLs and ultimately get them to patients.

And the same… I mean for a cell and gene therapy, that would be catastrophic. It’s often a named patient or on a sort of precision basis, for this patient only. You’re not going to just be able to put this back on the shelf next week. So it’s even more important that some of those elements, you’re ready for the challenges that may ensue. Certainly just like Izzy on our recent launch, we had a lot of plans and then when we put them into practice, we heard feedback from our customers where they needed customization of process or customization of forms.

And I’m very proud of the team. We have a very small team, but we were flexible. So striving for excellence, making plans, but really ready to adapt and empowering people to make decisions, not having everything require a 14-person committee or the CEO’s approval so that people can adapt on the fly.

Because if you can’t be responsive to the customer and you ultimately can’t get your product to the customer or the patient, you’re kind of dead in the water. But I would say don’t put too much pressure on yourself for it to be perfect or you’re only going to be disappointed and not able to react quickly enough to fix it.

Izzy Tyszler:

I love that, Abbey. Seek excellence, not perfection. It’s so true, and I think one thing that really hit me when you said that is that by perfection, people aren’t willing to take risks. And that’s so true, especially if this is your first time launching, you’re trying to evaluate that level of risk, but let’s be honest, we’re in this industry, there’s a lot of risk. We just have to be able to manage that where appropriate.

But to try to also think outside the box. Too, and that requires… Although this was done before, how can we make it better? Because that’s my biggest thing. Every time you do something, like we can do it better. That was good. Great. Let’s make it even better. What can we do? Let’s listen to the customers. What are some learnings?

But I love that. And I put that on a post-it note. Every time I’m like, “I don’t know how to do this,” I’m like, “Oh, seek excellence, not perfection.”

Alicia Silver:

I think there’s definitely a psychology from hearing from both of you about mindset and not only readiness, but also how you can just be flexible. And like you said, Izzy, pressure test, pivot, adjust.

Abbey, you talked about executional excellence, which as Izzy agreed, is just a phenomenal way to think about it. I’m going to change gears just a little bit here and let’s talk about challenges. We all work in this space where the therapies that we’re impacting change lives, save lives, and it’s a wonderful space to work in.

But we all also have these moments at night where we wake up panicked. We’re forgetting something, something is wrong. What are the moments that you have at night that you just think about, this is the challenge that’s key, and I’m just really… I am focused on this and can’t sleep. What are the things that keep you up at night?

Izzy Tyszler:

I think I’ll kind of keep going on the conversation about risk as coming into different organizations or even in the past lives of consulting within organizations, it’s to talk about what do you need to do to seek that excellence? How is this organization going to grow? And I think getting ready for commercialization, there is risks that the company has to take.

They have to make investments, and I think that every time in that growth situation, it’s a challenge in regards to helping to showcase why we need certain things, building that case. And I think often, yeah, you have to make a compromise. And so some of the things that kind of keep me up at night when we’re kind of all doing four or five jobs, we can’t bring on the teams, things of that nature, what are we missing from that perspective?

So I think one of the things that I’ve been really focused on is just helping to drive that awareness of the investment of the organizational growth that yeah, we will have to take some risks and there may be some things that may not turn out. We might not hit that milestone, but I always talk with it of, well, it’s a risk, but is it going to be really a loss? Because at the end of the day, we are learning something, we’re growing and we’ll be able to adjust this, we’ll be able to take this information.

So I think it’s just more of continually providing that influence and understanding.

Abbey Jenkins:

So I would say the three things that really go through my head every night and sometimes I feel like in my dreams are, can we get this to the patients? Do I have the right team that can do this work? And do we have the funding to do what we need to do?

I think from the patient perspective, again, this is my first time working in a category that’s potentially lifesaving and where the therapy is for that patient. So if you ultimately can’t get it to the patient, that may be their last chance. They may not live if we aren’t able to do our work. And that feels like a tremendous responsibility to make sure that we’re serving those patients. That keeps me up every night.

