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How COVID-19 Impacts Transplant Patients with Peter Maag, PhD., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CareDx

For my leadership in healthcare series, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview: Peter Maag, PhD., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CareDx Born in Ulm, Germany, to two pharmacists and raised in a community pharmacy, Peter has healthcare in his blood. In his career with McKinsey, Novartis and now with CareDx, he focuses […]

For my leadership in healthcare series, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview:

Peter Maag, PhD., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CareDx

Born in Ulm, Germany, to two pharmacists and raised in a community pharmacy, Peter has healthcare in his blood. In his career with McKinsey, Novartis and now with CareDx, he focuses on transforming companies by applying novel technologies with the goal of changing patient lives.  

CareDx is a precision medicine company focused on transplantation medicine. Its offerings and services span the transplant patient journey. By applying latest technology through its diagnostics and digital solutions it partners with the large transplant healthcare ecosystem around the world.

Q&A

 Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I deeply care for making a difference in a patient’s life. Over the years, together with great teams, we have developed a feel for technologies that can be transformational in a specific therapeutic area. Transplant is fascinating, as it is ultimately at the pinnacle of medical science.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Without saying names – In transplantation, you never want to mix up if you are talking with a surgeon or a transplant clinician. Surgeons want to have short interactions with Yes/No answers, clinicians want to have meetings with lots of information……you see what can go wrong.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are rated in the top 2% of companies on the Gallop poll for companies on Mission and Purpose. CareDx employees deeply care for patients. Our theme last year was: “It takes a village” and this sentence deeply resonated with so many, as it truly takes a village to care for a transplant patient – It is amazing to hear this sentence come up in many communications from all parts of the company.

 Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

As a company dedicated to transplant patient care, we are constantly investing into new innovations to further the field of transplantation.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have come together to bring out solutions that can help transplant patients during this challenging time. We launched a new service called RemoTraC, a telehealth solution to provide home blood draws for transplant patients. RemoTraC includes AlloSure and AlloMap, CareDx’s surveillance tests for kidney, heart and lung patients, along with a panel of other routine tests. We are also supporting a worldwide COVID-19 transplant registry called C19TxR, which runs on our OttrCare platform.

 What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Small companies need a lot of blood sweat and tears – and in CareDx, its more blood than anything else. Our R&D needs a lot of patient samples.

The financial industry is much more an industry than I thought. For example, some investors referred to CareDx during the IPO as “paper” – which was interesting, maybe some cared more about the stock than about what the company is doing

Loyalty comes at a premium in hot labor markets. The technology hotspots are amazing places to work in, and employee retention is important to ensure continuity. CareDx has attracted a lot of talent – but this has become obvious to many.  

Where do you see the future of healthcare?

I think the COVID crisis will boost healthcare tremendously. Regular people are forced to think about their health and their lifestyle by making significant tradeoff decisions (What is the risk in leaving my house?).

This crisis is also showing the importance of Diagnostics and the ability to understand disease progression. It also underscores how little we know about the immune system and how long it takes research and development in our field.

And then – the future is digital. I believe patients will want to reset the bar in respect to privacy of health information and their ability to use the information to their benefit. There are too many data companies that benefit from consumer data – My hope is that in healthcare access to health information will be more focused on engaging the patient in their health choices.

What advice do you have for working smarter, finding purpose and beating burnout?

You are not getting tired when you are working for something you are passionate about with people that you care for. I believe most people only realize a fraction of their potential.

 In the wake of COVID-19, how are organ transplant recipients, who we know are at higher risk, impacted by the pandemic?

Transplant patients are immunosuppressed and a high-risk group for COVID-19, prompting some to cancel or delay appointments for routine lab tests. That is why we have stepped up to the plate with offering RemoTraC. To help transplant patients during this critical time when they may be worried about making their appointments and risk getting infected.

How is CareDx utilizing telehealth and personalized medicine to provide the greatest assistance to organ transplant recipients in need?

CareDx launched RemoTraC, a new service that provides home blood draws of routine transplant blood tests, on March 16 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Transplant patients are immunosuppressed and a high-risk group for COVID-19, prompting some to cancel or delay appointments for routine lab tests. RemoTraC allows for continued monitoring of these patients from their homes.

 Do you believe that telehealth is the future of medicine, and how do you see CareDx taking the lead in this new era?

CareDx has been building a focus on digital solutions for transplant over the past few years, and we are now seeing the sea change that will enable these services to change the way transplant patients are cared for. I am surprised to see how transplant centers run individually, even more so in a crisis, and a company who can create standardization is more needed than ever.

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