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Dave Gulezian, president and CEO of Viscira

Dave Gulezian, president and CEO of Viscira.

What it does: Develops new-media communication solutions and interactive software applications for pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies.

HQ: San Francisco.

2011 revenue: $8.7 million.

2012 projected revenue: About $14 million.

Employees: 100.

Founded: 2007.

Background: B.S. in electrical engineering from Cornell University and an M.B.A. from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Co-founded Ucopia, a gift registry software tool for retailers, which was acquired by Primedia Inc.

Age: 44.

Residence: San Francisco.

Web site:

Big picture

How’s business: Very good. We’re fortunate to be growing fast.

Biggest challenge for your business at the moment: Finding good people and maintaining high standards of quality as we grow.

What’s going to change at your company in the next year: Business development in Europe.

Business moves

Reason for starting business: Helping life science companies communicate more effectively with target audiences.

Most difficult part of decision: Making the decision not to pursue venture capital and to continue to grow organically.

Biggest misconception: That you’re able to tell people what you want them to do. It’s more about persuading, coaching and motivating.

Biggest business strength: The diversity of talent in the company in terms of all the different functions under one roof. We’re at the intersection of science, technology, art and design. That makes us unique.

Biggest business weakness: Trying to handle unanticipated customer demand. When we have customer needs that arise in very short timelines, being able to respond in an effective way.

Press Contact:
Noël Ashekian
Marketing Communications Manager - Viscira
Phone: (617) 429-0834
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Future Pharma: Pharma Marketing Gets Virtual

Posted by Claudia M. Caruana on Oct 21, 2011

Claudia M. Caruana explores how new technology can help sales reps and marketers reach busy healthcare professionals

The doctor is busy or unable to meet with salespeople to discuss a new pharmaceutical, medical device, or biotech product and how it might benefit her patients.

It's not a stall; it's the new reality of busy practices, over-extended medical personnel, and, in some cases, facilities that do not permit sales calls on the premises.

Healthcare professionals have crowded waiting rooms, mounting paper work, and little time for much else. So what's pharma to do?

This is less of a problem than it could be for pharma and medical device companies, thanks to creative solutions provided by a niche group of marketing companies.

These firms take interactive product demonstrations and education to the max with 3D animation, visualization, stereoscopic imagery, and even virtual reality.

One case in point is Viscira, a San Francisco-based, privately held provider of new interactive medical solutions and digital products.

Beginning its fifth year and still in growth mode, Viscira has 65 employees, including medical and science PhDs, medical illustrators, computer graphics pros, and former Hollywood animators.

Their computer animation, 3D work, and interactive technology has affectionately been referred to as 'biotech meets special effects'.

Biotech Meets Special Effects

Viscira is one of a handful of companies in this burgeoning sector; Eveo in San Francisco, Xvivo in Rocky Hill, Conn., and Random 42 in London are others.

"The use of iPads and tablets has opened up new avenues for pharma to reach their prescribing audience," says Viscira CEO Dave Gulezian.

But it's not a matter of dumping a brochure onto one of these devices, he stresses. It wouldn't work, at least not for an audience as sophisticated as physicians.

What will work, Gulezian and others in the field believe, are interactive presentations using strong graphics, animation, and 3D technology that attract and retain attention. (For more on pharma and tablets, see "Future pharma: Making the most of the tablet takeover" and "Will the iPad kickstart a pharma sales and marketing revolution?")

In the past, animation would show how cells moved about in a medium, but now—through visualization and animation—what is happening inside the cell can be seen simultaneously.

Older as well as younger scientists and practitioners are embracing this new technology; Viscira clients include Genentech, Novartis, Amgen, Pfizer, Johnson&Johnson, Eli Lilly, and Abbott Laboratories.

"Prescribers often need to see something they may not be able to visualize well, even though they understand it," Gulezian says.

He gives the example of ophthalmologists treating patients with age-related macular degeneration.

They know what their patients are experiencing in vision loss, but using special headgear, Viscira pharma clients can experience the symptoms themselves, which is crucial for understanding the patient's perspective.

According to Gulezian, pharmas, medical device manufacturers, and biotech are choosing these new tools to reach their target audiences for new product introductions and to provide additional information about older treatments or products.

These presentations are used for physician and patient education as well as promotional tools for product recognition.

"Sometimes, a client will come to us with definite ideas on the way of providing the information," Gulezian says. "Other times, we will make recommendations to target the presentation for the audience."

What's In It for KOLs

Busy physicians and researchers are not the only professionals benefiting from Viscira's advances in video presentation.

In August, the company released its next generation presentation solutions specifically designed to meet the needs of KOLs.

This new version of the on-demand video program delivers a combination of HD video content, sophisticated 3D imagery, dynamic motion graphics, and other creative elements to maximize visual impact and increase messaging effectiveness for clients.

These features enable KOL presenters to engage and interact with animated graphics in new and unique ways. (For more on KOLS, see Pharma and KOLs: How to create transparent, collaborative relationships, Q&A: How to engage with KOLs, and Q&A: The changing role of KOLs.)

"The format provides viewers with a truly immersive, broadcast-quality experience that is far more sophisticated and compelling than traditional industry offerings," says Rick Barker, vice president of production and technology at Viscira.

For more information, please visit the company's website at or contact Noël Ashekian at (617) 429-0834.

