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Case Study

Using innovation and agility to rapidly respond to the World Health Organisation’s call to action

This case study was originally published in Communiqué Magazine with kind permission from Sanofi, following Uptake’s Agility and Flexibility Award win at the Communiqué Awards 2023. 


A rapid response to the WHO

A Sanofi global affordable access to diabetes care project supported on a not-for-profit basis by Uptake; a global healthcare consultancy specialising in delivering measurable business impact for global pharma and biotech companies. 

Embracing agile

Critical to success was the creation of a SLAM project team to enable a diverse group with nuanced priorities and different perspectives to be incredibly efficient, embracing flexibility as new information became available, and making rapid, informed decisions.   

The team was innovative in the adoption of Uptake’s practical agile methodologies, and in its focus on bringing key stakeholders together, with a common North Star. The project team was able to co-create a minimum viable product and working plan which was agreed by two countries in less than six weeks.   

Impactful outcomes

The project has enabled work to begin in Ghana and Nigeria, with pathways planned for delivery in three further countries and is forecasted to save and improve many thousands of lives.  


A global epidemic inspiring a huge, shared ambition

As part of the company’s ambition for global access to healthcare, Sanofi has a long-standing commitment to fully playing a part in ensuring LMICs and underserved communities throughout the world in need of diabetes care can receive it, but until 2022, barriers to doing so included a lack of data to demonstrate which governments were prioritizing the issue, and misalignments between key stakeholders.  

In 2021, the WHO launched the Global Diabetes Compact – an ambitious new initiative to galvanize efforts around the world to both reduce the risk of diabetes and ensure that all people diagnosed with diabetes have access to equitable, comprehensive, affordable and quality treatment and care. In the same year, it added analogue insulin to the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines and sought support from Sanofi – the leading supplier of analogue insulin – to strengthen its commitment on diabetes. 

Having previously experienced working with Uptake’s signature practical agile methodologies, inspired by design thinking and behavioural economics applied to pharma situations, it was decided Uptake should be brought in to be the ‘enzyme of change’, to support the Sanofi team to make a significant impact, rapidly and sustainably.  


  • The foundation for success was sharing a North Star, aligned to Sanofi’s societal impact strategy and ambition to support broader and equitable patients access to medicines and healthcare. 


  • A practical approach was taken to resource prioritisation; A set of criteria was built, with an emphasis on whether diabetes and access to analogue insulin were existing government priorities, the level of unmet medical need and gap of access to healthcare, and whether governments were stable and willing to work collaboratively. This led to the identification of five priority countries, starting with Ghana and Nigeria.  


  • Key decision makers were identified at Sanofi, WHO, and government levels, and brought together into the same physical rooms, first in Ghana, then in Nigeria, to ensure that different priorities were understood by all, issues were identified together, and solutions were co-created. These meetings were achieved in September 2022.   


  • An agile, innovative approach led to the creation of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), co-created in two days. Within a week of the September meetings, an outline plan was developed for Ghana and Nigeria, and within six weeks, a fully scoped working plan was agreed with both governments.  


  • Following stakeholder interviews and an agile meeting, recommendations were presented on behalf of the team, to the company sponsors who committed to providing the required resources to progress the MVP.   


  • A co-owned country and global SLAM (self-organising, lean, autonomous, and multidisciplinary) team met regularly for focused working sessions. This contained only critical people – regulatory representatives, and those who could make decisions about integral factors, and move the project forward at speed, embracing adjustments. 


  • An Uptake Project Manager was allocated to the country, and a local representative was given full training, to maintain the pace post-implementation.  


  • A functioning strategy and action plans in Ghana and Nigeria for affordable access to diabetes care, the result of which will enable more children with type 1 diabetes to have a life ahead of them, and a significantly reduced negative impact for people with type 2 diabetes.  


  • A blueprint that can be taken and applied to other countries, important lessons learned can be transferred to enable rapid progression of affordable access programmes, for diabetes and other disease areas.    


  • In addition, new relationships have been forged between the Ghanaian and Nigerian governments, and the WHO in the affected countries, setting pathways for other disease areas. This proof of concept will allow easier and faster implementation in other identified countries.   

How can Uptake use agility and innovation to inspire exceptional healthcare performance in your business? 

Speak to our expert consultancy team

Melissa is a highly experienced launch marketer. In the last seven years she has launched five medicines across 150 countries. 

Melissa leads some of Uptake Strategies’ largest projects on launch and marketing capability across European and Asian clients and is also Head of Client Experience.

Melissa started her career at GSK where she held a number of marketing and sales roles. These included Head of Marketing for Vaccines UK, Head of Strategy [including Marketing and Launch Excellence] for GSK International and Head of Haematology for GSK Oncology International.

From GSK she went to found the European Commercial business for the Japanese Pharmaceutical company, Shionogi. As VP Marketing Europe she built out the commercial teams in UK, France, Germany and Spain.

Most recently she founded and ran Accretio Limited. Accretio co-invests with Pharmaceutical companies in medicines that the Pharma company cannot focus on to ensure access to patients in the UK.  

After building a portfolio of 10+ medicines Melissa successfully exited the business in early 2018 to allow her to focus on her three passions: ensuring medicines launch successfully for patients, working with women in business and her family.

Melissa loves to work with teams to build best-in-class launches.

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