Todd Parker, PhD, CMPPTM, VP, Scientific Services; Angie Miller, CMPPTM, Senior VP; Steve Palmisano, CMPPTM, Senior VP, Managing Director; MedThink SciCom

“Our team is having trouble prioritizing our medical communication activities.”
“Across our team, we cannot agree on core communication concepts.”
“Our publication agency performed a lexicon analysis of our publications and found significant inconsistencies with how we described the mechanism of our product.”

Have you heard someone say these things within your company? Many companies face the challenges of ensuring that each product has a well-grounded scientific story that is consistently used by various teams. That is part of the reason why development of a scientific platform is such a critical undertaking—it facilitates communication of a single vision across all communication channels and stakeholders.

The old proverb “measure twice, cut once” highlights the importance of thorough and thoughtful planning before initiation of a scientific platform or development of downstream communication plans. A scientific platform involves a rigorous approach to development of the core story (grounded in the scientific literature) for a product. This involves identifying core concepts that address the disease state, clinical need, and product-related communications. The process for development of a scientific platform may seem daunting at times; however, once it is broken out into discrete steps, it could be not only straightforward but also one of the most valuable and rewarding initiatives.

The first step in the development of a scientific platform is to ensure team alignment on objectives, uses, and format for delivery. Through the initial stages, teams should set clear goals, agree to a review process, and secure team agreement on the path to platform development. While scientific platforms may be formulated in various ways, the following graphic (Figure 1) is an example of what the structure may begin to look like.

Figure 1. Potential structure of a scientific platform with 5 sections (or pillars). Underneath each pillar would be detailed scientific statements supported by appropriate references.

The next step is an immersive review of the data and literature, and potential discussions with key experts, which may occur by phone interviews or use of virtual collaboration tools. Often, the immersion phase of a scientific platform includes a review of recent literature analyses, advisory board executive summaries, formal market research, publication plans, and more.

Development of core concepts is the next step in the process. A multidisciplinary workshop designed to gain consensus on core concepts generally follows and is recommended because this forum promotes individual engagement and facilitates team alignment. It is also important to ensure that all appropriate stakeholder departments are represented and are involved contributors to the process (Figure 2). Publication professionals are frequently called upon to provide significant support during, if not leadership of, scientific platform development, in part because of their strong familiarity with the literature and knowledge of supportive data. After team alignment on core concepts has been reached, other elements can be developed as needed, including scientific communication points with supporting references and the desired lexicon for key terms and descriptions.

Figure 2. Potential departments that may be involved in development of a scientific platform.
Note: Companies may or may not permit Commercial representatives to be involved in the development of a scientific platform. Each company should check with its Legal representative.

Although many companies initiate development of a scientific platform during phase 2 of product development, any product with directional data can benefit from having a scientific platform (Figure 3). However, the process does not stop once the scientific platform is first completed. It is a living document that should be revisited and updated when events occur that affect the landscape (eg, data milestones, competitor data/activities, other medical advances, changes in research program).

Figure 3. Historical data depicting the phases of product development during which scientific platforms have been initiated by MedThink SciCom.

Ongoing monitoring is necessary to ensure uptake and correct usage of the scientific platform by the extended team. This can be the most critical step and is often overlooked. It is the responsibility of the scientific platform lead (eg, medical communications or publications lead) to not only ensure that the platform is accurate and up-to-date, but also to ensure that there is consistency in its implementation.

In summary, there is a systematic, well-vetted process for developing scientific platforms (Figure 4) that builds a foundation for establishing consistency in medical communications associated with a product. The value of the scientific platform will quickly be realized through team alignment and improvements in efficiency, as well as through the structure and direction it provides in establishing long-term scientific communication goals. Scientific platform development is a team effort and responsibility, and one in which the publication professional often plays an instrumental role.

Figure 4. Primary phases and activities associated with a scientific platform.


Editorial assistance: Chris Lawrence, PhD, ELS, Senior Director, Editorial Services, MedThink SciCom