Do I have the right team? I’m really grateful. Izzy was saying, well, we’re all doing five jobs. That’s what this work is. And I would say at every startup I’ve been at, it’s been that way, but especially in the cell and gene space, because your job is not one job. No matter what job you have, your job is not one job, by the nature of the work you’re doing. And even as you add more people, your job still has more dimensionality. I’m very grateful.

We hired four account directors. The account directors were supposed to be the sales managers. They were brought on being told they were going to have a team of 24 people within 12 months and they were going to build their team. What ended up happening was they were frontline salespeople. To Izzy’s point, the third thing that keeps me up is the funding. Funding. We are very grateful that we were approved by the FDA this year, but because of the financial constraints, because of the investor sentiments around cell and gene therapies right now, we needed to make sure that we did not get overextended.

And so we were very careful in how we went to market. We believed in our market research. We had five independent market research studies saying there was unmet need and opportunity, but that’s market research. You don’t, exactly as Izzy said, you don’t want to build up too fast and then have to let people go. So we were very careful.

Fortunately, once we launched, we had the demand. That was consistent with our market research. And so now we’re bringing on account managers. We hope to have eight by the end of the year. And these people though had to have the mindset that I’m going to do whatever it takes and I’m going to do the job I was hired to do and I’m going to do whatever work needs to be done so that I feel great.

I wake up in the morning feeling like, “Yes, we do have the right team,” but it keeps me up. Just making sure that we’re continuing to add people that have the right phenotype that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the product to the patient.

Alicia Silver:

And Abbey, what you said about being able to do four or five jobs, I think is really important for people to understand because I think we all feel that in cell and gene therapy. I come from industry before this position, and definitely you have those moments where you’re like, wow, this is a lot. But ultimately the work you’re doing is so impactful. It’s unlike anything else you could do in this space.

And changing someone’s life, potentially saving someone’s life, is just everything. So being willing to do, like you said, Abbey, whatever it takes to get the product to the patient is what it is at the end of the day. And I really appreciate hearing both of your experience on that topic.

Izzy Tyszler:

We’re pretty lucky to be working in this space, I think. And to that point of, yeah, you’re wearing multiple hats and doing a lot of work, but I feel like you learn so much more and you get more opportunities. And I think to that point, Abbey, as you mentioned, the phenotype. That those individuals that are built that are open to that, that they’re going to go outside the lines of what they were brought on to do.

And I think, from my perspective, it’s always been like I’m here to serve this communities, these rare disease communities. I’m lucky to be working in this space and hopefully bringing new treatments to them and that giving that opportunity to look at different aspects and doing things in manufacturing that I never thought I’d be working with the manufacturing team on.

It’s pretty nice to have those opportunities. And I’ve heard that from the teams, the opportunities of them doing something they’ve never thought that they would do. They were just a marketer. I’m just here to create a sales aid. It’s way more than a sales aid.

Alicia Silver:

Izzy, I want to just pivot off of that for a second, too. I think what you said is really important, that we’re lucky to be in this field because we are. I’ve been lucky to have really wonderful female bosses in cell and gene therapy, and I really want to just take a moment, not miss the opportunity to get any experience, words of wisdom from you for young women in the field, mid-career professional women in the field, as cell and gene therapy leaders.

What experiences or what words of wisdom could you give women in the field?

Izzy Tyszler:

For me, what’s always worked is being your authentic self. Being who you are, and I think most importantly too, fighting for what you believe is right for the patient, for those individuals, and from that perspective. I always found that that was kind of that guiding light and to continue also lifting up individuals as well.

And I think Abbey mentioned it. It’s the whole team. Everyone is collective and everyone is part of the success. Every single person in the organization is part of the success that will help those individuals to have the curative and or life extending treatments every single person. And I think when you build that kind of culture and that mindset, and to give people the power and empower them to take risks… This is an open book, let’s have a conversation, but at the end of the day, I always say, what are we doing and is it serving that patient in the best capacity that it can?

