Wherefore Tavneos? ChemoCentryx and the Brand Institute explain how the #FierceMadness winner got its name

For more than three weeks, 68 drug brands battled to be crowned your FierceMadness drug name tournament champion, and in the end, that honor went to ChemoCentryx, its autoimmune disease drug Tavneos and the Brand Institute.

While there were some big and crazy names, the subtle, simple approach won out in the end. “Tavneos has an approachability to it,” said Scott Piergrossi​​, president of creative at the Brand Institute, which worked with ChemoCentryx to name the drug.

“It is easy to pronounce, and that pronunciation is quite consistent globally. It is neither too powerful nor too soft, evoking a steady confidence and a sense of trustworthiness," Piergrossi said.

"While past tournament winners may have been celebrated for their uniqueness, perhaps this year the appetite was for relative simplicity, a reversion to the familiar,” he added.

Many Fierce readers commented that Tavneos would also be a great name for a little-sung but amazing Italian restaurant that quietly serves some of the best food in the world. 

Method in the Madness

And that may well be because it has the human touch. Tausif (Tosh) Butt, EVP and chief operating officer at ChemoCentryx, explained in an interview that “This wasn’t an AI-generated name,” as some drug names are, but came about via organic conversations between the team at ChemoCentryx and the Brand Institute.

“We sat down and brainstormed the name after just a few sessions, but we did of course have some guardrails against what we were talking about," Butt said.

“Our aspirations were for it to be a single, global name,” he said. This can be difficult in itself; many drug names are spelled differently in the U.S. compared to Europe, for instance, because of worries about medication errors or specific country-by-country naming regulations. Sometimes, the entire name is different from one country to the next.

“And for us that also meant we needed something that was easy to pronounce, catchy and memorable, and it needed, as a global name, to resonate in every country [where] it will be used, regardless of language or culture,” Butt said.

Chemocentryx also wanted a brand that would be equally appealing to females as well as males, and therefore wanted to avoid a name that leaned too far toward the feminine or masculine. “We also didn’t want it to sound too child-like or immature,” he said.

There was also the conversation about whether it should be two syllables or three or even four. “Conventional thinking says two syllables is better because it’s shorter, but what we found was that, in our brainstorming sessions, two syllables came across as too harsh, and therefore a little aggressive and leaning toward more male, so we found that the three syllable names were a little bit more attractive to females and males,” Butt said.

Here at Fierce Pharma, we initially thought Tavneos sounded like a European airline, but the Italian restaurant theme does on reflection seem much more apt. “I hadn’t thought about it being a European airline,” Butt said, “but I also hadn’t thought of it being that sort of calm, lazy café on the Italian coast, either; though I must admit that does sound more pleasing."

He said that either way, it showed the name was doing its job in being memorable and resonating with people.

To Butt, the competition “stirred up a sense of community” at ChemoCentryx and became a talking point within the organization. "[W]ith this added boost from winning the tournament, I’m hoping it can work as a further ChemoCentryx employee engagement effort,” he said.

“We’re really excited to have won and a big thank you to all the voters from us at ChemoCentryx,” Butt said, adding, “it’s nice to bring some healthy competition, fun and some smiles to the world with Madness.”

Tavneos is in fact ChemoCentryx’ first-ever FDA-approved drug in its more than two-decade history, nabbing a green light in October 2021 to treat ANCA-associated vasculitis, a systemic autoimmune disease that can prove fatal.

ChemoCentryx is a relatively small biotech that is only now becoming a commercial company, but it beat out some major names, including AstraZeneca and Amgen’s respiratory drug Tezspire, which was in the final four, and BioMarin’s growth drug Voxzogo, which Tavneos beat out easily in the final to win the championship.

It was a stealthy win: Our internal bets here at Fierce were for some of the crazier names, like Ridgeback's Ebola treatment Ebanga, Celgene’s multiple sclerosis drug Zeposia, or Deciphera’s cancer therapy Qinlock.

Voxzogo appeared to be the voters’ favorite, as it had commanding wins in every round with its mixture of Scrabble high-score letters, a bit of Latin and an adjective: If you think this “speaks on growth” then you’re not far off. But this year, it appears our voters have mellowed.