MacDougall Advisors managing director Megan Prock McGrath says that there are certain principles that communicators in the biotech space should keep in mind whether they are targeting investors or consumers.

"Any message has to be tailored," she tells Doug Simon. "So, the first thing you need to do is understand your audience. So, I like to run through the questions of what is keeping them up at night, what are their concerns, what are their goals? And when you think about those for each group, you're going to have different answers and then you're going to create different messages for each."

Investors, McGrath says, are "probably wondering what your market potential is. They want to know what's differentiating your product from another. They want to understand the mechanisms of action and understand how your approach is differentiated in the body and what that means for consumers."

Consumer questions often center around such issues as "Can I enroll in this clinical trial?" or "When will it be available?" McGrath notes that "today's consumers and patients are very savvy and they're going to be out there, particularly in the rare disease community looking for this information."

To be ready to serve as a resource for consumers and patients, McGrath suggests "having perhaps a good patient advocacy person on your staff who's connected to those communities who can help vet some of your messages."

For investors, keeping a handle on the slow pace of FDA approvals is also a challenge. "It takes so long to bring a drug to market. All of those milestones are laid out years in advance and you have to be aware that the messages you're communicating today will be driven by what's happening in the future."

But COVID-19, McGrath says, caused something of a paradigm shift in how we think of the timeline for drug approvals. "Our industry did this amazing thing which was bringing these vaccines in early record time. And I think it did raise the public consciousness a lot. It also taught consumers to be a little bit more savvy and patient advocacy groups, I feel like we're able to gain some more traction."

She cites "the cost of capital" as a contiuing challenge for the biotech sector. "The time between fundraises is just really elongating. And unfortunately, a lot of companies have had to reduce their pipeline or have reductions in force." In that tougher environment, "one of the things that you can really do to stand out is really hone in on that key differentiator. Make sure that you're able to articulate what sets you apart."

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