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Women Leaders in Market Access: An interview with Katie Gardner from Astellas

May 10th, 2024

In our podcast series, “Women Leaders in Market Access,” we engage in insightful interviews with eight inspiring individuals who are remarkable leaders in the global market access community.

This interview spotlights Katie Gardner, who is Head of Global Market Access Excellence at Astellas. Katie is not afraid to challenge the norm. She has a growth mindset and has compassion and support for how others respond to change and the challenges it brings.

You can access the podcast episode featuring Katie here, or continue reading for the complete Q&A.

Q1: What is your current role and your core responsibilities?

I’m the Head of Global Market Access Excellence and Capabilities at Astellas. I’ve been at Astellas for just over three and a half years now, and my remit is to define market access excellence. I ask what an industry-leading market access function looks like and ensure we have the capabilities to achieve this consistently across the organization. I get to work across Astellas’ market access community, including global and country-based colleagues across all products and the pipeline, and with many cross-functional colleagues across medical and commercial. I’m grateful for my role and really enjoy it.

Q2: What did your own personal journey into market access look like? What led you to the industry?

After completing a PhD in neuroscience, I moved into the pharmaceutical industry. My first job was in pharmaceutical advertising, launching a product that patients and doctors wanted, but payers wouldn’t cover due to a lack of evidence demonstrating the product’s value. This experience introduced me to market access and the importance of payer evidence. I joined a small consultancy focused on payer research and communications, gaining depth in health economics, outcomes research, real-world evidence, and value and access consulting over 12 years. This broad perspective solidified my expertise in market access.

Q3: Did you always have a clear intention to work in science, or was it a career choice that evolved over time?

Looking back, I’ve always enjoyed making evidence-based decisions, which naturally led to science and market access. I’ve always enjoyed problem-solving and wasn’t good at arts and languages, so science was a good fit for me.

Q4: What have been the most significant changes you've seen so far in your career?

The biggest change over the past 15 years is the increasing importance of payer perspectives earlier in product development. Companies that achieve optimal market access are those that integrate payer considerations throughout the development process. At Astellas, we use a framework called Mishi, which ensures we consider payer perspectives from Phase 1 to launch, enabling us to bring innovative treatments to patients as soon as possible.

Q5: Have you had to overcome any barriers or obstacles as part of your journey so far?

I joined Astellas during the first COVID-19 lockdown. I had to build relationships and credibility virtually, which was challenging. I focused on connection questions and building familiarity with my team by discussing life outside of work. Despite working remotely, I aimed to create a high-performing, cohesive team.

Q6: What are the biggest challenges that market access professionals face?

The constantly evolving landscape is a major challenge. Policy changes across the globe, like the IRA in the U.S. and EU pharma legislation, raise the bar for value demonstration. Developing more innovative treatments requires close collaboration between industry and payer decision-making bodies. Increasing agility in the reimbursement landscape is also crucial to adapt to these changes.

Q7: What should market access professionals be doing to prepare for the ever-changing landscape they're faced with?

Embracing digital technology is key to increasing agility. We aim to have a digitally bilingual workforce at Astellas, combining expertise in market access with foundational knowledge of digital tools. This allows us to use digital technologies effectively, whether for payer insights, operationalizing pricing, or value demonstration.

Q8: Given your close involvement with Access Infinity and the ongoing journey, could you provide some insights or commentary on this topic, specifically in the context of your experiences and observations?

Working with Access Infinity is rewarding because of the blend of technical and market access expertise in the team. Diversity within the team fosters innovative ideas, and initiatives like our Togu project allow team members to gain experience in different areas and bring fresh perspectives to projects.

Q9: You've emphasized the significance of building a digitally bilingual team, a term I find intriguing. Additionally, you've highlighted the idea that insights can emerge from any source, and briefly touched on mindset. Could you elaborate more on your thoughts regarding the mindset theme and its role in fostering innovation and digital transformation within teams?

Mindset is crucial for high-performing teams. A growth mindset is necessary for innovation, which involves being open to ideas from anywhere, accepting feedback, and being willing to be challenged. Collaboration between industry and payers is essential to recognize and bring innovation to patients.

Q10: What have you learned along the way in terms of key takeaways? Is there any advice that you'd give to young budding market access professionals starting their career now?

Mindset is crucial for high-performing teams. A growth mindset is necessary for innovation, which involves being open to ideas from anywhere, accepting feedback, and being willing to be challenged. Collaboration between industry and payers is essential to recognize and bring innovation to patients.

Q11: What makes market access a rewarding industry for you to work in?

Making a difference in patients’ lives is the most rewarding aspect. Market access professionals play a crucial role in ensuring patients can benefit from innovative treatments. Keeping the patient focus central to our work helps maintain motivation and drive.

For the complete interview with Katie, click here. Explore other episodes in the Women Leaders in Market Access podcast series here, or find the “Market Access Matters” podcast on all major podcast directories.