Ask the Experts Interview Series

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Cécile Tardy-Srinivasan

Cécile Tardy-Srinivasan leads the DayOne Health 4.0 Accelerator. In this role, she supports international digital health startups to scale up at the interface with biopharma companies.

Striving to improve patients experience and outcomes, she specialised in co-creating solutions for patients and healthcare professionals, working with, and enabling collaborations among different stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem.

Previously, Cécile worked at multinationals, like Ernst & Young or Novartis. You might think she made the wrong career move by starting in finance, but this actually helped her understand & communicate value creation levers of partnerships.

Ask the Experts Interview Series

with Cécile Tardy-Srinivasan

Tell us about yourself.

I’m French, originally from St-Etienne area, near Lyon known for its gastronomy. My husband is Indian. As you can imagine, I love and thrive in multi-cultural environments. We have been living in Basel for nearly 14 years.

Having studied Business administration and Economics, I naturally started my career in finance. I worked in that field for about 12 years, whether in financial services or the industry. I then pivoted towards innovation and HealthTech over the past 6 years. My motto is innovating FOR patients WITH patients.

Could you share more about DayOne? How can pharma / startups / digital health / insurance players benefit from this?

At DayOne we are shaping the future of health by accelerating digital transformation in Europe’s leading healthcare and life sciences hub.

We have built a platform for collaborative innovation across disciplines and industries by accelerating startups, launching catalyst projects and hosting a community and events to bring innovative healthcare ventures forward. 

Among the 3 programs of the DayOne Accelerator, mine i.e. “Health 4.0” is more particularly focused on digital health ventures willing to scale-up at the interface with the biopharma industry. To tell you more concretely what I do, let’s take a recent example: a pharma company came to us to address highly unmet patients’ needs in terms of pain management. We scouted for startups developing relevant solutions or having a product/service scalable in that area and co-selected them with the industry partner to fit their strategy. 

We then designed the program, sourced the coaches and experts, and tailored the 3-month acceleration to the needs of the startups and the partner, e.g. taking into consideration the maturity of the startups, the level of digital transformation from the partner, the types of collaboration they might have already worked on. For both parties, this offers a fast-track engagement and a way of de-risking a future collaboration, as the startups and partners get to work together along the 3 months of the acceleration program.

Talking from experience, it’s very energizing and rewarding to work with fantastic entrepreneurs, co-create with patients, healthcare professionals and pharma teams.

Why Basel?

With two of the big Pharma headquartered here (i.e. Novartis, Roche), big players like Bayer or J&J, Moderna, many biotechs, digital health and medtech startups, and 700 companies in life sciences overall, it’s a haven for life sciences lovers.

On a personal level, I came initially by chance. 14 years ago, I was working for EY in Paris when I got headhunted for a role at Novartis headquarters in Basel. After one year, I met my husband. Since then, we stayed by choice – we were both able to find our next jobs opportunities within the region or a commutable distance…that’s the beauty of Switzerland!

When you come from abroad, Basel is a very welcoming city with a mix of Swiss and international flairs, offering a great environment for families like ours. 

Tell us more about the latest developments in digital health and Health 4.0

The digital health sector is booming, it has shown a lot of innovation and attracted a lot of investments over the past years, despite a slow down this year after an exceptional year in 2021. This is a very vibrant area, with many patient solutions and health services developed for people living with chronic diseases, supporting mental health, or dedicated specifically to women like FemTech.

Advances in digital healthcare technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, 3D printing, robots, and nanotechnology are changing the future of healthcare right now, right in front of us. Technologies are already helping us, such as applying machine learning to mammography to improve breast cancer detection. Health 4.0 unlocks formidable opportunities, ranging from personalized treatment, early detection of cancers, or prediction of treatment outcomes.

These are amazing times to work in the digital health and Health 4.0 space. 

What is a defining moment in your career?”

