The future of pharma: embracing opportunities, partnerships and hurdles

In July, MobiHealthNews will focus on how pharma companies are using digital tools for R&D, real-world evidence collection and exploring new therapeutics.
By Laura Lovett
04:15 pm
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It would be hard to discuss healthcare trends without talking about what this means for the behemoth pharma industry. Recently, new kid on the block digital health has started to turn heads in across this well-established sector with its potential for improving R&D, tracking real-world evidence and even creating a new type of medicine with digital therapeutics. 

While digital promises the pharma industry a host of opportunities, industry players are warning that it will take major partnerships and mutual respect between the life sciences and tech startups in order for that impact to reach its full potential. 

“In tech we have seen many digital companies coming into the life sciences, some with a quite limited knowledge and understanding of life sciences — the complexity of biology, the complexity of what is a disease and how you even diagnose a disease,” Luba Greenwood, head of strategic business development and corporate ventures at Verily, said at BIO 2018. “So, putting together the tech piece, the AI and the proper annotation of the data, we are getting to draw meaningful insight and at the same time at a reduced cost, rather than [at] an increased cost to the patient.”

One of the best examples of pharma and digital health startups working together is with digital therapeutics. In March of 2018, Pear Therapeutics signed a deal with pharma company Novartis to work together on the development of two digital therapeutics for multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia — the first time a pharma company has made a development deal with a digital therapeutic. But Novartis is far from the only company turning towards digital tools. 

 “A digital therapeutic can be a friend or a foe, we just have to open our eyes to the fact that competition is coming from new angles that we otherwise would not have considered,” Dr. Ameet Nathwani, chief medical officer and chief digital officer at Sanofi, said at BIO 2019. “Our approach and response should be equal: Let’s embrace it, understand what it can do. If the patients are going to benefit in the end, that’s great for everyone. If we can’t differentiate our drug from a digital therapeutic we have a different problem, because I think digital therapeutics will be faster, they’ll be quicker, they won’t have the same safety burdens that you would encounter with our own drugs.”

In the month of July, MobiHealthNews will look at how the pharma industry is embracing digital tools. We’ll ask pharma companies what they are most excited about in the future, and how governments and regulators are helping to guide these new technologies. The stories will also look at novel partnerships and digital initiatives, while taking a deep dive into these topics to provide lessons and resources for healthcare stakeholders.