Pharma can be a controversial topic, as it often involves allegations of greed and negligence in the name of profits. It's polarizing, to be sure. But it's not a simple, black-or-white topic. The litany of warnings that follow any television pharma ad is comical at best, and frightening at worst. But let's not forget the good that certain medications have done to improve the quality of — and in some cases save — countless lives.
I'll be frank: Big Pharma is here to stay, for better or worse. So we may as well read up on the state of Pharma to stay in tune with prevailing trends — both good and bad.
That's where these industry insiders come in. They shared their views on the technologies shaping the future of pharma with us. Here's what they said:
1. Shital Mars, CEO of Progressive Care
“AI will have the biggest impact on Pharma in the future. With consolidation and digitization, the result lends itself to automation of analysis and use. Software is already being developed to tackle supply chains, best treatment practices and patient interactions. AI will be used to find hot spots of commonality to tackle a broad range of issues which include proclivity to certain disease states, acute symptom onset and prevention, and transportation and logistics.”
2. VIvek Ramaswamy, founder and CEO of Roivant Sciences
“There is ample discussion about the impact of AI and machine learning on drug development and commercialization but the truth is that the rate-limiting step to unlocking innovation in healthcare is not the development of more powerful algorithms, but rather the linking of healthcare datasets across and within institutions to generate holistic, longitudinal health data. The trick is to do this while at the same time ensuring individual patient privacy through HIPAA-compliant de-identification. This is something we are currently doing at one of the companies in our family, Datavant.
Datavant’s operating system for health data enables an ecosystem of healthcare analytics applications including precision medicine, better drug discovery, synthetic clinical trials, and digital pharmaceutical commercialization. Datavant’s current clients include top EMR companies, insurers, pharmacies, CROs, lab diagnostic companies, and biopharmaceutical companies. Their software is being used to recruit clinical trials, find patients with rare diseases, and improve risk models for payers.”
3. Barby Ingle, President of the International Pain Foundation
“Having been through stem cell therapy two times, I can see that this will have a large impact on the future treatment of patients with a variety of conditions. I believe that with medications that involve stem cells, taking DNA into account, being able to edit stem cells, ect that the biologic and pharmacogenomics will play a huge role in the upcoming changes and advancements of treating disease; especially rare diseases. There are more than 7,000 rare diseases and less than 5% have a treatment available. When pharmaceutical companies combine the current data to new innovation, we will see this area explode with options and help for the chronically ill.”
4. Paul Tunnah, founder and CEO of Pharmaphorum
“The technology that will have the biggest impact on the pharmaceutical industry is what I describe as ‘personal diagnostics’. This means being able to understand the exact genetic makeup of each individual, plus ongoing analysis of their lifestyle and critical markers of health, in order to tailor treatment.
This is driven by the rapid reduction in cost of whole genome sequencing for the former element and the rapid rise in use of smart devices, like iPhones, Fitbits and other health trackers, that collect enormous amounts of real-time data on our health and lifestyle.
Both factors will enable pharma to predict which therapies work best for which patients and intervene on a highly personal level for better results.”
5. Dominic Viola, Executive Director, Client Services at W2O Group
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are becoming more and more important to the Pharma industry. AI allows companies to process vast amounts of data and process it in a way that provides a well-defined output to the patient. Machine Learning, a subset of AI, allows machines to learn and adapt to the information they are receiving, improving their output overtime so the more data we are able to collect and analyze, the more accurate the output. This has been accelerated through the likes of social media, wearable technology, electronic health records, and integrated health systems.”
6. Mark Emalfarb, CEO of Dyadic
“Innovative drug platforms are likely to advance over the current industry
standard to produce biologics. One such protein expression platform, based
on a genetically modified strain of the fungus Myceliophthora thermophila,
has shown promise in producing enzymes and other proteins in a shorter amount of time, in higher amounts and at a lower cost than Chinese Hamster
Ovary cells. Its potential efficiency as a drug production platform is
significant; it is virus-free, can be grown under wide operating conditions with low-cost chemically defined media, and introduce a shorter development and production cycle, making it possible to develop gram-per-liter-per-day cell lines in as little as 15 weeks.”
7. Adityo Prakash, CEO of Verseon
“The technology with the most potential to reshape pharma is blockchain. While the focus to date has mainly been on logistics and data management applications of this technology, the main impact blockchain can have in pharma is in funding drug discovery and development. Improvements in pharma critically depend on new medical innovations.
Blockchain technology can empower companies, both large and small, to present themselves to an international investor community, accelerate their development, and maximize the positive impact of their products on global health. Security token offerings can replace currently restricted fundraising options with truly global, democratic participation.”
8. Joel Selzer, Cofounder and CEO of ArcheMedX
“Digital tools and data analytics will increasingly benefit the Pharma industry. We now have billions of connected devices that can potentially stream clinical data 24×7, and the ability to more effectively analyze and apply insights from these data sets will transform the decision-making process across the life science sector. For example, those firms with the ability to draw real-time insights from complex datasets can more rapidly optimize protocol design, improve site selection, increase patient recruitment and retention, all of which will accelerate the drug development process, delivering novel therapies to patients faster while reducing drug development costs.”
9. Melonie Warfel, VP and General Manager, Life Sciences at Model N
“Digital medicine – the notion of a treatment combining software with medical devices – often ingestible or implantable sensors monitored by a mobile or web-based application – is a technology having a profound effect on the industry. The medtech space expected to reach $595B in revenues by 2024. Digital medicine technologies can be leveraged to increase compliance with an existing treatment, combine a treatment with a sensor or device to increase efficacy or better track safety and efficacy to understand value, outcomes and the pharmacoeconomic impact of a treatment.”
10. Rutesh Shah, co-founder and CEO of Infostretch
“Digitization of Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) is arguably shifting the
value pool in the most significant way for the whole of the pharma industry.
PBMs include third-party administrators for prescription drug programs at insurance companies, businesses, self-insured employers and government health plans. PBMs have a vast market valuation of $368 billion in 2018 within the US healthcare system, and an expected annual growth forecast of more than 9 percent.
Despite the size of the market, however, many PBMs do not have
the technical sophistication to flourish in the digital world, which has
given rise to companies such as RxSense. Previously a PBM, RxSense pivoted to meet the real-time needs of customers by providing a B2B digital platform for the whole PBM industry. Its goal is to bypass problems with legacy PBM systems, including a lack of innovation, inefficiencies, inflexibility, as well as challenges around accuracy and transparency.
The next step beyond digitization for players such as RxSense
will be the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies to further increase administrative efficiency, drive down costs and, ultimately, improve clinical outcomes.”
11. John Bermudez, General Manager of Digital Network Platform at TraceLink
“Cell and Gene Therapies are distinctly different from traditional biopharma products as every lot is for a named patient or small population of patients. The technology that will have the biggest impact on the pharma industry will be end-to-end visibility (E2E) as it will enable pharma companies to orchestrate the manufacture and delivery of very short lifecycle therapies from the patient, across a multi-party manufacturing process and back to the patient. Current, pharma industry supply chains are cumbersome and inefficient and not capable of delivering the new CAR-T therapies coming to market. E2E visibility will orchestrate every step of vein-to-vein process including patient apheresis, viral vector manufacturing, therapy production, delivery to treatment center, and injection into the patient. E2E technology will have connectivity across the multi-party Life Sciences network to ensure real-time information is available to schedule the limited capacity production facilities around patient readiness. E2E will also likely rely on blockchains to ensure the integrity of patient data and batch records as it moves through the network.”
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