Valerie Sullivan was recently appointed President and CEO of central Florida-based digital health company etectRx. With its roots at the University of Florida’s Innovation Hub, the company focuses on innovating medication adherence with the use of its patented technology, the ID-Cap™ System. Sullivan brings more than 30 years of experience in health care, having worked in the pharma, digital health and pharma services industries. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and Economics from College of the Holy Cross, and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Northeastern University.
Sullivan’s passion for creating meaningful, cost-effective solutions across the health care ecosystem has brought her to etectRx. She takes the helm with the goal of driving better patient outcomes and enhancing digital health technology. The company’s advanced R&D, proactive treatment abilities and patient-friendly system are positioned to achieve these goals. Sullivan began her career at Pfizer, Inc., where she spent 16 years in a variety of roles. Since then, she has served as vice president and general manager of the Patient Service Center at Pear Therapeutics, a program she built from the ground up, and as the president of InVentiv Patient Access Solutions, a tech-enabled patient support services company.
When not busy at work, Sullivan enjoys spending time with her husband and two children and loves to relax at the beach. She is an avid reader and focuses on the latest management and social science findings to leverage how to best excel in the business world. She also shares her management skills and advice with students as an adjunct faculty member at Bentley University.
We talked with Sullivan about her leadership and management experience, and how her career in pharma will benefit etectRx as it scales its model from a start-up to a commercial partnership organization.
How did you get involved in health care?
I majored in chemistry as an undergrad and started researching the intersection of science and business during my sophomore year. When pursuing my MBA, I stumbled upon a job posting for a pharmaceutical sales rep position with Pfizer. Being a drug rep in the early nineties was exciting because each new drug launch was considered a blockbuster (think Viagra, Zoloft, Lipitor). In my 16 years at Pfizer, I achieved 7 promotions, and it was there that I gained great foundations of strategic thinking and business acumen. I fell in love with Pfizer’s deep passion and commitment to help cure and resolve complex disease states. I was fortunate to experience other business opportunities related to pharma after my time at Pfizer, like running specialty pharmacies and an IT-oriented reimbursement services business helping patients get access to high cost specialty medications.
Tell us about etectRx and how it is positioned to help the pharma industry with drug development efforts?
etectRx has developed a novel digital pill technology that will help pharma companies evaluate adherence of their oral medications and use data on ingestion to correlate efficacy, side effects and optimal dosing in order to deliver the highest quality patient outcomes. The ID-Cap System is a Class II medical device that has been cleared by the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for marketing in the United States. The ID-Cap System is comprised of ID-Capsules containing ingestible sensors, a wearable ID-Cap Reader, a mobile application for the patient and a custom dashboard for clinicians and pharmacists. Our ID-Cap System has the ability to help pharma in their R&D efforts by providing accurate data, as well as the potential to make trials less costly over the long term, with fewer patients needed in trials because of increased data accuracy.
What is your advice to leaders in the digital health space?
Everyone needs to support diversity and inclusivity for better performance of their bottom line and their people. Early on in my career at Pfizer, I learned that diversity of thought was the best predictor of team success. As a leader, I place high value on the various perspectives of my team and encourage open lines of communication. While digital health companies are often on the cutting-edge of innovation and are very exciting places to work, the atmospheres can be intimidating. Leaders in our field have to work to simplify complicated digital technology. Young people should know that our industry needs good people who can think strategically, be intellectually curious and try to take something complicated, like a digital pill, and create clear communication around it. I can always find a role in my company for those with an outstanding work ethic and good communication skills as well as strong strategic thinkers and those who are intellectually curious to drive team results.
What are your hopes for the future of health care and how do you see fitting into that future?
For too long, health care has been reactive. A patient gets sick and visits a doctor. The doctor tries to fix the patient’s illness and the patient listens to clinical advice. The system is incentivized to fix a problem, however, I am passionate about a health care system that spends more proactive time on wellness and patient empowerment. Patients have the ability to take hold of their health and be engaged in their personal treatment plan. Our hope is that we will play a significant part in showing patients how taking their medications as directed can help them get the best outcomes. They are engaged by their clinician using their smart phone, making health part of their daily routine. Our role is giving patients confidence and control and engaging them in their treatment regimen.