Author Archives: Russo Partners

Three Tips for Successful Media Relations

We frequently engage with journalists and editors from a variety of publications to discuss best practices for pitching news coverage. While everybody has different likes and dislikes, we find certain strategies can be applied to media outreach in general. Below are three tips for successful media relations discussed that we find extremely effective.

1. Pitch a trend, not a company

One of the best ways to improve the strength of a pitch is to build it around a trend, in contrast to focusing solely on one company and its technology. For example, a hot topic in the biotechnology industry today is antibody drug conjugates, which have taken off like wildfire this year. A strong pitch would center on how the field has matured in the past year, with multiple FDA approvals and a surge of deal making occurring, and then lead into the companies involved.

This approach is in contrast to what is often the first instinct for pitching: discussing the advantages of one company’s product or technology. While this trend-based approach will absolutely take more time, the payoff is enormous, as providing context and background for a journalist is extremely helpful.

2.    Build relationships

A key component to successful pitching is building a relationship with the journalists with whom you are interacting. This includes face-to-face meetings when possible, but also knowing their beat inside and out. The most efficient way to do this is to read, read and then read some more. Before pitching, you should know their area of focus, what they have and have not covered before, the best news hook for coverage (Publication of data? Deal making? Regulatory actions?) and the background of their readers. A physician-read publication will not be interested in the same types of news as a financial publication, and knowing this difference will strengthen your relationship with the media.

This approach also takes time, but provides valuable insights that will enable you to create personalized, highly targeted pitches. And if you can provide a journalist with high-quality, well thought out stories, you are well on your way to building strong relationships with the media.

3. Get to the point

As a rule of thumb, any good pitch should be not more than three to four sentences in length. If you find yourself running over this amount, that may a sign that your pitch needs to be more focused, which will increase its effectiveness as well. In addition, the media landscape is changing, with journalists having more to cover and less time to do so than ever before, leaving less time to read through lengthy pitches. However, this also means that a good, to-the-point pitch will be even more appreciated.

These are many other media best practices that can be discussed beyond these three, but these are good places to start in order to improve your pitches and build a relationship with the media.

Syndax Pharmaceuticals Secures $26.6 Million Series B Financing to Advance Entinostat into Phase 3 Study

Last month, Syndax announced the securing of $26.6 million in Series B financing. Funds from this financing round will be used to advance the company’s lead drug, entinostat, into a pivotal Phase 3 study in patients with metastatic breast cancer, as well as continue development of entinostat in other indications, such as lung cancer.

DNA exists in the nucleus of a cell in compact structures called chromatin which includes the DNA itself and the histones around which the DNA is wrapped. The ability of a given gene to be expressed is partly dependent on whether the DNA is accessible or inaccessible to the gene expression machinery. The accessibility is determined by modifications to the DNA or the histones, i.e. epigenetic modifications which generate a closed, tightly wrapped structure or an open, loosely wrapped structure.

Syndax is developing therapies for treatment-resistant cancers based on epigenetics, which focuses on changing gene expression without affecting the underlying DNA sequence. Investors participating in the financing round included Domain Associates, MPM Capital, Forward Ventures and RusnanoMedInvest (RMI).

In a previous Phase 2 study, entinostat was shown to extend both progression-free survival and overall survival when added to exemestane in postmenopausal women with estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) metastatic breast cancer whose cancer had progressed after treatment with a nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor. This patient population has a high level of unmet need, as few effective treatment options exist.

Russo Partners secured coverage of the news across newswire outlets, including Dow Jones VentureWire; industry publications, including Xconomy, BioWorld Today and The Pink Sheet; as well as regional outlets, including WBZ News Radio 1030 (CBS affiliate).  Read more about the financing in the article below from Xconomy.


