How and When to Build a Board: A Primer for Health & Science Emerging Companies

How many people, when to recruit and what kind of strategy?  It depends. That’s the only answer that applies across all health science emerging companies considering formation of a board.  Board directors serve a variety of roles: they provide strategic decision-making; set operational and performance metrics for the company; provide access to capital; and provide valuable connections.  We surveyed a few trusted board members for advice on when to build a board, how to select board members and what size board to consider.

When to Build a Board.  Deciding when to build a board depends on the stage and goals of the company. Are you raising capital?  Seeking strategic contacts? Venture capital investors will likely get seats and a well-selected strategic advisor may also be a candidate. Of note, smaller companies do not always have the option to hand select members or self-determine timing.  Many times directors are selected based on financing –  they’re selected because they have an equity position, noted John B. Henneman, EVP & CFO, NewLink Genetics, board member for various medical technology companies.

How to Select Board Members.  If you’re a first-time CEO, you might not have the experience. Board members should help build the company, not tell you what you’ve done wrong, commented Chris Adams, Founder, CEO and director, Cydan. Therefore, it is important to have board members that complement the executive management team.  For example, if the CEO has a strong scientific background, it can be constructive to bring on operational expertise.

Number of Board Members.  Seven is an optimal number of board members because any more is too many and you want an odd number.  Boards often have three or four members from venture capital firms which leaves one or two seats for independent directors, according to Steve Hoffman, board member for various biotech companies and Sr. Advisor, PDL BioPharma.  Understanding this limit up front is important when strategizing potential candidates.

Where to find Board Members.  Personal contacts are important in the early stages, but you need to go beyond your network as the company matures, said Robert DeLuccia, former Chairman, Dipexium Pharmaceuticals. Whether it is an in-house recruiter or an external one, they play a vital role in seeking the best candidates with their network of talented and intelligent individuals.

And don’t forget about diversity – a board with a diverse background can be very beneficial in extending the company’s reach.

In sum, corporate governance is an important consideration for all companies, large and small.   Ensuring a responsible board that can help guide corporate direction is important for all parties – management, employees, customers, suppliers, partners and others.  Make sure you make the most of yours.

LaVoieHealthScience helps advance health and science innovations.  We have 16 years’ experience of specialized thinking and delivering strategic communications. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you.



Three Tips to Start the New Year

Starting the new year off right is important. Here are three tips to keep you on track through 2017:

Strategize for the upcoming year. With so many conferences happening worldwide, this is the time to plan which one(s) are right for your company this year. These are great opportunities to connect with appropriate audiences and learn about the newest and exciting industry news. Choose wisely and make the most of your time once there.

Stay Connected.  You can’t be in person at every event, therefore use social media to stay informed on activities that are happening across the life science ecosystem.  This can be initiating conversations or inserting yourself into ones that are already ongoing. Social media can help you stay plugged in regardless of your geography.

Spend your time efficiently. Whether this is at a conference or in your office, time management is crucial. Your time is important, as is your audience’s. Don’t waste time with a slide deck that drags on and loses effectiveness. Fifteen slides is a perfect amount to get your point across to stakeholders and prospects in the most efficient way.

Interested in starting your new year with a renewed commitment to strategic communications? Contact us at  Learn how we help bring value to our clients’ life science innovations.


10 Top J.P. Morgan Survival Tips


Start now.  Start reaching out to those you want to meet with, with an up-to-date message and an appropriate presentation.

Spread the net wide.  Extend your reach and target 20% new names.  Not sure how you’ll find them?  Try – a dedicated platform for those who plan to be in San Francisco.

Check your message. Some things never change, but others should. Make sure your message and positioning clearly articulate your current vision and opportunity. Need help? Refer to LHS Immersion™.

Branch off.  Divide and conquer.  Don’t do every meeting with every co-worker. Take a different path and strive to meet new people.

Turn off your phone.   Of course we want you to keep on top of important issues back at the office, but don’t overlook the people right in front of you.

Be efficient.  It’s tempting to tell your audience everything you possibly can about your product, platform or service. Don’t do it.  Fifteen slides is plenty.  Check out The LHS Fifteen-Slide Presentation™ for insight.

Don’t go too green.  It’s easy to forego hard copy collateral however a hand-out can support the real-time conversation, while ensuring an imprint beyond the meeting itself.  Paper or pixels?  Both please.

