Top ten innovators in pharma: Lynn Crowe

Rebecca Aris


(Continued from “Top ten innovators in pharma: Alex Butler“)

We asked you to nominate those who you considered to be a top innovator in pharma. We were delighted with your responses and have whittled it down to the top ten pharma innovators for this series.

This week we speak with Lynn Crowe, who was nominated for being an amazing champion of patients.

Name: Lynn Crowe

Position: Director, Devices, U.S. Diabetes, Sanofi US

Reasons for nomination as a pharma innovator include:

• An amazing champion of patients.

• Lynn is the quiet but brilliant mind behind GoMeals, the industry’s first pharma-sponsored iPhone® app.

• Today she leads efforts for yet another industry innovation, Sanofi’s iBGStar blood glucose meter which connects directly to iPhone® or iPod touch®.

• Her passion for patients, innovation, and pushing the boundaries is infectious!

“Her passion for patients, innovation, and pushing the edge is infectious!”



• Works with team of dedicated people on the Device Team at Sanofi.

• The team invests in getting close to diabetes.

Interview summary

RA: What to you consider to be your defining character traits?

LC: My boss brought an acronym to our team that I hope I exemplify H.O.T. Honest Open Trustworthy. And for balance a defining character trait is my sense of humor.

RA: How would your colleagues / peers describe you?

LC: I don’t know so I asked people I admire. Here are their responses:

“Bright, committed, “no BS” and fun.”

“Intelligent, determined, focused, a wonderful mentor, supportive, data / results driven, team orientated, brings the perfect amount of humor to the work place.”

“Passionate, focused on getting things done to drive the business, leads teams to excellence, turns hard work to fun and with plenty of humor”

RA: Who or what has inspired you to get to where you are today?

LC: Many people inspire me but the reason I continue to work in pharma and diabetes: Diabetes is a tough disease. If we can do something to make it just a little easier we are doing something of value. That inspires me. We have to stay humble and not pretend we are doing more then we really are… but little differences do matter. The iBGStar Blood Glucose Monitoring System is a great example. We haven’t mistakenly pretended that people with diabetes would magically love checking their glucose with the entrance of iBGStar, but we did bring to market an innovative product that presents data like never before and the meter and the data are always with you as it directly connects to your iPhone or iPod touch. We allowed glucose monitoring, as one industry leader commented, “to be mainstreamed”. The iBGStar and iPhone connected and sitting on a restaurant table seems almost natural compared to older BGMs of the past. And why not make a campaign that is different from anything else in the market to match? Our colleagues at Intouch Solutions created a campaign that exemplifies the experience of people with diabetes regarding glucose monitoring. You have to integrate it into your life. We hope people with diabetes feel this spirit when they view the campaign. From comments from our recent conference attendees, they do!

RA: What advice would you give to anyone embarking on a career in pharma at the moment?

LC: Years ago, to succeed, it simply took willingness to walk in the shoes of our customers, as best we could, and to have some passion. Now it takes more. It has to start with the desire to grasp the customer experience but it also demands solid business acumen, an ability to manage and foster change and to balance your life. Bring these components to the table and you are the right person.


“Innovation for the sake of calling something innovative is the opposite of what pharma needs.”


RA: What do you see to be the biggest challenge posed to pharma at the moment?

LC: We have to be more agile. We need discipline in measurement and to use data to adjust course quickly. We cannot rest of our laurels. And since we are talking about innovation…. it is not about locking people in a room of “games to stimulate creativity” it is about looking at the real issues around the diseases we support and when a solution is hard to grasp, we look for innovation in the world around us to help. Innovation for the sake of calling something innovative is the opposite of what pharma needs. A tough problem, where solutions are hard to find provides the chance for real innovation. Our Device team also has a great mantra:

“Doing things different. Doing things better.”

Sometimes innovation is seen as doing things differently….Different is not good enough.

RA: What key phrase best sums up your approach to work and life?

LC: work in diabetes: Meet people where they live not just at their disease.

Life: two things:

1) Open your eyes to the world around you and you will see where simple caring can make a difference.


RA: What keeps you busy outside work?

Family / friends. Passion for food, wine and music – especially fun when all of these are mixed together.

The next part of this series can be viewed here.


About the nominee:

In the mid 80’s I met some people, while playing my guitar, who were influential in the diabetes community. I never thought about working in the field. I was just out of college and painting houses full time looking for a “real” job! But they were persistent and quickly connected me with a network of people who were the early diabetes educators. Before long I was running a new youth services program at the Michigan Affiliate of the ADA. After about 4 years, I went to graduate school anticipating I would complete my studies and sit for certification as a Diabetes Educator. Through another turn on the resume of life, I wound up working as a Cognitive Therapist in head trauma for 7 years. First with adults then with kids – a draining and rewarding 7 years. It was here that I began to really see value in a sense of humor for people who experience tragedy or illness. Due to a relocation of my partner, I went back into the job market. This time I landed a job in sales with one of the predecessor company of Sanofi. We were about to launch a diabetes oral medication and knowing something about the disease, I was made an offer. I worked in diabetes then RA in sales. I learned something working with different challenging diseases: chronic illness has similarities in it impact and means to survival and again how sense of humor really helps! It is likely what drew me to co-authoring a book last year called The Diabetes Manifesto. My co-author has MS (and author of The MS Manifesto) and my thinking around perseverance/survival with chronic diseases was solidified. Eventually I worked my career into home office doing a series of jobs support diabetes and always touching innovation either as a means to reach people or assist in disease management. The GoMeals App is a great example.

Now I am with a great team of dedicated people on the Device Team at Sanofi and including our partner agencies at Intouch Solutions (creative/digital agency) and Crossix (PLD analytics agency). The team’s personal commitment to understanding diabetes is imperative to success. This team invests in getting as close to diabetes as someone without diabetes can be, but always respects that until you have to tend to this disease everyday for the entirety of your life, your experience will differ. This is a critical balance.

We just launched iBGStar and it fits so many of the personal beliefs I have shared above. Launching iBGStar has been a great experience. Diabetes goes with you all the time, we might as well get devices that support that!

Do you know anyone whose passion for patients is infectious?