The Avielle Foundation, a Non-Profit Focused on Brain Health Research Into the Causes of Violence, Phoenix 999 and a Survivors’ Group Known as The Rebels Project Host the First Annual Brainstorming 5K

Avielle Rose Richman

Avielle Rose Richman, one of twenty-six children and educators tragically killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT

Last week, the Avielle Foundation, a non-profit focused on raising funds to support brain health research into the causes of violence, Phoenix 999 and a survivors’ group known as The Rebels Project hosted the first annual Brainstorming 5K in Littleton, Colo. The event drew close to 500 participants, and aimed to raise community awareness of the need for brain health research into the underpinnings of violent behavior, with prevention as the goal. Funds raised will be distributed to researchers through the Avielle Foundation’s grants program.

The Avielle Foundation | Reducing violence in our communities through brain health initiatives and community development to support and protect vulnerable populations.While we are all too familiar with the tragedies of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Columbine, Aurora and others, we still know little about the underlying drivers of violent behavior. Only once scientists have a better understanding of the biological and environmental factors associated with these pathologies can we then educate healthcare providers, teachers and other community members about identifying and responsibly advocating for those at risk of violent behaviors. Policies that facilitate counseling, education and therapeutic interventions could then be put into practice, potentially preventing acts of violence before they begin.

Prior to the Brainstorming 5K, Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis, Phoenix 999 founder and member of the Columbine class of 1999 Heather Egeland, and Avielle Foundation CEO Jeremy Richman, Ph.D., a former Boulder resident who lost his only daughter, Avielle, in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., met for an informal meeting and tour of the Columbine Memorial. The importance of funding brain health research and potential solutions were discussed during this meeting.

Russo Partners secured coverage of the Avielle Foundation and the Brainstorming 5K, including a segment on the Denver CBS affiliate, KCNC, and radio interview on KOA 850. The Denver ABC affiliate, KMGH, also participated in the briefing at the Columbine Memorial.

Listen to Dr. Richman’s interview with KOA 850 discussing the Avielle Foundation and the Brainstorming 5K in more detail by clicking on the link below.

KOA 850

Exosome Diagnostics Continues to Advance Non-Invasive Platform Technology that Overcomes Limitations of Tissue Biopsy

exosomes in science at Exosome Diagnostics, Inc.In order to diagnosis a disease, such as cancer, a biopsy is frequently taken. However, the procedure is invasive and can be a painful or life-threatening experience. If a disease requires monitoring for progression, an invasive biopsy is also a less-than-ideal option, leading to a need for non-invasive alternatives.

Plasma microvesicles visualized by cryo EM

Aiming to provide a solution to this limitation, Exosome Diagnostics is advancing non-invasive diagnostic tests based on exosomes, which are microvesicles found in blood, urine and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Exosomes are shed by cells under both normal and diseased conditions, and high-quality RNA and DNA can be extracted and purified for subsequent analysis, such as measuring levels of genes responsible for cancer or other diseases. The non-invasive nature of the approach also allows data to be collected in real time.

CSF microvesicles visualized by cryo EM

The company recently formed two partnerships involving this technology in the past few months, involving Mount Sinai and QIAGEN, respectively. Under the partnership with Mount Sinai, Exosome and the hospital will establish targeted research and biomarker discovery programs in oncology, inflammation and other disease areas. Exosome anticipates pursuing commercial development and FDA review of successful validations for in vitro diagnostics.

Under the partnership with QIAGEN, the two companies will develop and commercialize high-performance, co-branded kit products for the capture and processing of RNA and DNA from biofluid exosomes and other microvesicles. Initial product launches are anticipated the first half of 2014.

Read more about Exosome’s partnerships in the news releases below.

Partnership with Mount Sinai

Partnership with QIAGEN

Natera Continues to Advance Best-in-Class Non-Invasive Prenatal Test, Panorama(TM)

ImageNatera continues to advance its next-generation, best-in-class, non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT) PanoramaTM, announcing launches in additional countries and publishing data showing highly accurate detection of additional chromosomal abnormalities. Panorama is currently able to detect more abnormalities, with higher accuracy, than currently available NIPTs.