Listen.  JP Morgan week (aka BioWeek SF) is a great opportunity to pick the brains of a wide variety of life science practitioners – across functions, products, platforms and technologies – this is a master class in the business of life science.

Have (most of) a plan.  Leave some holes in your calendar for impromptu meetings and on-the-spot networking.  If you’re too tightly scheduled you may miss an at-hand opportunity.

Follow up.  Schedule time after you’re back in the office to follow up with the contacts you made in San Francisco.  Nothing is easier than getting jammed back into your day-to-day work; ensure you’ve penciled in time to debrief.

First-time attendee or long-time alum?  At LaVoieHealthScience we help our clients optimize business opportunities.  Click, call or email to learn more.

Paper or Pixels? We’ll Take Both Please

It’s one thing to be environmentally conscious, but another to give an Investor Relations presentation without offering any type of hard copy collateral. In a move to “go green,” some are choosing to offer USB sticks, others are simply not handing out any material at all. But this is a mistake. The hand-out need not be glossy brochures, annual reports and/or SEC filings. Rather, a single-page fact sheet or copy of the slides can support the real-time presentation, while ensuring legs beyond the meeting itself.

disappearing-pixelsThe goal of an investor relations presentation is to enhance credibility and raise visibility. As a publicly traded company you must distinguish your company from the thousands of other companies vying for attention. Whether the audience are long-time followers or newly-engaged prospects, a hard copy hand-out is an easy opportunity to ensure the audience leaves with your message.

We’ve heard some presenters decline to provide copies of the presentation because they don’t want audience members skipping ahead. This is faulty logic. A good speaker will engage and monitor the audience. If attendees are skipping ahead, this is a clear signal to get them back on track.

Companies should also have a fact sheet. This type of hand-out provides an opportunity to repeat the message and restate the take-aways in the company’s own words.

At LaVoieHealthScience we recommend companies provide a copy of the presentation and an at-a-glance fact sheet at any investor meeting. An investor relations presentation is not an exercise in environmental activism. Rather, with a goal of leaving an imprint, paper is a valuable resource.

Connect with us today to learn how we help our clients produce on-message presentations, fact sheets and more.

LHS IR Spot – Managing an IR Database: FOMO vs. TMI


FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real in the IR business. Did you miss a Boston investor who asked for a 1:1 the next time you’re in town? Did you forget that great question asked by a San Francisco-based analyst? But try to capture too much intelligence, and you wind up with TMI (Too Much Information) – a bloated, overwrought database where useful information is buried. In the battle between FOMO and TMI, we recommend a balance of customization and consistency to capture relevant intelligence, define real-time insight and create on-going outcomes.

Customization Do not use customization as an opportunity to develop an unlimited number of categories. Rather, a philosophy of “minimal optimal” will ensure a manageable number of categories, optimized for your company-specific purposes. For example, one general category for “meetings,” whether it’s a one-on-one held at a conference, as part of an NDR or an on-site visit.

Consistency Once the customization is in place, make a commitment to enter company-specific information on a consistent basis. For example, every time there is an interaction with an investor or analyst, input a note: “Met with Taylor at BofA conference.”

Relevant Intelligence With a minimal optimal framework in place, you can input company-specific insight within the note to capture relevant intelligence. “First-time meeting with Taylor, holds position in PeerCo.”

Real-time Insight Include a bullet point that addresses the contact’s real-time feedback. Are they waiting for a particular milestone? Attending J.P. Morgan/Biotech Showcase in January? “Will continue to monitor OurCo, in particular interested in pipeline.”

On-going Outcomes Use a final bullet point to summarize next steps. “Make sure to reach out for next West Coast trip.”

Any subscription database is a means to an end, not an end into itself. While there is a baseline value in the subscribed data, the real prize comes from intelligence you add that is specific to your company. With a balance of customization and consistency, your database can provide relevant intelligence, real-time insight and on-going outcomes.

LaVoieHealthScience is all-in for life and health science companies. With 15 years of experience delivering strategic communications, we know how to amplify your business success. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you.

Not so Fast: Using a Media Embargo for Enhanced Coverage

In this age of “always on” media coverage, it’s interesting to review the use of the “not so fast” media embargo. For those unfamiliar with this methodology, a media embargo involves sending a press release to a reporter “under embargo.” The reporter agrees not to write on the news before it is distributed across the wire, and in return gets an opportunity to better frame the information.


