The Alto Advantage: In This Together
The Alto Advantage is a five-part series that covers the company’s guiding principles for pioneering precision psychiatry and, ultimately, establishing a new treatment paradigm in mental health.
Alto takes pride in being one team independent of location or position, recognizing strength in solidarity as they work together to pioneer precision psychiatry. Each team member has a different motive for being at Alto, yet they’re all keen to start with “why?” in everything they do.
For Dr. Adam Savitz, Alto Chief Medical Officer and a practicing psychiatrist for over 25 years, “why” stems directly from his passion to find better ways to help patients.
Dr. Savitz shared: “I am most engaged when I have the opportunity to introduce what we're doing at Alto to someone outside of the company. When they get our big vision – truly understand the impact we’re working to make – they’re enthusiastic.”
The Alto team includes strong individual expertise in operations, drug development, clinical innovation, technical solutions, data science, and business development, but “often the roles are blurred as everyone works closely together on the most important tasks at hand,” said Dr. Savitz.
At Alto, you’ll never hear “that’s not my job,” or “I want to stick to this one area of expertise,” Savitz continued. Every team member enjoys being cross-functional and working together to push precision psychiatry forward in the most efficient, effective way possible.
Keep the End in Mind
An image people have of how a person experiencing mental illness gets help is sitting on a sofa in a psychiatrist's office, talking about their dreams, or being prescribed medications.
Dr. Savitz was quick to point out, “That's just not how most people receive treatment. Patients are seeking assistance in a patchwork system. They may be getting medications from their primary care doctor. They may be receiving therapy from a social worker, counseling from a religious leader, or support from a peer counselor. As a society, we need to look at how we can pull these different resources together to best serve those in need of them.”
Alto’s goal is to match patients with the right treatments earlier. “While adequately treating an individual patient is validating for an individual provider, we want to scale that success to reach millions of people,” he said.
First, though, the company must secure FDA approval for one or more of their current drugs in development.
“No matter how great of a medication you think it is, if you can't get it authorized by the FDA, there's really no point since it won’t get to the patients,” Dr. Savitz remarked.
In Alto’s case, getting a medication accepted also entails having a predictive biomarker associated with it. The biomarker serves to identify a particular patient population more likely to experience a greater benefit.
Dr. Savitz said, “Alto has a number of drugs in development, all with interesting mechanisms of action. Psychiatric drug development is very challenging. Just one approved medication with a predictive biomarker would be a tremendous accomplishment.”
Alto is developing the most advanced and robust clinical-stage pipeline in precision psychiatry. Generating near-term impact for patients includes achieving positive data readouts for these compounds. That’s the first step toward the end goal of providing the right medication to the right person.
Collaboration to Advance Innovation
Dr. Savitz’s purview at Alto is a departure from his previous role as a clinical leader at Janssen Neuroscience. Alto’s culture is defined by a collaborative, flat organizational structure.
“At Alto, people feel free to talk to senior executives and ask any questions,” he shared. “Also, compared to large pharma, people are more at ease working outside of their comfort zone, knowing that at times everyone is going to need to help out.”
The full team hosts monthly Q&As as an open forum with leadership, where people are encouraged to ask questions around the company’s priorities, operations, clinical studies, data findings, and any other items of concern or confusion. At weekly all-hands meetings, potential areas of collaboration are identified and discussed, and updates are given to the broader team to unify all of the functions.
“We want our internal team to give their thoughts and ideas as much as they can. I really believe the only bad idea is the one not spoken,” commented Dr. Savitz. “We come together to think creatively, throw lots of different ideas against the wall, and see what sticks.”
The company is collaborative in approach and constructive in dissent, striving to strengthen the team. The culture fostered at Alto is one of trust, intellectual curiosity, and kindness.
“It's important that teams work together in a way that all members feel safe contributing and collaborating. A crucial part of effective teams is trusting each other and their leadership. Generally, it's more enjoyable on a day-to-day basis to be working with people you are comfortable relying on.”
Dr. Savitz is a key member of leadership helping to forge relationships with clinical sites and physicians partnered with Alto on their research. “We cultivate long-term, two-way relationships with our sites because we appreciate their insights and feedback, especially on how we can better serve patients,” shared Savitz.
Dr. Savitz concluded, “There’s been an influx of physicians and researchers interested in looking at biomarkers in psychiatry. I’m excited to be on the team leading the way.”
Whether with colleagues, physicians, investors, partners, or other stakeholders, the Alto team recognizes patients are best served by working as one team.
If you are a doctor or clinic interested in learning more about participation in our drug trials, please send us an email at email@example.com.