Digital Primes an Era of Collaboration and Innovation in Big Pharma

By now, you’ve probably read a lot about the Work Ahead and read my regional take on what Europe needs to do (Brexit aside) in Europe’s Digital Imperative. One of the overarching reasons we undertook the study was to get a solid understanding into how much money digital really means (we got some hotshot economists to help us...) and to land on the shifting industry dynamics as a world of data science, platforms, algorithms and new ways of working proliferate. What I saw in big pharma was startling and you can read how we see the Work Ahead in Life Sciences in the report. I will do my best to summarize...

What’s clear is biotechnology investments and experiments with nanotechnology compete with “digital” for the boardroom’s attention. When other industries solely equate digital with technology it is worth noting the breathtaking advances in genomic processing power have, and will continue to blow Moore’s law clear out of the water! So with that, how much of a deal is digital in life sciences? What the economic analysis reveals is that industry expectations for growth are beginning to return. Moreover, digital is so much about innovation and has the potential to move big pharma into the driving seat among a network of patients, hospitals, doctors, payers, regulators, scientists etc. as orchestrators of value.

Our economic analysis found that digital investments targeted at customer engagement have already boosted revenue by around 6% in the last financial year alone (among the 150 or so executives surveyed). And, looking forward, the explosion of diagnostic data flowing into and around processes, better workflow across the R&D, manufacturing and pharmaceutical distribution chain, and a wave of innovative new services targeted at patients are set to grow the revenue pie by over 8% in the next two years as well. So, can we put a number on the value? Yes—the revenue projection for 2018 represents a whopping $877 billion of value for the 154 surveyed companies (or to put this into context, that is 116% of current revenue). Digital is a huge deal because what it’s really doing is supercharging an era of innovation and opportunity. This is a value play, not yet another cost/efficiency play.

We believe huge amounts of value are at stake from the data unleashed from an ever growing list of sources: Wearables, sensors, devices, social media tools and electronic records. Even the “smart” blister packs surrounding pharmaceutical packaging to the ingestible chips on pills feeding real-time diagnostic data back to a clinicians for analysis at any point during the drugs cycle were simply unthinkable five years ago and now offer unprecedented paths to value, and a spur for cross industry innovation (check out the Google and Novartis example signposted in the report: big data + big pharma). What was gratifying to see from the survey data is the majority of executives “get” that it’s happening today and “get” the importance of data implicitly. They rated big data/analytics and sensors and IoT technologies as key forces driving innovation.

Winning the opportunities on offer means hardcoding mastery with data into the corporate DNA. We recommend companies in the sector move fast on establishing a top-down strategic commitment to exploring data science, algorithms and artificial intelligence across various business units and functions. The focus should consist of R&D investments, innovation programs and production development tied together and running across the organization. Perhaps the biggest task is dismantling the silos and bringing together IT, data science and business domain advisers. We offer other ideas like establishing a big data capability, combining new sources of data such as clinical data, wellness and social media. Work needs doing on building up cross company access to company owned data to drive better research and clinical trial results and effective understanding of patient populations. Those that can do this at scale, will see an opportunity to renew mandates that have been frankly, battered of late. They can push the innovation agenda, co-creating and grow engagement across a value chain—and our report mapped out some of the new interplays beginning to emerge among scientists, doctors, regulators, healthcare providers and their patients as flows of data proliferate.

What is clear is that sensors, smart processes, even smart drugs will impact how life science companies work together to create value. Clinicians and data scientists, using digital tools and ways of working, are now able to orchestrate tasks between them, merging and analyzing data sets from drug trials as well as direct observations from other physicians, electronic medical records, online patient networks or genomics research. It’s time to grab these new interplays emerging between people and the explosion of data. Life science companies need to devise a new approach to drive, guide and sustain an organizational approach to digital innovation—we think our report has the answer. Please go ahead and read The Work Ahead in Life Sciences and let us know what you think.

PS. And to make this experience EVEN better...you can go ahead and play with survey data because we got some clever folks to build a data interaction tool that allows you or anyone else to tweak the survey data and land on the questions and answers that interest you the most. Seeing the cross industry comparison may surprise you...