Sometimes it’s going to take harder and longer to do the right thing, but do the right thing. And I think I’ve been lucky to have mentors and bosses in my career that have always said it’s going to take longer. I get it, but it’s the right thing to do. And having that support is something that I wanted to instill into individuals that I work as peers, but also hopefully folks that I’m able to lead.

Abbey Jenkins:

I think for my words of wisdom would be to think about the work that you enjoy doing and you get energy from. So, I have a few women I mentor and they’re trying to figure out their career path and where they want to go. And often they’re thinking about it, well, I think I have to do this job and then I’m going to need to do that job. And I’m like, what do you like doing of your current jobs? When you think about the job that you have or the jobs that you’ve done, what gives you energy? What gets you excited to get up in the morning and start to do the work and how well do those things, those jobs or the job you’re doing even, how does that align with where you get your energy?

Because that’s what you’re going to do every single day, for as long as you’re doing it and make sure that you’re attending to that as you think about your career advancement. Do think about where you want to go and think about who you are working for and make sure that that person is willing to push you, let you go out of your comfort zone or even better push you out of your comfort zone.

When I think about the times that I’ve had the most growth opportunity in my own development, I had a boss that was very comfortable letting me take risks, letting me fail, even if they thought that they fail in quotes, but do something and then be like, “Wow, that didn’t really work out the way I thought it was going to, and here’s what I learned from it, and here’s what I’m going to do differently.”

If I have a boss that’s sort of helping me avoid that, then I’m not going to grow as much.

And then I’ve had a boss where I was like, “Why don’t you just do this? I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never done this before. What if I don’t do it right?”

And he was like, “You’re going to be fine. You’re going to figure it out. And if you don’t, I’ll be here to help you.”

And he really made me do the things that I didn’t want to do, and I’m so grateful because now I try to do that for other people. Don’t be afraid to fail. Go out of your comfort zone. So look for things that give you energy and that scare you a little bit, because that’s how you’re really going to grow and develop and not only have a career path that you’re proud of, but one that you enjoyed along the way.

Alicia Silver:

Izzy, you have had an opportunity to take on multiple jobs, hired tons of people over your career. Tell me, what interview question has stuck with you, something that you have either used in interviews with candidates or something that someone’s asked you that’s really resonated and been impactful?

Izzy Tyszler:

Yeah, I mean I think leading in from the last conversation, one of my favorite things being asked, but also asking, is, “What did you learn at that last role in a failure?” Or, “What would you do differently?”

Because I think, one, that shows a little bit of character too on how they’re thinking about it, but also from that learning, how would you pivot? What would you do a little bit differently? And that shows the out of box thinking or how they approach to that. So I always found that to be a very impactful, because I think if you haven’t learned something, then I’m like, “Really?”

Even just from hiring people? Maybe not be launched, but even just building out your team or something. Because gosh, I make mistakes probably every day. I’m like, “Oh, I probably shouldn’t have done that. I’m going to do that a little bit differently this time.”

And I think that’s in a really important conversation because it comes back to, again, the phenotype of the people, as Abbey mentioned, that how important that is. But that feeds into the culture. I think that’s really that to me, at the end of the day, bringing in a phenomenal treatment to the market is great, but when you can do with people that you really enjoy working with and you have this mentality of like, let’s do this together, let’s tackle it. That is something beyond special.

And I’ve had the opportunity to do that twice in my career and I hope I get to do it again because it makes it even better.

Abbey Jenkins:

Once I entered the world of startup, I took on what I characterize as an earnest Shackleton’s approach to interviewing. So Earnest Shackleton, the explorer who was seeking men for his expeditions would say, we want men for a hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return, doubtful, honor and recognition in the event of success. If that resonates with you, then you’re probably going to be good to work here. If not, biotech startups are probably not for you.

I do like the question… Izzy stole my question because I totally agree. If you’re going on that hazardous journey and success is not a given, but you’re in it to win it, then you’ve got to have some risk taking appetite and you’ve got to have, be prepared for failure and to adapt. I’ll pivot and say, the question I ask is about how you handle conflict.

