Business Talk: Nicolle Peto of Scientific Communications Group

January 2nd, 2018

Scientific Communications Group is a full spectrum, scientific communications firm focusing on educating healthcare professionals who come in contact with rare disease patients. tealbook caught up with Managing Partner Nicolle Peto to learn about their niche area of expertise, programs that have the potential to facilitate life-changing outcomes and more.

On the origins of the business
Scientific Communications Group started six years ago. The partners come from various backgrounds—sales, clinical, one is a medical doctor and one is a publisher. We’ve been working in the industry for over 25 years but the company started six years ago. What we have morphed into is really a highly-scientific clinical content company that works mainly with rare disease clients, clients who have products to treat rare diseases. The kind of work we do is largely live meetings and publishing. What we’re trying to do is communicate to the healthcare community on behalf of our clients, the pharmaceutical companies, about these rare diseases, and trying to get physicians who may not know they’re seeing a rare disease. Most of the time rare diseases don’t follow a steady, easy path. Patients take about eight to ten years to get diagnosed, on average. What we try to do is use our platform, which is live meetings, to educate physicians and shorten the span to diagnosis.

On occupying a niche area
I think what makes our business unique is we have found ourselves in a niche area doing this type of work. I couldn’t even tell you how many medical education and medical communication firms there are out there, and we all kind of do the same type of work. We created a program that speaks to figuring out the mystery of a rare disease which we call the medical mystery. This program we do is a program that helps identify patients with rare diseases. This has created this unique little niche area for us. We’re a minority company, we’re a woman-owned small business which is also unique and special and something that we’re proud of. It’s something I personally never thought I’d do, own my own business. I set out to do it after not liking the feel of a big agency and everything that goes along with that. Somehow six years later, in a crazy, up and down economy, I’m still here.

On building sustainable client relationships
I think a lot of the time in this particular industry, the way you get clients is through clients. That seems to be how I grow the business, from my vantage point. I worked with this one company, and they took a chance on me, and we started working together and became successful. Over time, a lot of those people move on and go to different companies. I keep in touch with them and I network with them, and follow up with them endlessly, and they become a client. They branch into other places and I try to grow with them. I’ve found growing from my base is where I’ve had the most success.

On the overlap between innovation and persistence
I think being innovative is just sticking with it. I’m Managing Partner, so I’m in charge of new business and getting in front of clients. Being innovative is always like you’re finding new ways to get people’s attention, you’re finding new ways to sell your product, but a lot of that is just persistence to get in the door. Because if you can’t get in the door, you can be the most innovative company in the world, but if no one’s listening it doesn’t matter. I always go back to persistence.

On rewarding work in rare disease education
Doing this medical mystery has been the most rewarding of all. The way the program works is basically simulating how doctors are trained to become doctors in the first place. We go to medical conferences that take place all across the country, all year long, in different specialities. Either primary care, gynecology, Gastroenterology, pediatrics—all of the different ones. If I’m hired to do a program like this, what we’re trying to do is show the doctors, or the nurse practitioners or the physician’s assistants that are in the audience, a way a patient who has a rare disease may present. How they probably look like patients who you treat all the time, but if you really listen to what they’re saying, you might catch that this could be something not typical or atypical. You might actually be able to identify that this patient who has been coming for years or who has gone from doctor to doctor to doctor with all these various symptoms, might actually have a specific rare disease.

The most rewarding is when you have a physician tell you at the end of the program they think they might have misdiagnosed one of their patients that actually might be a rare disease, and then you find out that they followed up and talked to that patient. You might actually have something to do with changing someone’s life, in a very small way. Physicians get 95 percent of the credit, but if what my program does helps facilitate that, it’s the most rewarding kind of work I could imagine.

On the future
Right now we’re in the process of trying to close on some business. We have a new client who has a rare disease for spinal muscular atrophy that affects newborns, babies, toddlers, kids, teens, and adults. We’re hoping to really work with this client. We’re doing about eight or nine meetings with them in 2018 and I want to see where that goes. We’re looking to continually grow the business through really trying to help these companies identify patients and come up with some shorter time to diagnosis to treat these rare diseases. I just know we’re on our way.

This interview has been edited and condensed. This feature is part of a new series highlighting suppliers using tealbook. 

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