Now, Panorama is available in Brazil through a partnership with DASA Group; Switzerland and Scandinavia through a partnership with Unilabs; Spain through a partnership with Echevarne; and Germany through a partnership with amedes. Natera continues to work to make Panorama available to as many patients as possible, and additional global launches are anticipated in the year ahead.

In addition, the company published two separate studies in Prenatal Diagnosis demonstrating Panorama’s ability to highly accurately detect triploidy as well as sex chromosome abnormalities, respectively. Triploidy is a devastating, though little known, condition, despite occurring in 1 of 100 conceptions, which results in fetus death and is associated with increased health risks for the mother, including increased risk of preeclampsia, molar pregnancy and cancer.

Sex chromosome abnormalities are often overlooked, as previously they could only be detected through an invasive procedure, and at birth a child seems healthy. However, early intervention with hormone treatments can result in improved outcomes, including offsetting fertility and learning issues that present later in life. Thus, early detection can result in dramatically improved outcomes.

Read more about the non-invasive prenatal testing space and Natera’s test, Panorama, in the Fortune article below.


Dominic Behan, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Director, Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Arena Pharmaceuticals Selected as One of PharmaVOICE’s 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life-Sciences Industry

dom2_960_430-195x130Last week, PharmaVOICE announced its annual list of the 100 most inspiring people in the life sciences industry and selected Dr. Dominic Behan, co-founder, director, executive vice president and chief scientific officer of Arena Pharmaceuticals, as one of the PharmaVOICE 100.

Dr. Behan founded Arena with Jack Lief, Ph.D., Arena’s chief executive officer, to develop drugs that interacted with G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) for treatment of human diseases. Last year Arena received FDA approval of its first drug, BELVIQ® (lorcaserin HCl), the first new prescription weight-loss treatment approved by the FDA in 13 years. BELVIQ is to be used as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity in adults with an initial body mass index (BMI) of: 30 kg/m2 or greater (obese), or 27 kg/m2 or greater (overweight) in the presence of at least one weight-related comorbid condition, such as hypertension, dyslipidemia or type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Behan spearheaded the scientific development of BELVIQ, from discovery through FDA approval, while also building a sustainable pipeline of additional products based on Arena’s technology platform. Revenue from BELVIQ’s sales will allow Arena to continue to advance its internal pipeline, which includes candidates for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension, thrombotic diseases and pain.

Russo Partners nominated Dr. Behan for this special issue and coordinated activities surrounding his selection as one of the PharmaVOICE 100. Read more about Dr. Behan’s background and find the complete list of the PharmaVOICE 100 in the article below.


Endocyte Continues to Advance Personalized Therapeutic Vintafolide, Partnered with Merck, and Companion Imaging Diagnostic Etarfolatide, Towards Potential EU Approval

Endocyte Endocyte continues to advance their personalized cancer therapeutic, vintafolide, which is partnered with Merck, and its companion imaging diagnostic, etarfolatide, towards potential conditional approval in the EU for treatment of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. A regulatory decision is anticipated this year.

Vintafolide is a small molecule drug conjugate (SMDC) comprised of a potent chemotherapy drug linked to a small molecule targeting the folate receptor, which is overexpressed on certain cancers, including platinum-resistant ovarian cancer. The companion imaging diagnostic, etarfolatide, is also a SMDC that targets the folate receptor; however the chemotherapy drug is replaced with an imaging agent. This enables patients that overexpress the folate receptor, and thus will likely respond to treatment with vintafolide, to be identified, through a whole-body, non-invasive scan.

Vintafolide is also being evaluated in a Phase 2 trial of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), TARGET. Endocyte recently announced completion of enrollment in this study, with top-line results expected the first quarter of 2014.

Russo Partners handles media relations for Endocyte, and recently secured coverage of the company in Investor’s Business Daily. Read the article below for more information about Endocyte, including its personalized therapeutics and companion imaging diagnostics.

Investor’s Business Daily