Meet the Authors

Zo Ratansi

General Manager, SixSense Strategy Group, Medical Affairs Practice Lead

KOL Identification and Engagement Planning in Rare Disease Clinical Development

Client Overview

Our client, a leading biopharmaceutical company, sought to embark on a clinical development program within a new therapeutic area in the rare disease space. This program centered around a groundbreaking agent, and the client recognized the need to identify and engage national thought leaders who possessed clinical and research expertise. However, the client had a unique requirement: they sought individuals with minimal pharmaceutical industry consulting experience to provide fresh perspectives and insights.

Challenges and Objectives

The challenges our client faced were twofold. First, they needed to identify a pool of national thought leaders who not only had extensive clinical and research expertise but were also not heavily involved in pharmaceutical industry consulting. Second, the client aimed to engage these Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) strategically to advance their clinical development program effectively.

Our Solution

1. Defining Objectives for KOL Engagement

We initiated the project by collaborating closely with the client’s team to define clear objectives for the KOL engagement. This included understanding the specific expertise and profiles the client was looking for and setting the stage for the selection process.

2. Selection Criteria and Prioritization Algorithm

We worked in tandem with the client to establish selection criteria and a prioritization algorithm. This framework guided the identification and evaluation of potential KOLs based on their qualifications and alignment with the client’s goals.

3. Speaker Search and Bibliometric Analysis

To create a comprehensive list of potential KOLs, we conducted an exhaustive speaker search across international and national congresses. This search was informed by the selection criteria, ensuring that the identified individuals had the right expertise.

Additionally, we performed bibliometric analysis to evaluate the candidates’ contributions to their respective fields and their industry engagement levels.

4. Collaboration with Internal Stakeholders

We collaborated with the client’s internal clinical and medical stakeholders to review KOL profiles and ensure a seamless fit for the client company. This step ensured that the identified KOLs would be valuable additions to the client’s program.

5. Shortlist of KOLs and Validation Calls

Following the selection process, we identified a shortlist of KOLs who were potential candidates for engagement. To validate their suitability, we facilitated 15-minute one-on-one calls with these individuals. During these calls, we assessed their experience relative to the selection criteria and their potential fit for engagement with the client company.


Herspiegel Case study KOL identification


Value Delivered

Our engagement provided several key outcomes:

  1. Organization Needs Identification: We helped the client identify and categorize their specific requirements for advisory services, ensuring that the chosen KOLs were aligned with their objectives.

  2. Thought Leader Identification: We successfully identified thought leaders with the skill sets necessary for client company engagement, enabling the client to access invaluable expertise.

  3. Strategic Working Group Sessions: We designed, facilitated, and reported on strategic working group sessions with the identified Advisors. These sessions provided a platform for the client to collaborate with KOLs, advance their clinical development in the new therapeutic area, and leverage the fresh perspectives of experts who lacked extensive pharmaceutical industry consulting experience.

Our KOL identification and engagement planning played a pivotal role in guiding our client’s rare disease clinical development program. By collaborating with the client to define objectives, create selection criteria, conduct comprehensive searches, and validate KOLs, we ensured that the engagement was not only successful but also aligned with the unique requirements of the client’s project. Our efforts empowered the client to advance their clinical development in the rare disease space and access the insights of national thought leaders.

Finding the Key Opinion Leaders and Engaging them is critical to developing and launching new therapies for rare diseases.

Meet the Authors

Zo Ratansi

General Manager, SixSense Strategy Group, Medical Affairs Practice Lead

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Herspiegel is a leading professional services firm helping biotech start-ups and the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies navigate the path from science to brand performance and change patients’ lives. We are committed to using strategic insights from medical to commercial to market access to solve critical problems.