Nasdaq’s ESG Trendsetters series highlights the top ESG professionals and teams around the world who go the extra mile in their evolving ESG roles. Discover how leading ESG companies are incorporating ESG factors into their corporate strategy, achieving meaningful impact and communicating with their stakeholders.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how critical global health is to the fabric of society. The ability of the healthcare industry to mobilize and collaborate with regulators in order to develop and distribute vaccines to billions of people demonstrated its commitment to social impact and broader ESG commitments.
Certara is a leading example of this. The life sciences company is on a mission to accelerate the development of new medicines to improve patient outcomes. Using biosimulation technology, Certara can speed up the drug development process, resulting in greater health impacts for more people.
Nasdaq and Certara’s shared commitment to positive social impact aligned last year when Certara listed on Nasdaq. Shortly after its IPO, Certara began working with Nasdaq’s ESG Advisory practice to develop an ESG plan and effectively communicate its positive social impacts to key stakeholders.
For this edition of ESG Trendsetters, Eric Vermeiren, Senior Specialist for Nasdaq ESG Advisory, spoke with William Feehery, Chief Executive Officer of Certara, to discuss how the company is innovating to improve the timeline of the drug development process to get crucial new therapies to patients who need it most. The following transcript of the conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
How do Certara’s software and services positively impact patient outcomes?
Our software and services are targeted toward improving the access and availability of critical medicines to patients worldwide. At the end of the day, we’re focused on reducing the total cost of drug development, and there are three different ways to do so. You can reduce the time, increase the probability, or reduce the amount of money that has to be spent to get there. All three of them are valid, and our software and services are often doing one, two, or even all three for a number of our clients.
Could you discuss Project Optimism and its importance on clinical trials and patients?
Project Optimism is a new initiative of the FDA, and the idea there is to determine the optimal dose of chemotherapy drug drugs for treating cancer. Up until now, what’s happened is the FDA and drug companies have approved the maximum tolerated dose. So effectively, the maximum dose that won’t kill the patient is thought to be the correct number to kill cancer. But, as oncology treatments have advanced, it’s become necessary to think about this a little bit differently. So now, the FDA is pushing to have the optimal dose, meaning that more is not necessarily better. There’s always a tradeoff between efficacy and safety. This new push for the FDA aims to get companies to determine what that optimal dose is. At Certara, that’s a big thing for us because we do a lot of work using modeling and simulation to determine how drugs interact with the body. And one of the key questions that we’re often called upon to answer is what is the correct dose? So we think that we’re going to play a really important part in this as it goes forward.
How do you continue to grow your expert team to fulfill your mission of accelerating medicines to patients?
We think about it all the time, as we’re trying to build a cutting-edge team for the type of science we do. We’ve attracted some of the best talent in the industry, but that’s not enough. In order to retain and attract more talent, we need to have a culture of innovation. So we’re always developing the next iteration in our technology. We have to work on hard and important problems. So we’ve got a lot of the world’s drug development efforts going on right at this time in Certara, and that’s an interesting challenge. We have a culture of collaboration, so you get to come here to work with other good scientists and work together. The last part is influence. Many of our scientists are very active at conferences, we publish hundreds of papers a year, and we’re out there influencing the future direction the scientists are taking. When we get those things correct, we build a great team and continue to build Certara the way it is today.