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Science at the speed of business

At Klick Health, a startup mentality helps put innovation on the fast track

Science at the speed of business
Members of Klick’s Applied Sciences team put innovation to work in their in-house lab.

Last year, a conversation between Klick Health Vice President Yan Fossat and his wife, an operating room nurse at a Toronto hospital, kickstarted a warp-speed innovation exercise. The problem: The process of intubating COVID-19 patients can lead to dangerous airborne virus particles. A Taiwanese physician had developed a simple box to contain those particles, but no model existed that would meet requirements for use in North American hospitals. Fossat brought up the issue to his colleagues at Klick, which helps life-sciences companies bring their ideas—for new treatments, medical devices, etc.—to market.

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Peter Flaschner was one of those colleagues. Flaschner, Klick’s managing director of brand experience, was working closely with a vendor to develop plexiglass housing for a unique marketing mailer. He thought the material would be perfect for designing this new intubation box. “All it took was one phone call to connect Yan and our partner on the manufacturing side to get this going,” Flaschner says. “Later that day, we had switched into development of the box itself.”

Klick Health named to Best Workplaces for innovators

Over the next few days, a small team at Klick worked with the hospital’s chief of anesthesia to refine the design and create a prototype. And just a few days later, the team had created a website and developed a platform to begin fulfilling requests from other hospitals. “We could connect the more hardcore innovation aspect with the marketing and logistics aspects,” Flaschner says. “We have all of that under one roof as part of our day-today work, so we were able to pivot very quickly to deliver on that opportunity.”

Klick’s fast-paced innovation process led to the donation of nearly 1,500 intubation boxes to hospitals across North America. It’s what Klick calls “science at the speed of business,” and is a key reason the company again earned a spot on Fast Company’s list of the Best Workplaces for Innovators.

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NEED FOR SPEED

Michael Lieberman, Klick’s senior vice president of medical science, says scientific innovations can get bogged down by complicated decision-making processes or corporate bureaucracy. Klick’s flat organizational structure aims to strip those inefficiencies from the innovation process, giving team members the opportunity to pitch in where—and how—they see fit. “As an organization, we do science with the level of rigor you’d expect from an academic or major industrial research lab, but we do it at the speed that business works at today,” Lieberman says. “The team is empowered to work quickly to generate new ideas, test them, and get them out as quickly as a startup organization would.”

That speed requires trust, Flaschner points out. And that includes trusting Klick’s team of more than 1,500 people in Toronto, New York, Philadelphia, and hubs across the U.S. to know when it’s appropriate to move quickly. “We work really hard to train Klicksters to understand which areas are safe to experiment in, where if something falls apart, it won’t negatively impact our business or our clients’ businesses,” he says.

The pandemic required quick thinking and decisive action. In addition to the intubation box, Klick also helped Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University with a COVID-19–related data-visualization project, assisted in developing citizen-driven virus trackers, and repurposed a tool used for diagnosing and treating asthma to potentially detect coronavirus.

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“That’s really the magic of Klick,” Flaschner says. “It’s an ecosystem that people can move around in, from working on different client projects, to in-house innovation, or venture-led innovation. It all becomes a really attractive playground for really brilliant people who want to do more than just one thing all day.”

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FastCo Works is Fast Company's branded content studio. Advertisers commission us to consult on projects, as well as to create content and video on their behalf.

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