Today, the pharma and life sciences industry is embracing the transformative characteristics of technological innovations and introducing massive changes in their entire workflow. By providing innovative ideas for research and development (R&D) of new drugs and handling the confidential patients’ data, technological advancements have become one of the most influential and prominent aspects of the pharma and life sciences industry. As an experienced decision maker, Bozidar Jovicevic, VP of Global Head of Digital Medicines at Sanofi, shares his insight on how technology is the biggest opportunity to be leveraged by the pharma and life sciences industry.
"Technology has aided the pharma and life sciences industry in employing genomics and artificial intelligence (AI) for speeding up drug R&D course"
What, in your perspective, are some of the predominant challenges that pharma and life sciences industries face and how can they be addressed?
The pharma industry is riddled with numerous challenges. The unidirectional approach toward the growth of primary care drugs that have kept the industry considerably stable for many years is the first of many challenges. This stability has given rise to the need of staying innovative with time and translating them into pharma drugs. Additionally, the industry is confronted with the challenge of shifting the focus toward specialty drugs and marketing their usage. Taking the aforementioned factors into consideration, the pharma industry needs to leverage technology and the latest scientific discoveries to turn these challenges into opportunities.
How, in your view, can technology aid the pharma industry in tackling these challenges?
Technology has the ability to entirely transform a legacy classical pharma organization into a technologically powered one. It has also shifted the focus of the pharma industry from primary care drugs to highly specialized drugs, which is imminent in today’s time and age. The industry is revamping its complete workflow to accommodate this shift, all the way from the drug R&D and gathering and manipulating patient’s data to simplifying the entire healthcare process for patients.
Technology, as a whole, was first introduced in the pharma industry to improve the backend of the systems and software which the industry employs for various purposes. The need for improvement in CRM systems, logistics service, and supply chain management in the pharma industry has now moved toward improving the core business of the pharma and life sciences industry.
Can you elaborate on how the pharma and life sciences industry is adopting technology to improve their core business?
The core business of the pharma industry is drug R&D and their outcomes. Technology has aided the pharma and life sciences industry in employing genomics and artificial intelligence (AI) for speeding up its drug R&D course. However, the improved drug discovery methods have also brought forth the need to obtain technology for managing data. Pharma firms are leveraging technology to derive the results of patient’s health progress after drug consumption so as to further improve the effects of drugs on the patients. Some of these firms are also using data mining to consolidate data from various database platforms so as avail them in coming up with new ideas in drug R&D. Practicing this, the industry has commenced the research on highly specialized and expensive drugs, which are still in oncology stage, and are expected to hit the market in the next few years.
Technology also aids pharma firms in reducing the cost of investment in drug R&D. The Distributed Clinical Trial drug development ensures cost reduction in drug R&D as patients need not visit the venue where the clinical trial is being carried out.
How does the pharma industry employ technology to promote and market newly developed specialized drugs?
Earlier, marketing of drugs has chiefly been dependent on doctors meeting sales representatives of the pharma companies; but that is not the case now. Today, more than 50 percent of doctors in the USA do not entertain sales representatives, and when it comes to specialty drugs, the number of doctors following this trend is even higher. Therefore, pharma firms are leveraging online channels to build a good relationship with doctors, thereby, boosting the sales of the newly developed specialized drugs. The pharma companies also need to come up with the concept of designing systems to indulge in multi-channel online platforms to market the newly developed drugs. To do that, companies have to be better at mastering data management and using the right technology that offers them a centralized solution such as cloud for flexibility, customization, and scalability.
Is there an ongoing R&D in the pharma industry that could change how healthcare facilities are offered to patients?
Yes, my team at Sanofi is working on digital medicine or digital therapeutics. Digital medicine brings a complete shift in the paradigm of offering a physical product or a drug to providing a complete healthcare solution. It delivers the patients with the knowledge about the disease they are suffering from, provides them the regular support of nurses and doctors, reminds them to pay a visit to the doctor, and offers digital wearables to monitor bodily functions like heart rate for the complete recovery. It would take around 3 to 4 years of extensive R&D, but the concept would provide patients with full healthcare solution.
What advice would you like to give to decision makers across the pharma organizations?
Data is the most critical/crucial aspect that pharma organizations need to focus on. Everything will eventually move into the cloud but it would benefit the industry only when the operational workflow is shifted from the waterfall model to the agile model. So, CIOs need to be considerate about the introduction of technological innovations for their firms while changing the cultural perspective by shifting from legacy methods to technology-based methods of drug research, development, and marketing. They should also embrace partnerships with technology firms and startups to ensure continuous progress of the industry.