2017
conversation

To Your Health

The Challenge: In the early 2000s, a 50 percent failure rate for mental-health-drug trials meant the Food and Drug Administration approved few new treatments for psychiatric diseases, says Amy Fershko Ellis, ’80, who cofounded MedAvante in 2002 to analyze how the pharmaceutical industry tested psychiatric drugs. Her team found the root cause of trial failure was measurement variability and investigator bias in subjective assessments of trial participants. MedAvante created a holistic methodology to improve testing, but the company encountered industry resistance as outsiders looking to change the way clinical trials had long been conducted. The Strategy: Ellis applied universal principles to product development. Because drug trials are conducted in various parts of the country and around the world, companies pay investigators to find, evaluate, and enroll patients. But differences between investigators result in unreliable outcomes. MedAvante, however, proposed a way to control and centralize the evaluation process, using the internet to connect remote clinicians to patients to ask the same questions in the same way and characterize patient responses identically. MedAvante also digitized the process and made it cloud based, so researchers would have instant results. To build credibility, MedAvante enlisted key medical and scientific leaders who believed in their strategy and concept—mostly academics who didn’t have an economic bias. In 2005, MedAvante’s first two trials involved drugs that had previously failed. The new methodology showed significant results demonstrating the drugs worked, and the treatments were approved. Even with those results, industry skepticism of MedAvante’s nontraditional approach meant slow methodology adoption. But by 2009 the psychiatry industry embraced the system, and MedAvante dropped the 50 percent trial failure rate to the low teens. In 2014, MedAvante expanded the platform for use in all medical drug trials, using new technology to enhance data quality for drug developers. New services were quickly adopted beyond psychiatry, especially in studies of Alzheimer’s disease, where the company now holds a leadership position. “We benefited from the halo we had from our success,” Ellis said. The Takeaway: A great strategy can work in all sectors, even if implemented by industry outsiders. If the strategy and results are sound, don’t be discouraged by naysayers.

perspective

The Book of Booth: Roxanne Martino, ’88

Roxanne Martino, ’88, landed her first job in finance after just a quarter and a half in the Evening MBA Program and hasn’t looked back since. The retired president and CEO of Aurora Investment Management and current managing partner of OceanM19 is an inaugural inductee in the InvestHedge Hall of Fame, and the first woman to co-chair the Council on Chicago Booth. You joined Aurora in 1990, just before the hedge fund industry took off globally alongside the rise of the internet. What was it like to be an entrepreneur at that time? It was thrilling. In the early years, we had a “creeping vine” approach to expanding our investor base—one happy investor telling another. That changed once people could search performance metrics online, and could then find us from all over the world. One of our first international clients was from Saudi Arabia. They contacted us after screening on performance data in an online database and requested firm information. We managed their capital for over 15 years. At the same time, hedge fund managers were becoming more global in their approaches. It truly became a global business on both the trading and investment sides, as well as among our clients and investors. How have career prospects changed for women in finance since then? When I went to my first hedge fund investment conference there were only about five women there—we kept in touch and, happily, most of them stayed in the business. While there are more women in finance today than there were then, there still aren’t enough women in leadership positions and on investment committees. To enable more women to attain leadership positions, they must first be hired into investment firms to get the required experience. We must all be vigilant because discrimination is often subtle. When interviewing candidates, make sure that the ratio of women is appropriate and you’re inviting women candidates to the second and third level of interviews. There are very few women CEOs period and even fewer in finance, so I try to make myself available to speak at conferences and women’s groups to assist women in finance in whatever way that I am able to help them.<br/>

In this issue
perspectives

The Book of Booth: Roxanne Martino, ’88

Roxanne Martino, ’88, landed her first job in finance after just a quarter and a half in the Evening MBA Program and hasn’t looked back since. The retired president and CEO of Aurora Investment Management and current managing partner of OceanM19 is an inaugural inductee in the InvestHedge Hall of Fame, and the first woman to co-chair the Council on Chicago Booth. You joined Aurora in 1990, just before the hedge fund industry took off globally alongside the rise of the internet. What was it like to be an entrepreneur at that time? It was thrilling. In the early years, we had a “creeping vine” approach to expanding our investor base—one happy investor telling another. That changed once people could search performance metrics online, and could then find us from all over the world. One of our first international clients was from Saudi Arabia. They contacted us after screening on performance data in an online database and requested firm information. We managed their capital for over 15 years. At the same time, hedge fund managers were becoming more global in their approaches. It truly became a global business on both the trading and investment sides, as well as among our clients and investors. How have career prospects changed for women in finance since then? When I went to my first hedge fund investment conference there were only about five women there—we kept in touch and, happily, most of them stayed in the business. While there are more women in finance today than there were then, there still aren’t enough women in leadership positions and on investment committees. To enable more women to attain leadership positions, they must first be hired into investment firms to get the required experience. We must all be vigilant because discrimination is often subtle. When interviewing candidates, make sure that the ratio of women is appropriate and you’re inviting women candidates to the second and third level of interviews. There are very few women CEOs period and even fewer in finance, so I try to make myself available to speak at conferences and women’s groups to assist women in finance in whatever way that I am able to help them.<br/>

conversations

To Your Health

The Challenge: In the early 2000s, a 50 percent failure rate for mental-health-drug trials meant the Food and Drug Administration approved few new treatments for psychiatric diseases, says Amy Fershko Ellis, ’80, who cofounded MedAvante in 2002 to analyze how the pharmaceutical industry tested psychiatric drugs. Her team found the root cause of trial failure was measurement variability and investigator bias in subjective assessments of trial participants. MedAvante created a holistic methodology to improve testing, but the company encountered industry resistance as outsiders looking to change the way clinical trials had long been conducted. The Strategy: Ellis applied universal principles to product development. Because drug trials are conducted in various parts of the country and around the world, companies pay investigators to find, evaluate, and enroll patients. But differences between investigators result in unreliable outcomes. MedAvante, however, proposed a way to control and centralize the evaluation process, using the internet to connect remote clinicians to patients to ask the same questions in the same way and characterize patient responses identically. MedAvante also digitized the process and made it cloud based, so researchers would have instant results. To build credibility, MedAvante enlisted key medical and scientific leaders who believed in their strategy and concept—mostly academics who didn’t have an economic bias. In 2005, MedAvante’s first two trials involved drugs that had previously failed. The new methodology showed significant results demonstrating the drugs worked, and the treatments were approved. Even with those results, industry skepticism of MedAvante’s nontraditional approach meant slow methodology adoption. But by 2009 the psychiatry industry embraced the system, and MedAvante dropped the 50 percent trial failure rate to the low teens. In 2014, MedAvante expanded the platform for use in all medical drug trials, using new technology to enhance data quality for drug developers. New services were quickly adopted beyond psychiatry, especially in studies of Alzheimer’s disease, where the company now holds a leadership position. “We benefited from the halo we had from our success,” Ellis said. The Takeaway: A great strategy can work in all sectors, even if implemented by industry outsiders. If the strategy and results are sound, don’t be discouraged by naysayers.