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The Future of Pharma: Innovation

Understanding what is meant by “innovation” and how it is measured is a critical step as we look towards meeting unmet healthcare needs.



Pharmaceutical and biotech leaders will join IDEA Pharma in launching the first in a series of panel discussion sessions, called "The Future of Pharma", on the evening of January 11th 2016, at the time of the annual J. P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, San Francisco.

IDEA Pharma CEO Mike Rea has 20 years’ experience in global pharma strategy and is acknowledged as the leading expert in early-phase Positioning and Value Proposition for the pharma industry. “The idea behind 'The Future of Pharma' panel sessions,” explains Rea, “is to collect the most influential pharma leaders and hear their thinking about how we can positively shape the future of our industry, in addition to promoting healthier values and ethical practices.”

The January panel discussion on the multi-dimensional topic of innovation within the industry will see IDEA Pharma joined by a panel of esteemed industry professionals - David Meek, Baxalta’s Executive Vice President and President of Oncology; Dr William Hait, Janssen’s Global Head of R&D; Bob Oliver, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc.'s President and COO; and, Dr Michael Hayden, Teva’s President of Global R&D and Chief Scientific Officer. “I am delighted to welcome such influential industry players to the panel,” says Rea.

Defining innovation

"Innovation is the first topic up for discussion because it sits firmly at the top of everyone’s agenda, yet its definition and focus varies greatly company-to-company,” explains Rea. “Innovation is an area where companies are struggling to understand ‘best practice’ and, therefore, to emulate or improve upon their performance. Understanding what is meant by ‘innovation’ and how it is measured is a critical step as we look towards solving unmet healthcare needs, and having health policy makers and practitioners recognize and give priority to true pharmaceutical innovations.”

“At the core of our belief is that innovation is not the same as invention: we look very objectively at the outcome, to see whether companies are launching their ‘innovations’ successfully,” Rea adds, clarifying that, “Although that sounds simple, it is a very good test for whether they are all talk or whether they are able to bring game-changing medicines to market. Launching innovation is a much higher order competence than coming up with ideas.”

Defining the evaluation process                          

At the panel discussion, IDEA Pharma, which has been heralded as a champion of innovation and industry change, will announce the launch date of its sixth annual Productive Innovation Index (PII), an index that ranks the top 30 pharmaceutical companies in terms of their ability to develop and commercialize innovations. At the same event, IDEA Pharma will also be unveiling the IDEA Index; this index is aimed at rewarding the most innovative companies selected from companies in the field of both pharma and biotech.

Rea describes the PII, saying, “The Productive Innovation Index doesn’t apply a forward view; if it did, we’d be guessing like everyone else. It takes a rolling window of the past 5 years, so essentially it tells you who has been the most innovative of the top 30 companies in the past 3-5 years. This makes the ranking both easier and more robust in its objective.”

Companies that don’t fall within the top 30 won’t be left out. In recognition of the fact that a huge amount of innovation is being brought into the top 30, IDEA Pharma felt that newer companies, which often react to change quickly, needed a different set of criteria for the new index. Rea explains, “The IDEA Index was created because there are clearly some very interesting things happening both outside the top 30 companies by revenue and within those companies where innovation is happening outside of NCEs (New Chemical Entities).”  

Our belief is that if a company comes up with a product that meaningfully impacts patient needs and is highly differentiated in doing so, that provides its own commercial model. The challenge is often that most businesses that say they are patient-centric are not, or they don’t really know what that means, so they are stuck between two ideologies, being neither one thing nor another.

Rea acknowledges that the new index’s rankings will be more subjective because they are “based on applying a snapshot judgment of 2015/2016 activities across the whole industry for where innovation is bringing us game-changing medicines. As we have spent so much time studying how innovation gets to market in pharma, we believe the IDEA Index will recognize some remarkable companies, who will certainly be making a difference in the next 5 years.”

What if an innovative idea is a bad one?

“That’s an interesting question, says Rea, adding, “Ideas are often not intrinsically bad - it may be a factor of their context or their environment - because in a different area they may succeed. However, the focus of our indices is to reward excellence, not to punish any laggards.” In the role of the path-to-market function of IDEA Pharma, it would then be a case of encouraging the company to come up with a better solution, as well as working through the various scenarios until they arrive at a winning formula.

Gaining the best outcomes for good products

Having developed a great product, the next step is in marketing it successfully – and that isn’t as simple as it sounds. “Our belief is that the product is only the start of a journey; the path it takes to market is a very rocky road. There are so many choices including patient population, indication, label claims, dose, comparators, and value propositions that are all a part of the planning that produces successful products. Many ‘good products’ don’t make it to market or to patients, because of decisions taken in the path to market design,” says Rea.

Molding products to patient needs

There is something of a dichotomy within pharma: patient-centric focus is at the core of business, but so is producing a commercially successful product. Molding the two takes some skill, something like blending two colors until one is indistinguishable from the other yet in the process producing a clear new color, of greater value than the two original colors.

“It is rare in our business that a product that is truly patient-centric is not also successful".

Rea says, “Our belief is that if a company comes up with a product that meaningfully impacts patient needs and is highly differentiated in doing so, that provides its own commercial model. The challenge is often that most businesses that say they are patient-centric are not, or they don’t really know what that means, so they are stuck between two ideologies, being neither one thing nor another.”

He adds, “It is rare in our business that a product that is truly patient-centric is not also successful.” Various leaders have reiterated what Rea has said in regard to patient-centricity. The central message coming from the likes of Jill Donahue (Engage Rx), Jane Griffiths (Company Group Chairman, Janssen Pharmaceuticals), and Anne Beal (Chief Patient Officer at Sanofi) is that if you find a solution that works for your patients, the revenue will follow.

Breaking down silos

Over decades, siloed thinking became part of pharma and breaking down those barriers is a challenge - particularly in large companies where departments have been used to a certain way of doing things. Rea agrees: “I think it is a change that is happening, slowly, in some. Those companies towards the top of the PII tend to show better behaviors in this regard. However, some of the best proponents of innovation are not in large pharma. Smaller companies or teams don’t have the same barriers to cooperation.”

Practicing effective altruism

While a number of companies are doing impressive work in less developed countries and in neglected diseases, Rea admits that although global health initiatives aren’t really his area of expertise he does feel that the focus should be more on enhancing innovation. “At a philosophical level, I’d like to see pharma companies get better at what they do, which is already a significant benefit to society - like the effective altruism movement, just being a ‘good’ pharma company would improve global health. There is a risk that real, meaningful initiatives are hidden among the PR exercises.”

Sexy Science not a benchmark for innovation 

Rea concludes, “We have written a lot about innovation news coverage being too focused on the discovery phase of pharma. One thing that PII implicitly recognizes is that innovation through the whole chain, into development, commercialization - including manufacturing and integration with healthcare systems - are all meaningful.” News reports tend to focus on the “aha” moment when scientists find a breakthrough. “We risk being dragged into ‘sexy science’ as the only benchmark for innovation, and that is clearly not enough. No medicine is less useful than one that does not make it to patients,” he says.

The panel discussion in January promises to be one that will provide insights into how industry leaders work with their teams in bringing innovative ideas to the marketplace successfully, always keeping the patient uppermost in mind.


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eyeforpharma Barcelona

Mar 15, 2016 - Mar 17, 2016, Barcelona

Rewrite pharma’s business plan. Become the trusted partner.

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