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At last week’s MaRS MorningsGina Drosos, CEO of Assurex Health, spoke about what it takes to radically turn an industry upside-down and come out on top. MaRS Mornings is a monthly speaker series at MaRS celebrating creative founders and visionary leaders. If you missed it, you can follow the conversation on Twitter using #MaRSMornings.

Gina is a proven businesswoman and was the past Beauty Chief at Proctor & Gamble (P&G) who was behind the transformation of brands such as Olay (driving sales from $200 million to $2.5 billion) and Old Spice (engaging an entirely new audience with memorable ads like this one).

Now, with Assurex Health, Gina is leading the charge to bring physicians and patients managing mental illnesses into the new era of personalized medicine that, as Gina explains, is powered by three key features:

  1. Informatics and technology
  2. New developments in genomic science
  3. Patient and provider empowerment

Even when the conditions may be right for a shift, it still takes a tremendous amount of people power and know-how to get things done.

Gina provided some insights on what it takes to effect change:

1. Better technology on its own does not win. Insight, execution and the vision to change the paradigm do.

Oil of Olay brand products and updated Olay brand imagery
Gina Drosos was part of the team that transformed the Olay brand.

Gina explained that transforming Oil of Olay, a brand once jokingly referred to as “Oil of Old Ladies,” to Olay meant a big re-brand that lead to a paradigm shift in the beauty industry. Traditionally, the best skin-care technology was sold in high-end department stores and would later trickle down into the mass market. After much consulting with consumers, P&G decided to flip this paradigm on its head and started to sell new Olay cream in discount stores, claiming to be the better than all the rest. And it worked.

Similarly, Assurex Health and its GeneSight test are changing the way medications are prescribed to patients suffering from depression. As Gina pointed out, the current practice of the trial-and-error rollercoaster is SO NOT WORKING—with less than 50% of patients responding to the initial drug, usually chosen based on a physician’s experience and preference, and the outcome being even worse as additional drugs are prescribed.

Graphic showing that less than 50 per cent of patients respond to drug treatment. Information shows number of medication treatments as well as rates for efficacy and side effects.
GeneInsight graphic showing that less than 50 per cent of patients respond to drug treatment. Information shows number of medication treatments as well as rates for efficacy and side effects.

With GeneSight, “you can use your DNA to provide your doctor with active information to help treat you accurately the first time.” This is a fresh approach that gives patients and caregivers an ability to make an informed decision together. And it looks like the market likes this change—just last year Medicare announced that it will cover the cost of the GeneSight test for the 52 million Americans under their plan.

2. Prove your technology works and more.

There are five published peer-reviewed clinical studies on GeneSight with data that proves how the technology is improving patients lives, with a 70% greater improvement in depressive symptoms and a significant number of healthcare dollars being saved. Gina mentioned that Assurex Health is continuing to study the impact of GeneSight in the Canadian context under the MaRS EXCITE program. In Canada, managing mental health represents an annual cost of $7.9 billion to the healthcare system.

3. Hire someone to complement your weaknesses, not suck up to your strengths.

Gina compared business to a basketball game: the competition and the play are always changing and so should the skills on your team.

4. Communicate your vision.

A simple, sticky and repeatable mantra is needed to reinforce your vision within your company and to your audience. At P&G, the mantra was “Consumer is boss.” At Assurex Health, the patient is now the boss.

5. Be a giraffe.

Gina explains that the giraffe is a reminder to keep your head up. Like the Assurex Health mascot, entrepreneurs need to be constantly vigilant of the competition and to see how things are and what they could be. Gina cautioned that “what works today definitely won’t work in the next five years” and that staying ahead of the competition might mean needing to obsolete yourself.

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Lily Lo

Lily manages the Procurement by Co-Design challenges to ensure effective collaboration between healthcare providers and vendors. See more…