Viewpoint: Delaware-born Incyte makes a global impact during crisis
By Peg Squier
Incyte is a global biopharmaceutical company with more than 1,600 employees in North America, Europe and Asia. Our drug discovery and development efforts began in 2002 when a group of scientists opened our labs here in Delaware. Since then, we have strived to make an impact in the lives of patients with serious unmet medical needs around the world.
Challenges are no surprise to us as we work every day to find solutions for patients; however, COVID-19 and the unprecedented global crisis brought a different kind of challenge. The enormity of the crisis called on those who could help to do so. I am so proud to work for a company that took immediate action and is leveraging our resources and expertise to do our part.
As we observed the pandemic, we asked ourselves – what must be done to ensure that patients taking our medicines have uninterrupted access to them? What can we do to support our teams and our local community? And can we apply years of scientific research and evidence to inform the study of COVID-19 treatments? While we are nowhere near the end of the pandemic, I am pleased that we have been able to rise to the occasion and make an impact.
First, we considered what the pandemic changed for patients living with serious diseases – our driving force, inspiration and motivation. We worked to ensure that patients enrolled in our ongoing clinical studies, and those taking our medications for their approved indications, received the care they needed despite the challenging circumstances. We quickly adapted and put systems in place to ensure our supply chain remained uninterrupted. We considered the unique needs of each region. In some cases, this involved direct-to-patient shipments, and in one instance we chartered a plane and engaged a taxi to drive many miles to deliver medicine to a pharmacy in France when our normal supply chain was disrupted. We also sought to maintain the continuity of our ongoing clinical trials studying treatments for multiple cancers, dermatologic conditions and other immune-mediated diseases, and I am pleased to say that the majority of our trials were uninterrupted, through the application of technology and implementation of new processes such as virtual site visits, remote monitoring and eHealth visits.
I am proud of how our teams came together to find solutions despite working remotely. We have supported our employees and contracted staff, such as café employees, even through building shutdowns. As the impact of the pandemic grew and healthcare workers lacked personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to do their jobs safely, Incyte donated PPE from our laboratories to local Delaware hospitals. In response to a surge in demand for food distribution, we donated funds to the Delaware Food Bank. We also supported our advocacy partners who reach broader patient communities, such as The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society COVID-19 Patient Financial Aid program, which provides cancer patients financial assistance for expenses that arise due to loss of income.
The pandemic created an immediate need for treatments and vaccines. Given the urgency, a prudent approach was to try to repurpose existing treatments that are well understood. At Incyte, we have been studying serious and rare diseases that involve overactivation of the immune system. As we learned more about the pathophysiology of COVID-19 and its sequelae, we saw that some of the most severe complications were caused by a significant overreaction of the immune system – a cytokine storm. When emerging evidence suggested that one of our medicines might be able to play a role in treating patients with COVID-19-associated cytokine storm, we worked expeditiously to design and open the RUXCOVID (in collaboration with Novartis) and 369-DEVENT studies. We began enrolling patients in each program within a month of protocol finalization. In addition, our supply team was able to manufacture 2.8 million tablets of our medication in a little over a week in anticipation of potential use. We also opened an emergency Expanded Access Program in the U.S. so eligible patients who do not qualify for the clinical trials can receive the medication while it is being investigated.
It’s no surprise this has been an incredibly tough and trying year for everyone. Through it all, I am immensely proud of the way Incyte – a Delaware-born company – continues to support those in need both locally and around the world.
Peg Squier is group vice president for U.S. medical affairs at Incyte. She is also a Delaware resident proudly representing Incyte in the local community.