Viewpoints Over the years, opinions have shifted about utilizing a media embargo. While some see it as an outdated stranglehold in the age of digital media, others argue for the benefit of thoughtful coverage. These advocates note that the head start gives a journalist time to fully prepare the story and present developed finished product. This is especially important in health journalism, where stories are complex and often require thoughtful consideration of research, development and findings.

Strategy The most obvious use of a media embargo is for exciting news such as the introduction of pioneering new technology. Embargos can also be used for general news, such as the initiation of a new study. For major news, the chosen journalist is privileged to receive the information as an exclusive. For other news, sending a release under embargo may whet the appetite of an otherwise less interested writer. For public companies with material news, it is important to understand the regulations and requirements. At LaVoieHealthScience, our integrated IR and PR practice ensures communications compliance.

Timing There is an inverse relationship between the length of the news embargo and the importance of the news. For example, LaVoieHealthScience secured national media coverage for an innovative hearing device based on a one-day hold. In another example, this time for a kick-off to a Burden of Disease study, the embargo was timed over the weekend.

Experience Of course, the use of a media embargo can pose a risk as not all journalists stand ready to honor the quid pro quo. Therefore it’s important to have an established relationship with reporters to whom you offer a “first look.”

LaVoieHealthScience is all-in for life and health science companies. With 15 years of experience delivering strategic communications, we know how to amplify your business success. Contact us today to learn more about how we help our clients present their news in a timely fashion.

Scenario Analysis Planning for Phase III Results

3 Scenarios, 2 Months, 1 Message



Phase III data lock in sight? Your internal scenario analysis starts now. That’s three scenarios, two months in advance, one unified message. The three scenarios may be overwhelming efficacy, modest efficacy and insufficient efficacy. Each scenario analysis should consider the primary endpoint data, preliminary views, interpretation of the possible results and an explanation of next steps. Considerations include statistical significance, patient results, regulatory implications and commercial relevance.

3 Scenario Analyses Your internal scenario analysis begins with the statistical boundaries that frame the three levels of efficacy – overwhelming, modest and insufficient. Outcomes include the goal of the study, number of patients, FDA protocol, primary endpoints and statistical methodology. Below this top-line overview are the bullet points specific to each outcome – the statistical results, the interpretation and implications for the study. Under message development, the points are the words that will be used to convey the results. Is this a “new treatment option” for which you now have “the confidence to proceed”?  Or maybe the trial “did not meet its primary end point” and there are “additional analyses” and “realignment of resources” needed.

2 Months in Advance With data lock in sight, evaluate the statistical boundaries that frame the three levels of efficacy – overwhelming, modest and insufficient. Each of these levels will need appropriate interpretation for all stakeholders. This is also the time to identify impacted audiences – patients, caregivers and advocacy groups; employees and partners; KOLs and investigators; scientific and medical media; investors and financial media. The message development must include key proof points that support the overarching message pillars and channels of communication for each. What parts of the website need updating and who will be responsible? Is there print collateral that should be developed, presentations to create and/or refine?

1 Unified Message It’s critical to begin an integrated communications plan with a well-developed methodology. This ensures message development across all possible outcomes and communicated to all stakeholders. The announcement of top-line data results is too important to leave to chance. Start early and plan thoroughly for high efficacy message impact.

LaVoieHealthScience is all-in for biotech and pharma with 15 years’ experience delivering strategic communications for life science companies. Contact us today to learn more about how we help our clients ensure appropriate communication of Phase III results.

Get the Most Out of Your Perception Survey: 5 Top Tips

BethKurth1Beth Kurth
Senior Counselor
Investor Relations

First you have to listen.  Investor relations professionals know the importance of listening to the investment community.  To tell a story well, it’s important to have audience feedback.  Therefore IR pros know the Perception Audit is an important piece of every investor relations program.  Is the management team well-regarded, does the company strategy make sense, are the financials in alignment?

At LaVoieHealthScience, we routinely conduct perception audits and are sharing our 5 top tips to conduct an audit and generate actionable insights.

Who to target?  Spread the net wide for the Perception Audit. Buy- and sell-side, holders and non-holders. This means reaching out not only to investors who have initiated a position, but also to those who have declined further interest. The best insight comes from understanding the viewpoint of those who like you and those who do not. For every responder, we estimate you’ll need 8 targets.