So talk to me about a time where you and a colleague didn’t see eye to eye, had a difference of opinion and you needed to work through something together. How did you handle that? Because to me, you’ve got to have productive conflict. You’re going to have different people doing work that’s possibly never been done before, and you’re going to come from different backgrounds. You’re going to be diverse in your experience, your thought, other things.

Inevitably there’s going to be conflict. And so how are you going to work through that? And if your answer is, I’ve never had conflict, you’re out. If you’re like, I avoided the conflict, or I just tried to adapt myself without engaging in the discussion, then you’re probably not going to fit in here because we’re going to have a lot of challenges, we’re going to have a lot of diverse opinions, and we’re going to have to work through it together and be able to both speak up and listen in that process.

And so, that’s what I’m looking for and ultimately get to a productive mutual solution.

Alicia Silver:

Thinking about the favorite song question. We just finished with Abbey. So Izzy, are you prepared favorite songs?

Izzy Tyszler:

Yeah, and I won’t lie. I definitely strategize this for a little bit because I’m like, well, how do I think about this? But going back to what moves me, what keeps me going. Family is really important to me. And one of the songs that came up as one of my favorite is Mama Mia by ABBA, because it spans generations in our family.

It was definitely of my parents’ generation where they’re buying the vinyls and then I was listening to it. But I think what I love about it is at times when we have our Sunday dinners or family parties and the young generation now is doing the dishes, which is very nice, they’re listening to Mama Mia. And so it’s so funny that you’ve got grandparents, parents, and kids literally singing to the same song and dancing.

So that popped up because I have such great memories of that in the most recent holidays. So Mama Mia, ABBA, is definitely one of my favorites.

Alicia Silver:

A little ABBA to lighten our cell and gene therapy commercialization podcast. I love it. Abbey, what about you?

Abbey Jenkins:

I think this is an impossible question. Since being told this question was coming, I’ve asked people, “Could you even answer this?”

People are like, “No, this is impossible.”

I have my favorite rock song, country song, pop song, song of the nineties, song of the sixties, and I had the good fortune to see a lot of the grunge rock growing up in LA. And I saw Nirvana as they were coming up, and I’m going to go with Smells Like Teen Spirit. Because you can’t hear that song and not just get pumped and excited and start to jump around.

So, I’m going to go with that one.

Alicia Silver:

That is a phenomenal way to end the interview. You both have diverse answers, but I think both of them feed well into the themes of the podcast and get you through the workday.

Melyssa Nocar:

Thank you to Abbey, Izzy, and Alicia for a wonderful dialogue. As we look forward to 2023 Alliance for Regenerative Medicine: Cell and Gene Meeting on the Mesa, we’re reminded of how important it is to communicate and collaborate early with all stakeholders across the patient journey to not only shape the right commercialization strategy, but also to get ahead of potential barriers to access and secure adequate reimbursement for these critical cell and gene therapies that help treat, prevent, or cure a wide array of untreatable and difficult to treat diseases.

Paige Nelson:

And also to find the right talent to support critical commercialization efforts.

Melyssa Nocar:

Super important to note, Paige. We are looking forward to catching up with several women at the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine: Women’s Executive Forum Breakfast as we are all working diligently to continue the momentum in this exciting space.

Also, as a plug, while we are onsite at Mesa, ADVI Health’s CEO, Marc Samuels, is participating in a fireside chat with CMMI to discuss headwinds and tailwinds facing patients, providers, and producers that will then be followed by a discussion with a cross-functional group of impressive leader stakeholders where they will take a forward look on the cell therapy landscape through the Medicare lens.

You won’t want to miss it.

Paige Nelson:

We hope you’ve enjoyed this special edition of The Mix Tape Podcast. Follow Mix Talent and ADVI on LinkedIn to stay informed of our latest updates, blogs, and resources.

Melyssa Nocar:

And stay tuned for more from The Mix Tape Podcast. Thank you for being in the mix. We’ll see you soon.


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