There's a lot of talk about innovation in pharma these days, or, at least, there's a lot of talk about the need for pharma to innovate. And this does not mean merely injecting the word “innovation” into the job titles of senior execs—no disrespect intended to my friends and associates who are chief innovation officers, directors of innovation and SVPs of business innovation.
Of course, pharma has long been accused of being a slow-moving industry, particularly when it comes to technological advances, which doesn't make a great deal of sense when you think about the brilliant minds and high science that shape the discovery and development of life-saving products.
In commenting on mobile health trends in the Mobile Guide that accompanies this issue, Jay Goldman, SVP strategy at Klick Pharma, says he believes that the industry has inherent issues with innovation, but that this conservative approach is often justified. “Pharma lags behind the general business adoption of mobile for the same reasons it does in social,” he says. “Almost everyone in this industry wants to be the wildly successful second company to do something, but shies away from being the trailblazing first to market. There are a lot of good historic and current reasons for that attitude—not least of which is the intense regulatory pressure we all face in everything we do.”
While many in the industry concur with Goldman, others are seeing a greater effort from pharma, at least when it comes to mobile adoption. Like Monique Levy, VP of research at Manhattan Research. “Pharma actually jumped [into mobile] quicker than they did with other technologies, like the web 10 years ago,” she says. “They showed more urgency, they didn't want to get left behind. They're experimenting with what works and what doesn't. It's like a second chance.”
In fact, examples of pharma's innovation abound in this month's MM&M. Our cover story, “Screen Play” (pages 32-36), about Roche Diagnostics' freshly approved Cobas HPV test, offers “an early example of personalized medicine morphing from futurist claptrap into something tangible, and a harbinger of how the worlds of devices and diagnostics are converging with on those of pharmas and biotechs,” reports MM&M's Matthew Arnold.
And in “Rare View” (pages 44-46) Marc Iskowitz looks at how online resources for patients with rare diseases help replace isolation with a sense of community. Specialty pharma companies have a vital, innovative role in the development of these groups.
“We consider each of these patients to be as important as a patient with a much more common disease,” says Will Roberts, VP of corporate communications for ViroPharma, which markets Cinryze, the first FDA-approved product for hereditary angiodema (HAE)—of which there are only 6,000-10,000 patients in the US.
Meanwhile, in an exclusive Headliner interview (page 30), John Gargiulo, the new president and CEO of Daiichi Sankyo, offers arguably the most encouraging words of all. “In order to be successful, we have to constantly be challenging ourselves to do things differently,” he says. “That is a focal point within the organization: innovation. Not just product innovation, but being able to do everything we do a little better, and it's not just big things but also little things. Small improvements across thousands of employees become big leaps in productivity,” which, he says, translate into patient care gains. Let's hope this is just the start.