Sharp knives and hemophilia? No problem in Roche's new work-life miniseries

People with hemophilia talk about their careers and disease impact in Genentech's new mini documentary series. (Genentech)

One of last things you’d expect to see someone with hemophilia doing is fancy chopping in the kitchen with a large sharp knife. Yet in one of Roche’s Genentech new mini documentaries, that’s exactly what hemophiliac and professional chef Mike is doing.

The video is part of a new series under the HemeWork program, created to help build professional skills and career goals for people living with bleeding disorders.

The close-knit hemophilia community played a key role in crafting the series, said Sonali Chopra, Genentech’s head of alliance and advocacy. Genentech partnered with the Hemophilia Federation of America and bleeding disorders advocates across the U.S. for input on the mini docs, produced by Believe Limited.

Believe’s founder and CEO, Patrick James Lynch, is also a hemophilia patient; he was the producer behind the BioMarin-sponsored “Hemophilia the Musical” project and a Sanofi-sponsored blood disorders and mental health documentary.

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The HemeWork video series covers five different career areas people in the community often have to deal with: adapting, recovering, struggling, thriving and identifying.

In the clip from Mike, for instance, viewers find out how having a bleeding disorder doesn’t keep him from thriving in his passion for cooking. When he’s in the kitchen, he says, “they are going to respect me for the skills I have, and my medical issues shouldn’t make a difference.”

Other videos introduce Ivan, an ophthalmic technician; John, a software engineer, and Myles, a bleeding disorders advocate. Christina, the lone woman in the series, is a project manager and mother of three who is the caregiver for her hemophiliac son.

The emotional videos highlight the day-to-day work struggles around serious bleeding disorders, such as having to take days off, but also address bigger general worries, such as how patients' disease impacts their careers.

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“Given what’s happening in the world, employment is on many people’s minds. If we can help people (with hemophilia) achieve their goals and ambitions, we can help them lead fuller lives,” Chopra said.

The series can be viewed on the HemeWork website, as well as at the Hemophilia Federation of America’s virtual symposium and on social media.

Genentech’s blockbuster hemophilia A treatment Hemlibra became standard for treatment after winning a broadened FDA approval to treat hemophilia A patients without factor VIII inhibitors; Hemlibra sales topped CHF 1.4 billion ($1.54 billion) in 2019 in the competitive market. With new gene therapies on the way—representing a potential cure for the blood disorder—Roche bought Spark Therapeutics for $4.3 billion last year in a deal that antitrust authorities allowed after investigation of the companies' hemophilia business overlap.

Hemlibra most recently recorded a second-quarter slowdown, similar to many drugs' sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales tallied CHF 482 million ($531 million) in the second quarter, lower than first quarter's CHF 521 million ($574 million) and 6% below analyst estimates.