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DKP Backstory: Q&A with Dana Mennen

DKP Backstory: Q&A with Dana Mennen

Can you remember what life was like a little over 20 years ago? Oddly, the year 2000 feels not that far away, yet weirdly distant. We had just hurdled Y2K (ha!), used MapQuest to get directions, and read actual newspapers.

Life was certainly different in 2000 than it is today. And the same can be said for things here at DKP over the past two decades.

As someone who’s been with DKP for nearly 19 of those 20 years, I’ve had a front row seat on the rollercoaster of the rare disease and oncology drug market. And I’ve watched in awe as our team has risen and adapted to meet the challenges and changes.

I’d love to take you on a little stroll down DKP’s memory lane. Here’s a bit about where DKP came from, how we got here, and where we’re going, from my perspective anyway.

What was DKP like in the beginning?
For starters, we didn’t have an office—it was just Denise and I, and we both worked from home. Imagine us doing our work with dial-up internet connections, crazy-slow download speeds, and clunky computer monitors and towers! And what’s more, solid online information was much more scarce than it is today, so we had to rely on other means to gather intel (like libraries!). Luckily, Denise already had a growing network of people in the industry to tap into.

When our team grew to five (people that is, we already had a dog on the work force!), we moved into our first office in an old Victorian turn-of-the-century home in downtown Zionsville. It was quaint and quirky, as I suppose we were a little bit back then, too. (Side note: You can now order a margarita there, as it’s a Mexican restaurant these days.)

It was all hands on deck from the beginning. We learned and grew by all jumping in and being involved with each project. This was the beginning of DKP abiding by a Small Giant philosophy—setting out to be the best, not the biggest.

How has DKP changed in 20 years?
Slow, methodical growth has been the common thread in our history. So far, we’ve outgrown three locations and have over twenty-six incredible team members to our name. And sure, we’ve had our fair share of growing pains, which are inevitable. But all of this growth allowed us to stretch our wings and evolve our services by anticipating and reacting to market changes, providing much-needed expert guidance for clients.

In the beginning, our small team wore many hats out of sheer necessity. Now, as we’ve added staff, we can each focus more on building a deep understanding in key areas that we apply to our specialized services like business intelligence and analytics, strategic launch planning, and market research and insights to name a few. Even so, we maintain the all-hands-on-deck attitude and collaborate constantly.

What was the rare disease drug industry like two decades ago?
Although the industry didn’t seem simple then, it wasn’t nearly as complicated as it is today. So much has changed, especially related to biotechnology evolution. The human genome project was underway, with cell and gene therapies already starting in clinical development. Rituxan® (rituximab) was the only monoclonal antibody with an FDA approval, and Gleevec® (imatinib) the first oral targeted therapy, turning cancer care on its head. And DKP also had the opportunity to work with high dose IL-2, one of the first immunotherapies available to treat difficult cancers such as metastatic kidney cancer and metastatic melanoma. Our experience with IL-2 has been valuable in supporting our work with CAR T-cell and other cellular therapies.

I can only imagine where we’ll be in another 20 years with drug technology. What a gift it has been to see advances in medicine from DKP’s vantage point.

Reimbursement has always been complex, but the pace of change has also increased dramatically over the years. As new therapies and technologies have entered the market and drug prices have continually increased, payers have increased scrutiny to ensure that the right patient is on the right treatment. As a result, payers have assessed more creative approaches (enter value-based models). In turn, DKP’s services and strategies have morphed to meet our clients’ needs. We aim to not just stay in the know, but to stay one step ahead.

What was the DKP culture like? How has it changed?
Our work culture gets a lot of buzz—and for good reason. From the get-go, Denise intentionally created an amazing place to work. And while we’ve blossomed and changed over the years, so much of this unique culture has stayed intact. We’re both proud and protective of this amazing culture and the team Denise has handcrafted.

Camaraderie and collaboration have always been huge. Everyone here has a place and a voice. And we know the best ideas come from empowerment and cross-pollination. And while we honor, equip, and encourage one another as individuals, we harness the power of our collective personalities and skill sets.

Truly, our culture is our secret sauce (and it’s also why we’ve been awarded status as one of Indiana’s Best Places to Work – five times!).

Were DKP and dogs always a thing?
Absolutely! As an avid animal lover, Denise knew dogs would always be a beloved part of DKP. If you pop by our office, you’ll undoubtedly meet several friendly pups wandering about. Having dogs at work creates a more relaxed and playful atmosphere which is great for morale (and who doesn’t love a puppy snuggle break?!). Our pup-loving team also proudly supports causes like the Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN) and the Boone County Humane Society.

What have been some of DKP’s biggest hurdles?
Finding team members with the right expertise and cultural fit has always been a challenge. Like I said, we’re protective of our culture, which means we’re picky about hiring. Experience and education are paramount, but we only hire those who embody our values and vision, too. Selective hiring allows us to continue to live by our core values and offer outstanding service to our clients (as well as have a ton of fun at work!).

Like a lot of businesses, COVID threw us a for a loop. We adapted well to working at home, but we really missed that feeling of togetherness that comes from face-to-face. We draw so much momentum and energy from being together.

What has kept DKP on top of its game?
Hands down, culture and communication. They feed off of one another. We’re all about people here, and we do everything we can to ignite collaboration. Big egos aren’t our thing. Instead, we focus on learning, growth, and lending a helping hand regardless of role or title.

What have been some exciting aspects of working at DKP?
Where do I begin? There is so much that I love about this place and these people.

As a mentor, I enjoy seeing team members gain incredible expertise and confidence in their roles. People grow where they’re planted, and being planted at DKP means you get the opportunity to become the best version of yourself.

It may sound crazy, but 20 years has really gone by so quickly. It’s been amazing to be part of such a dynamic company in such a dynamic industry. There’s always some new drug, new technology, new regulation, or new hurdle to jump.

Even though we don’t work directly with patients, it’s fulfilling to know we’re making a difference in people’s lives by supporting access to life changing and saving therapies. And no matter what curveballs come our way, DKP will continue to evolve with the market and serve clients to the absolute best of our abilities. Here’s to another amazing 20 years and beyond!

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