Press Contact:
Noël Ashekian
Marketing Communications Manager - Viscira
Phone: (617) 429-0834
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Viscira CEO Interview with Pixel & Pills at Digital Pharma East Conference in Philadelphia

An interview with Dave Gulezian, President & CEO of Viscira, who explains how pharma companies can leverage the full capabilities of the iPad to communicate more effectively with their target audiences. The interview was conducted by Pixel & Pills, a media offering dedicated to covering the latest developments, events, and technology in the Pharma and Life Sciences digital space.

Click here to watch the interview.

Press Contact:
Noël Ashekian
Marketing Communications Manager - Viscira
Phone: (617) 429-0834
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bloomberg News, As Doctors Limit Access, Pharma Taps Viscira for Simulations Article / By Karen A. Frenkel

Veteran ophthalmologist Dr. Richard M. Wong has treated dozens of patients for macular degeneration, an age-related disease that leads to blindness. Though he trained with detailed drawings and photographs of the retina while he was a resident in 1996, he never learned what the condition was like from the patient's point of view.

So in 2008, he jumped at the chance to don a special pair of goggles for a 3-D simulation at an exhibitor's booth at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's annual meeting in Atlanta. He saw shadows that grew darker, expanded into puddles, and ultimately flowed together to become seas of darkness. "It was disconcerting and very unnerving," says Dr. Wong, who practices in Stockton, Calif. Understanding what patients experience "is a very underserved idea," he says, "but it's super helpful and timely ...."

The simulation, a form of virtual reality, was a biomedical computer animation produced for Genentech by Viscira, a medical marketing company in San Francisco. Viscira specializes in technology-enabled collateral for pharmaceutical marketers trying to reach doctors. Best known for its computer animations, Viscira produces a slew of products, from applications for mobile devices to continuing education presentations, says Chief Executive Officer Dave Gulezian, 43. The common thread: "scientific accuracy and visual effects that tell a story in an impactful way."

Gulezian says demand for the 60-employee company's work is increasing as it gets harder for pharmaceutical sales representatives to call on doctors. A survey by sales strategy consulting firm ZS Associates in Evanston, Ill., pegged the fraction of doctors in 2009 who are open to meeting with sales personnel at 58 percent, down from 71 percent in 2008. According to SK & A, an Irvine, Calif., firm that sells physician and hospital lists, nearly 50 percent of doctors in independent practices require marketers to make appointments rather than unsolicited visits, up from just under 39 percent at the end of 2008. "That's pretty dramatic," says SK & A marketing director Jack Schember. "MDs are busier ... they want a quality meeting at a specific time."


Some academic institutions and affiliated hospitals and practices have similar policies. In 2006, Stanford University issued a policy prohibiting pharmaceutical company representatives from entering patient-care areas. The university, in conjunction with Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, was among the first to allow sales reps access only to non-patient-care areas such as research laboratories -- and only by explicit invitation.

While ZS Associates indicates that the size of the drug industry's U.S. sales force declined to about 74,000 people as of May, from a peak of 104,000 in 2005, doctors' demand for the latest breakthroughs and gadgetry is undiminished. Thirty-eight percent of MDs' smartphone time goes to access clinical or medical information, according to think tank Manhattan Research in New York. Eighty-one percent of U.S. MDs possess smartphones today and 89 percent will have them by 2012, the think tank finds.

Profitable since its founding in 2007, Gulezian says Viscira is well positioned to help marketers reach doctors online and off. He says the company had $8 million in revenue in 2010 and expects to take in $11 million to $12 million during 2011, adding that the first quarter was the company's best ever. That same quarter it added MedImmune and Celgene (CELG) to a longtime client list that includes Abbott (ABT), Eli Lilly (LLY), and Roche (RHHBY).


Viscira faces direct competition from just a handful of companies, including nearby Eveo in San Francisco, XVivo in Rocky Hill, Conn., and Random 42 Medical Animation in London. "Biomedical imaging is a small field, but it is growing rapidly as better programming tools emerge," says Kathleen Maher, Editor-in-Chief of TechWatch and a vice-president at Tiburon (Calif.)-based Jon Peddie Research, which tracks the computer graphics and animation industries. While Gulezian describes Viscira's animations as "photorealistic," Maher says that because Viscira is "visualizing the unseeable," the company is really creating "high-fidelity computer simulations."

Gulezian emphasizes the lengths to which its employees -- technologists, science and medical PhDs, and artists -- go to be accurate and still create striking images of their characters, which usually are molecules that obey the laws of chemistry and physics. The team that was assigned to create an animation for apoptosis (programmed cell death) searched papers for data on molecular chemistry and structure. They also studied how molecules and the cell move and interact, watching real-life movies of apoptosis on YouTube that scientists had created using a scanning electron microscope. "A lot of places don't do as much research and just say, 'O.K., there's a receptor and they make a triangle,'" says Director of Animation Hagop Kaneboughazian, "so their characters are often simplified and diagrammatical looking." In our animation, "everything looks alive."

Apart from focusing on scientific accuracy, Viscira -- taking advantage of what Kaneboughazian dubs "the Golden Age of biomedical animation" -- strives for feature film standards by employing former Hollywood techies with experience at integrating animation and live action. "We have to make material engaging and get the message across and excite people," he says. "MDs love the science, but they also love Star Wars."

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen A. Frenkel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Leiber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Press Contact:
Noël Ashekian
Marketing Communications Manager - Viscira
Phone: (617) 429-0834
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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