Emmanuelle Clerisme-Beaty is the first to admit she isn’t a dermatology expert. But as the Head of Clinical Development Medical Affairs – Dermatology, where she and her team tackle skin conditions currently without a cure, she also knows she doesn’t have to be. She just needs the insight and talent-spotting skills to surround herself with people who are.
Originally a pulmonary critical care physician working on rare diseases and lung fibrosis, Emmanuelle moved to lead her new team a year ago. “I started working on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma originally, transitioning to lung fibrosis, which is rare. A year and a half ago, I moved to dermatology to focus on ultra-rare diseases. It’s actually quite unusual to have such a breadth of exposure. That diversity is one of the reasons I wanted to work here – we have a portfolio that can accommodate people's career aspirations as they evolve.”
“We have a portfolio that can accommodate people's career aspirations as they evolve”
So why the change? “When I started my career in pharma, working in pulmonary was an easy decision ¬– it was the area I trained in and those were the patients that I took care of. However, over time, it became difficult for me to differentiate how much of what I was contributing was based on my subject matter expertise as opposed to my knowledge of drug development. That’s why I decided to transition into other disease areas. In my current role, I work to support development of novel therapies with the aim of making significant impact on patients where there is lack of availability of effective treatment options.”
Tackling the unmet need
The dermatology group, which Emmanuelle now heads, is a new disease area that Boehringer Ingelheim is investing in, building competencies around dermatologic conditions, and focusing on areas where there is currently no treatment. Generalised Pustular Psoriasis (GPP), which Emmanuelle and her team are working on, is one of those diseases. She explains, “GPP, is a rare debilitating skin disease. Although the disease is primarily found in adults, it can affect patients of all ages. Patients with GPP suffer from sudden widespread pustular skin eruptions with or without systemic symptoms that can lead to hospitalisation in severe cases. Due to the nature and extent of involvement, this can have a significant social impact.”
“I remember one patient sharing how people thought she had HIV and didn't want her to go in a pool with her child because of it. One of the focuses of our work is to let patients know that they're not alone. When I talk with them, I can feel the appreciation that someone is trying to find a treatment solution and help address the social stigma associated with their condition.”
She often hears from patients with GPP about feeling isolated, because they think they're the only ones with the disease. “One of the biggest challenges I’ve found is raising awareness in the general population. So, at the same time as developing the drug, we’ve been working hard to educate clinicians, scientists and patients to let them know that they're not alone.”
“We are here to let patients know that they're not alone”
The blank slate
But working in the rare disease space can mean little to no data at the beginning. “You're often starting from scratch, because there is no existing framework. The awareness is lacking and the understanding is not fully established. The data we gain through clinical trials is constantly furthering our understanding of the disease. So, no matter what the outcome of the research, we always learn something new, which will ultimately help the patients.”
Emmanuelle actually finds not being the subject matter expert has it perks. “It allows me to be better at managing my team because I can recognise everyone's value, as they each bring things that are very different from my skillset.”
The future outcome
So, what’s next for Emmanuelle and her team? “We’re aiming to focus on a coordinated treatment approach, where we look at the patients, the access, the education and the training of staff.”
“We’re taking this approach because when we look at treating chronic diseases, the treatment is an important part, but it’s not all of it. Successfully impacting patients’ lives, often requires more than writing a prescription. That’s why we're thinking beyond drug development. We are also learning about the infrastructure needed to better support patients, so that as we develop effective and innovative treatments, the maximum benefit can be achieved.