Questions to ask?  Questions should be targeted to gain insight into the company’s management team, products, pipeline, go-to-market strategy and financial metrics.  Importantly, life sciences companies have a distinct landscape that includes science, regulatory and clinical metrics. Be sure to ask when was the last time you heard the company story, what changed your view on the company, and how you prefer to get updates on the company.

Is it possible for an IRO to conduct a perception audit?  It is, but just not of your own company. It’s best when a third party conducts the perception audit. Not only will investors provide more candid feedback to a third party, but also an independent company will provide more forthright recommendations. Let’s face it, the point of the audit is to use the feedback in a meaningful way going forward. Which firm to use? The best firm to use is the one that understands your company’s ecosystem. This is critical because the most useful feedback is obtained when the person conducting the audit can ask insightful follow-on questions. “Why do you like that add-on therapy? How do you see it becoming the standard of care?” As a corollary, the most useful recommendations are also based on knowing your company’s industry, investors and opinion makers.

Timing an audit?  Some companies conduct an audit every year or two to see how investor perceptions change over time. A periodic study will capture changes in perception around your company, sector and overall market.

Management teams frequently make biased assumptions about how their company or product messages are perceived. A formal survey can serve as an essential reality check. With a candid view of investor feedback and deep insight into the life science market, we are able to make actionable recommendations to our clients.

Contact us today to start a dialog on how to ensure that your communication and IR program are on track to build recognition, maximize sales and optimize value for your health science innovations.


Conference Strategy Planning


As the investor conference season winds down, it is time to strategize and plan for future conferences. Companies should optimize their time and budget by aligning their conference strategy with their corporate goals.

First, let’s take a look at the decision-making process on attending conferences.

      • Who should attend from your company?
        • Investor:  CEO, CFO, IRO
        • Partnering:  CEO, Marketing, CSO
        • Medical:  CEO, CSO
      • What is your goal in attending?
        • Seeking Partner(s)
        • Raising capital
      • Where is the conference being held?
        • Does the location of this conference fall within your budget?
        • Could you combine this trip with a meeting in the same area with one of your stakeholders?
      • When does this conference coincide with a major announcement or corporate goal?
        • Announcing big news at a conference can gain additional publicity
      • How is your presenting officer prepared to tell your story?
        • Develop your story in 15 – 18 slides targeting two types of meetings:
          • One on Ones
          • Group

Next, research the conferences that meet your basic criteria. LaVoieHealthScience offers a comprehensive list of investor, partnering and medical conferences that you can find here.

Investor Conferences
If you are looking to increase your company’s visibility among potential investors for an upcoming IPO, additional capital raising or attracting new investors, attending investor conferences will maximize your outreach efforts. Online partnering offered by many conferences enables you to target potential investors who are attending the conference and conveniently set up one-on-one meetings helping to ensure a full schedule of meetings upon arrival at the conference.

Partnering Conferences
Perhaps your goal this year is to is to find a partner to help you develop or market your product. These conferences match those looking to develop or market their products with those companies looking to invest in future products.  Many times investor conferences also attract those looking for partnering opportunities.

Medical Conferences
If you plan to achieve a major milestone in your product development pipeline this year, unveiling the news during a medical conference can optimize your exposure to stakeholders on the cutting edge of the medical area where you are working.  These conferences may also be a good option if you are developing products in a particular therapeutic area, and you are looking to build relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs) and advocacy organizations in that area.

For additional resources as you develop your conference plan, check out our resources on:

Lastly, if you are looking to consider all of your conference options, download our comprehensive conference calendar here and check back for updates throughout the year.

Thought Leadership Series on Public Speaking

LaVoieHealthScience, sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, produced these videos to help you prepare your conference presentations and improve your public speaking style.

Watch these videos as you put the finishing touches on your presentation for the upcoming life science conferences.

The LHS Fifteen-Slide Presentation™
Being a great scientist or a great business visionary is just not enough; you must also be a great communicator to a diverse group of stakeholders. Develop 15 well-crafted slides to tell your company story.
Video 1

Public Speaking Strategies for the CEO
Learn and practice the most effective public speaking techniques, and let your authenticity and passion for the company shine through your speeches.
Video 2

Creating Your Elevator Pitch
Create a compelling elevator pitch that summarizes the basic facts about your company and customizes to appeal to the listeners, make a memorable impression, and reach your business goals at the upcoming life science conferences!Video 3

For more information on maximizing the company presentation experience, download our LHS whitepapers here.