12 questions with:

Dr Michelle Longmire

As the co-founder and chief executive officer of Medable, Dr Michelle Longmire is mission-driven to accelerate the development of new therapies for disease. A Stanford-trained physician-scientist, Dr Longmire witnessed first-hand the critical barriers to drug development – including the time and costs associated with clinical trial participation. She founded Medable to pioneer a new category of clinical trial technologies that remove traditional roadblocks to participation and radically accelerate the research process.

question 1

What was your background prior to this role, and how did it prepare you for the work you do now?

I learned a lot of the key qualities of being a CEO from team sports and my experience conducting research at Stanford. It was the perfect combination that directly applies to leading the team at Medable, with a strong focus on our mission to get effective therapies to patients faster, plus the relentless drive and working as a team to reach our goals.

I truly believe all extraordinary work is achieved by empowering your team. As a CEO, I think the most valuable thing I can do to empower my team is to provide a clear vision of what’s possible and where our goal is to evolve drug development to improve human health and lives.

The mission was born while I was conducting research on systemic sclerosis at Stanford. I was looking at identical twins with this disease to try and understand differences in identical twin pairs – why one would have the disease and the other one wouldn’t, or why one would not have as severe clinical manifestation. Facing the hurdle of trying to enrol patients who had the unique requirements of being identical twins with this rare disease, I realised there has to be a better way to overcome the limitations of getting participants to Stanford to participate.

Team sports taught me that the team is always stronger than the individual parts. When everybody is dedicated to achieving a singular outcome, we can do things that are seemingly impossible. Being a CEO is the most difficult job I’ve had. However, through my experience running Medable, I have learned that being relentless through setbacks, turbulence, and anything else we might encounter is the key to achieving our mission and shaping the industry into a better future.

question 2

What are some of the biggest ongoing challenges in your work?

The last three years have been incredibly challenging and exciting. The biggest challenge is really around scaling the company to meet the incredible demand we experienced. The surge in demand for DCT during the pandemic was exhilarating and really proved the idea that technology can be a game changer when it matters most. The adoption curve was accelerated radically, and we needed to dramatically scale our workforce and company in a very short time frame.

Demand has not diminished, and this requires us to focus on delivering a best-in-class consumer-grade experience for patients, sponsors, and investigators on a worldwide scale. We are excited about how far we have come and inspired by the impact we are poised to make to improve human health.

question 3

What motivates you about working in pharma?

There are thousands of diseases that we do not have treatments for, or we have suboptimal treatments for, and even for conditions where there are treatments, there are still barriers and challenges to access. As a practising physician, I see these challenges first-hand. I believe that if we can radically accelerate the speed of clinical development, we can have treatments for all human conditions within our lifetimes.

Working with pharma is exciting because we have the benefit of reach, scale, and meaningful partnerships working together to truly innovate the drug development process. Getting those effective therapies to patients faster is incredibly motivating to me.

question 4

What are your biggest long-term goals for five years or ten years from now?

Our goal is to radically reduce clinical trial timelines from many years to under a year. In order to do that, we need to transform clinical development with technology at a global scale that gets increasingly better with time.

At our current pace of drug development, it will take 200 years to find cures for all disease; we want to improve that tenfold. So instead of taking 200 years to discover cures for these diseases, we reach that in 20 years. We think we can get there in ten years.

question 5

What are the most important professional skills in your work, and how do you hone them?

As a CEO, I know it’s important to continue learning and growing. What gets the company to one level of growth usually does not get it to the next. So, I try to look around the corner and think about what I need to learn and how I need to grow to prepare for the next phase of the company’s growth. I am constantly reading, working with my coach, seeking out new ways of doing things, and thinking about how to improve.

question 6

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the industry right now?

In clinical development, the use of digital technologies is being increasingly encouraged, as evidenced by the recent regulatory guidance in both the US and Europe. The biggest challenge now is adopting DCT technology at a full enterprise scale. We’ve proven that DCT works and adds incredible value to clinical trials. Now our next challenge is scaling these results quickly.

question 7

How do you promote patient-centricity in your workplace?

Medable is really focused on improving patients’ lives, and to do that, we need to understand their lives. We have a Patient Caregiver Network that works directly with participants and product teams to provide valuable feedback to enhance usability.

We also bring the patient experience to our entire team, inviting a speaker to a monthly all-hands meeting to tell their story. That patient voice is so valuable to us because improving patient lives is really at the heart of everything we do.

question 8

How has digital technology changed your work or workplace culture?

Medable is a remote-first company, even before the pandemic. We believe in the power of digital tools to bring people together even though they are in different geographies and from different cultures. This is only possible because of technology – it expands the horizon of what is possible.

question 9

What advice would you give to a young person starting out in your field?

I would say choose something you can be completely obsessed with. The stakes are very high in healthcare and life sciences, given you are directly impacting individual lives, so, getting things right is an extremely important and never-ending pursuit. But if you’re passionate about your “why” and driven to see results, that will carry you through the inevitable challenges we all face in work.

question 10

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

I believe in the stoic concept of a sound mind in a sound body. In my free time, I exercise and learn (sometimes at the same time!). I’m often on the road, so I either go for a run or attend an exercise class – one of my favourites is Barry’s Bootcamp.

When I’m at home in Colorado, I downhill and Nordic ski in the winter and run, bike, and rollerblade in the summer. The audiobooks and print books I read are typically either scientific topics like quantum physics, mathematics, biology, or medicine and business books written by or about CEOs and leaders I admire.

question 11

Do you have any pets? What are their names, and what are they like?

Yes! I have two very energetic and active French bulldogs, Bella and Nadia. Nadia was named after the gymnast Nadia Comăneci because she is incredible at climbing on tables and furniture.

question 12

How do you manage health, fitness, and wellness in your life?

I know that if I don’t get the exercise I need and take care of myself, I’m not going to be able to show up as the leader my team needs so that we can accomplish our mission. Therefore, I’m very deliberate about making sure I limit how many calls I have per day so that I have enough time to exercise and rest. Exercise is the best stress management tool ever “invented”.

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