London, UK, 22nd November 2017 / Sciad Newswire / Further insights from the podium as the Pharma Integrates panellists tackle changing product and technological developments and a new patient-payer value chain, and ponder whether the future of pharma is in the hands of drug manufacturing companies
In recent years, successful science has improved R&D productivity and new technologies have turned life-threatening conditions into manageable chronic diseases. Cost-effective genome sequencing, better clinical data, disruptive technologies such as drones, artificial intelligence, blockchain and measuring actual health outcomes through real-world evidence has elicited the potential of stratified medicines.
Against a backdrop of ageing populations and global political shifts, these value chain trends have led to patient-empowered product propositions of value-based schemes that recognise real outcomes, forcing pharma and med tech to readjust and take a leading role in shaping the new healthcare economy.
As the panel discussions began, the data debate and the benefits of collaboration were soon on the agenda. “No one is a drug discovery/development island,” paraphrased Chas Bountra, Chief Scientist (SGC) and Professor of Translational Medicine, University of Oxford, adding: “We need to work together to help patients.” Melanie Lee, Chief Scientific Officer of BTG agreed, saying: “Close collaboration must start early in the genesis of a new product.”
Expanding on the topic, Chas continued: “We’ve made great progress in clinical studies, but we’re still not learning from previous failures,” he said. “We have an amazing, government-funded infrastructure in the UK and we’re not using it properly for research.” Meindert Boysen, Programme Director, Technology Appraisals, National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) chipped in by stating: “We have an 80% success rate of getting a drug to patients. Real-world data can support the predictive models made by innovators and show that their assumptions are true!”
Elements of frustration were, though, evident in the panel discussing “A New Value Proposition for Pharma. Lonza Pharma & Biotech’s Chief Scientific Officer, Uwe Gottschalk, pointed out that “We need a paradigm shift in pharmaceutical manufacturing if personalised medicine is to become a reality for patients,” and Chas Bountra noted: “Anti-TNFs have the potential to save lives in far more indications than they are used for but no one seems to be exploring this!”
Patrick Keohane, Chief Medical Officer, BenevolentAI, was troubled by the fast attrition rate of drug discovery. He thinks the better use of data can help. This comment resonated with a previous statement from Gottschalk, who’d warned that “Google, Apple and Samsung are coming … no matter what. We need to embrace innovation to sustain our sector." Interestingly, when polled by moderator Steve Arlington, President of the Pistoia Alliance, the audience believed that, by 2030, an Amazon, Google or Microsoft will be a top ten pharma company (by size), and would like full genome sequencing to be offered by the NHS.
What role will technology companies such as Google, et al., and potentially disruptive technology start-ups play in healthcare? They bring capabilities such as advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, cloud technology and software development that are increasingly appealing to incumbent pharma companies who want to expand their value proposition and play a broader role in healthcare. They have a different view on innovation and return on investment; that is, moving from developing and commercialising medicines to delivering better outcomes by adding patient-centric and technology enabled services and solutions.
Despite the overall feeling that disruption and driving change in pharma is difficult, because of both the regulatory environment and the current industry mindset, Ray Barlow, Chief Executive Officer of e-Therapeutics, believes biostatistics to be the future of drug discovery. Collecting (patient) data to the appropriate standards will be vital for future use, agreed Prof. Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer, NHS England, with Kevin Gwilliam, Marketing Manager, Johnson Matthey tweeting that large volumes of data is what drives artificial intelligence (AI) learning and innovation.
He added: “We shouldn't expect AI to be able to discover new drugs, but it can determine better mechanisms to learn what causes disease.” Humans can’t assimilate the data from one million scientific papers a year, but machines can, with no bias, commented Ray Barlow. Take-home messages from the opening sessions were that a reductionist, target focused approach to treatment is reasonable, but a biology first, mechanistic approach could do much more. Plus, the ability to stratify patients will enable smaller clinical trials and improve both safety and efficacy.
Kicking off day two, Araz Raoof, Head of External Early Drug Development at Janssen emphasised “innovation, innovation, innovation” as the way forward in M&As, whereas other panellists highlighted the need for a good cultural fit and getting early due diligence right. “Invest in collaborations that allow innovation to be considered,” recommended Jagjit Singh Srai, Head, Centre for International Manufacturing, Institute for Manufacturing, Cambridge University. Big Pharma companies are struggling for growth, which could be why M&As are declining, suggested Vincenzo Di Nicola, Managing Director, Healthcare Europe, Robert W. Baird & Co., but a delegate from GSK countered with the comment: “As a drug manufacturer, focusing on the patient can improve both productivity and safety; we’ve seen it happen!”
In the New Pharma Supply Chain session, Damian Gray, Operational Performance Lead, McClaren Applied Technologies, offered some non-pharma insight into process optimisation. “Learn to fail fast and don't be scared of failing fast,” he said, adding: “Focus on puddles of insightful data rather than big lakes and focus your experts’ attention.” With supporting remarks reflecting that data driven transformation is only part of the journey and that real progress can only be made by working with other non-pharmas, he may have a point!
Jonathan Blamey, Vice President, Solution Design Life Sciences & Healthcare, DHL Supply Chain reinforced the session’s message that real business impact can be achieved when you apply the right information and technology to address a functional need. “But it all starts with data,” he said, “and you’ll either do data-driven transformation … or it’ll happen to you!”
Pre-competitive collaborations were tabled as a way to improve pharmaceutical supply chains, but the last — and most salient — point was made by GSK’s Andrew Share, Director Programme Delivery, Advanced Manufacturing Technologies: “We have to split the cost and risk of developing new technologies and bring in skill sets (from other industries) that we just don't have.” He concluded: “The best practice for pharma (and the supply chain) is connecting people on the shop floor, in labs, manufacturing, logistics, etc. to the patient. We have to focus on the patient.”
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