PR ON THE GO November 3, 2023

Humanizing Innovation: CSL Behring's Bold Approach to Health Communications

By Jia Jia He

This year, Medical Marketing & Media (MM + M) awarded CSL Behring and Salutem Communications, a division of Edelman PR, the prestigious Gold for their brilliant work “Portraits of Progress”. This publication worked to highlight the advancements in the field of Hemophilia treatment, a disease that affects only 30,000 people in the U.S, done by CSL Behring, a global leader in the Biotechnology industry.

“To demystify gene therapy, the leading global biotechnology company wanted to humanize stories behind this innovative science and inspire those with the condition to take a significant (if scary) step towards a better future,” said the team at MM + M.

Capturing Courage

Portraits of Progress focus on bringing light to wonderful stories of hope and endurance experienced by older patients who have decades of experience battling this condition. The candid photos shot by photographer Rankin show the progression of patients suffering from Hemophilia over the years and share their remarkable stories with the community. Most importantly, it sparks a sense of hope within the community that the future of gene therapy and medicine have in-store many more life changing breakthroughs.

Their pop-up exhibit in New York City has garnered the attention of The National Hemophilia Foundation and the public as it went down in history as one of the most visited booths at its convention. Additional publications regarding this work were featured in prominent outlets including Forbes where collectively, this project received over 145 million impressions!

A Unique Take On Health Communications & PR

We’ve interviewed the project representative Carissa Hilliard, Senior Vice President of Health at Edelman, and she revealed: “In healthcare comms, it can often be hard to get a sincerely creative campaign up and running due to a lot of the rules and regulations in the field. But that challenge is what I love about working in this space.”

About their project Portraits of Progress she adds: “I’m drawn to bold, visual campaigns, and Portraits of Progress truly fits the bill. At the end of the day, everything we do is for the patient, and with this campaign, our patients were front and center: their personalities and idiosyncrasies came through in crisp black and white—whether it was Dan’s bedazzled cane or Stormy’s fine-line wrist tattoo. The hemophilia community doesn’t get a ton of recognition – so to see these portraits hung six feet tall, the largest this community may have ever seen themselves, was awe-inspiring. My goal is to push boundaries and tell the stories of innovation and hope in healthcare, and I am honored to have been part of this groundbreaking campaign.”

Inspiring Stories of Hope and Progress in Hemophilia Treatment

With the CSL Behring in particular, they worked to highlight the FDA’s first-and-only gene therapy for Hemophilia B, which is the rarest form of this disease. Hilliard prides herself in the momentous change they were able to enact:

“Hemophilia affects only 30,000 people in the U.S., just 6,000 of whom have hemophilia B. The disease was a death sentence until the last half of the 20th century brought lightning-speed updates in treatment. CSL Behring, a CSL business, is a global leader in developing and delivering high-quality medicines that treat people with rare and serious diseases. CSL has been committed to furthering hemophilia treatments for almost 40 years, and 2022 was the most crucial one yet, as the most consequential treatment breakthrough in hemophilia history became real: the FDA approved the first-and-only gene therapy for hemophilia B, offering patients a new option that had once only been a dream. But with a small and connected community, change—while exciting—can be frightening. We had to convince the population of the benefits of a one-time treatment, versus current therapies necessary to take regularly for the rest of a patient’s life.

To prepare for this paradigm shift in the treatment landscape, we needed to showcase the full spectrum of patient experiences to humanize stories behind this innovative science while demystifying gene therapy to inspire those with the condition to take a step towards a better future. We set out to make that tangible—showcasing the stories of an oft-ignored community—especially older patients whose voices and journey have faded into the background.”

Illuminating Hope

The campaign aimed to shed light on significant medical breakthroughs within this niche community, and they did just that. Overall, their incredibly well-deserved honor depicts the milestones that have been made to treat Hemophilia and the illuminating hope that shines for future innovations in this field.

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