We talked to Jayden Rogers of Linear Clinical Research on how to assess and realize the full medical and commercial value of work, sharing insights and network of partners to drive product to fruition, swiftly and safely and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jayden Rogers: Fortunately, we are doing very well, living in Perth Western Australia, there wouldn’t be many better places in the world to be at the moment. Since April, no community COVID-19 cases, a strong economy and moving into our beautiful summer, makes us extremely lucky and very grateful to be here. Our thoughts, however, are with folk across the world that are doing it much more challenging.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Linear Clinical Research.
Jayden Rogers: It’s been a journey. Fun, challenges and lots of learning along the way. I’ve always been interested in healthcare and innovation. As a physiotherapist (physical therapist), I was fortunate enough to work in Australia and the UK. Increasingly, I got into the business side having my practices and then being part of a start-up (Halo Medical Devices) with an inspirational founder Hayley Warren. We took a concept through development, trials and into production and distribution across the world. I threw myself into an MBA and worked in biotechnology before jumping at the chance to join a small, fast-growing not-for-profit clinical research organisation – Linear Clinical Research. Working closely and absorbing as much as possible from the then CEO Dr Michael Winlo I moved through multiple roles, Global Business Development, and COO. Then, I was fortunate enough to be appointed as CEO in late 2019. During that time, Linear has tripled in size and developed market-leading positions in data capture and the delivery of complex trials, particularly cancer trials.
How does Linear Clinical Research innovate?
Jayden Rogers: We believe that the drive for innovation is the culture you establish and the people you empower. As an organisation, we get to work with some of the world’s most significant innovations (ground-breaking science and medical breakthroughs). We feel a deep obligation to drive an innovative plan in the way we approach our business. We employ an agile management structure, focused on solving problems as opposed to working in silos. We actively look to test new concepts and solutions whilst learning and then to iterate based on the data. We back our people in to be tech-forward in developing solutions (with a strong focus on being paperless) supported by a robust governance structure around system validation given we operate in a heavily regulated industry.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jayden Rogers: As an organisation, we made a determined effort to fight COVID-19 head-on with the mantra of “adapting, not enduring”. Fortunately, we were digitally-enabled pre-COVID and rapidly swung into a new operating structure that was mostly remotely based. Our purpose as an organisation came to the fore, and we deployed our efforts to fight where we thought was most important. It saw us work on five leading COVID-19 projects, including a global COVID-19 vaccine study and a preventative study with SPARK at Stanford. We doubled down to protect the most vulnerable patient groups that saw us enrol record numbers of cancer trial patients during the peak of COVID-19, one of the very few sites globally to do this. Our teams pushed through an unprecedented level of innovation, across telehealth, home dosing, work from home, and remote audits. We went into COVID-19 in a strong position due to years of investment in culture and innovation. Fortunately, we have come out even more substantial, evident in an aggressive expansion program to more than double our capacity in 2021.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jayden Rogers: Early in COVID-19 we were very aggressive in implementing a range of proactive measures, that was controversial at the time however in the long run, very well received by our staff, customers and stakeholders. It included locking down our clinic, reducing the throughput of some studies to protect others, implementing testing procedures. Things were happening so quickly that decisions had minimal information, and we took a bias to action approach that was quite daunting at the time. I learnt that communication was critical, and being frank and honest with your staff and customers as to the situation was vital. I knew that trusting and empowering people was the best way to push through innovation. I also learnt that it is genuinely in times of challenge that you see the benefits of past investment in your people and innovation.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Jayden Rogers: As an organisation, we have invested in building our people operations and focus heavily on our people. It involves frequent conversations honestly discussing the situation and our approach to it, using tools and platforms to help our staff seek help, surveying our team and fostering open discussions about the challenge we faced. We initiated a whole month to “recharge” our batteries based on a company-wide exercise challenge that was very well received.
I focus on spending time with my young family and enjoying the small things. Running became an essential outlet, which allowed me to burn off frustration or anxiety and develop a range of ideas to tackle the challenge ahead. Speaking frequently with my board and mentors was also a key source of support.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jayden Rogers: Our focus isn’t too much on competitors but rather our customers and our purpose. We operate in an industry that requires multiple partnerships. Often we are working on programs of work alongside our so-called competitors. However, our approach has always been to do things differently. We feel our role is to push the boundaries, be the pioneers and find ways to do things differently. Ultimately, it’s a culture that sustains our operations, and by investing heavily in that, we feel confident that we will continue to deliver outstanding service to customers and key stakeholders.
Your final thoughts?
Jayden Rogers: COVID-19 has represented a global challenge that is a healthcare threat first and foremost; however, it is also an economic and psychological threat for everyone. We are fortunate to operate in an industry that actively fights against all of these threats – that being medical research. What COVID-19 has shown is that we can do things very differently (e.g., find a vaccine in less than a year – a remarkable feat!). It is critically important that we take these new ways of working (partnerships, purpose-driven, digitally-enabled) into the future and create the new normal to prevent future health risks, which invariably come with economic and psychological consequences and create a better world.