For many years, people saw only one facet of me at work: the finance professional. They never saw one of my other facets as a patient. My personal “coming out” was during the “Im-Patient” conference where we were 7 patients and caregivers selected among 100+ applications to co-create the content of the event. This was the first time I was appearing among former Pharma colleagues as a “Patient”, therefore bridging two of my worlds. I remember the audience standing ovation at the end of the conference, and it still gives me goosebumps. Since then, I never stopped putting my energy to pursue patient-centered initiatives and digital health!

Fast forward to this year, I was the first patient ever to chair the Patient Engagement track at the Reuters Pharma conference – another proud moment.

Any other interesting stories to share?

Happy to share an anecdote about my first steps in the healthcare industry. Due to my personal story, very early on I knew I wanted to impact patients’ lives concretely and not only talk about it. During the interview for my gap year internship with Baxter in Munich, I remember my future manager asked me “Do you realize we are selling products for people dying?” (Note: enteral and parenteral nutrition for palliative care). I replied “Yes, that’s what I want to do, I want to help patients”. And here we went – I worked for 6 months on a pilot project to bring medications and care to colorectal cancer patients at home. Ironically, since Covid pandemic and the surge in telemedicine, everybody is now talking about “care at home is the future of healthcare” … our pilot was done 20 years ago – we were probably too ahead of our times!

What are your thoughts on failure? How has it helped you become a better leader?

As someone who works with startups, I can tell you that failure is part of the usual journey! You cannot reach excellence and success without going through failures. My own missteps and failures have taught me how to embrace small steps towards a bigger vision, different paths or ways of thinking, guiding others through uncertainty, and this has definitely shaped my leadership style.

What are some philosophies/rule of thumb/principles that got you to where you are today?

The first thing that comes to my mind: being true to myself and my values. I have never really followed the crowd, and always developed my own path. While most of my master’s classmates were opting for investment banking, I went to the industry. Later, many of my colleagues came from country organizations to regional roles to end up in global functions, I went the other way around.

6 years ago, I left the comfort of a well-paying job in a great company to pursue my mission. I didn’t have any new job lined-up. My then-job was not aligned anymore with what I wanted in life. I just knew I had to get out and explore new things matching my priorities and interests for innovation and serving patients in a different way. At that time, some colleagues thought I was crazy and would crash my career, some others said I was courageous… I was probably a bit of both to be fair. Looking back, it was not easy, but I’m very happy I took the risk.

What drives you? 

Bringing innovation faster to patients! I know it sounds like what a lot of pharma companies claim in their tagline, but for me, living with a rare disease for more than 20 years, this is a calling. I know that not all patients are as lucky as I have been to get diagnosed quickly, get access to treatments and doctors as I did… and let’s be honest, it’s never granted: every year, the health insurance decides if they renew the exceptional approval for my medication.

Overall, I need to feel that I’m putting my energy and efforts at the service of a good cause and that I bring value to others. I also enjoy connecting different people with various backgrounds. 

If I step back, there are three traits common to my experiences, whether in the corporate or the non-profit world: create a significant impact, develop a lively community and focus on sustainable solutions.

Top 2 key challenges faced right now?

On the professional side: bringing to life a syndicate of organizations (e.g., pharma, tech, insurance, hospitals, patients associations) interested in advancing neurosciences by bringing health tech solutions to patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals. We have seen so many setbacks in bringing therapeutic breakthroughs for Alzheimer’s (AD) and Parkinson’s, and brain health in general is becoming a big topic for our aging society in the European countries.

On the personal side: the past year has been quite intense, riding on the entrepreneurship wave from my husband building his startup in sports media, while managing the insatiable curiosity and energy of our 3-year-old daughter. Both help me look at things with different perspectives, learn from other experiences and grow as a human being.

Any closing remarks/general advice to share.

Patients are people first! From the very beginning, involve them in the health tech solutions you are developing, in the clinical trials you are designing, in the “patient-centered” projects – whether it’s for their living experience or their professional skills. I cannot wait for the day involving patients and citizens in general will be considered as “standard practice” – so many other industries have been doing it for more several decades. Shaping the future of health means involving every citizen – this is the way to personalized healthcare!

Thank you for having me.

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