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Releasing Pharma’s Potential
The industry has a new frontier in its sights. LEO Pharma’s CEO provides us with a blueprint to get there.
Is a company’s culture driven from the top down or bottom up? In the case of dermatology specialist Leo Pharma, it is both. After joining the company as Economist back in 1992, Gitte Aabo steadily worked her way up through the organization to become the President & CEO in 2008.
Aabo has helped foster an environment that is open, agile and committed to innovation. A candid interview with us back in 2014 captures the spirit of her leadership:
“You can run a company after two principles; either that you maximize profits short-term because it looks good when you make your annual accounts public, but you can also run a company after the philosophy that you want it to be built to last. That may me mean investing heavily to secure that the company can continue many years ahead. It may impact your profits short-term, but it means that at the end of the day you are passing on a stronger company.”
Aabo has stayed true to her word ever since. The company has invested heavily in its Innovation Lab and struck up a number of strategic partnerships in a bid to improve the lives of patients and cement its reputation as a dynamic leader in dermatology.
We recently caught up with Aabo once again to discuss the emerging opportunities and challenges both in skin-disease and the wider industry beyond.
“There are huge opportunities to improve the way we as an industry diagnose skin disease today. If you go to an average GP they diagnose correctly in 45 percent of cases. This is not because GPs are bad at diagnosing – but simply because it is extremely difficult with more than 3000 recognized skin diseases where symptoms may look very similar. That's a good example of where you can actually use data imaging artificial intelligence to improve the diagnosis.”
The magic P word
Combining public and private data pools would pivot the industry towards prevention, she says, by identifying people with a “special risk” and determining whether changes in lifestyle would mitigate this risk.
Prevention also revives hope in tackling non-adherence, says Aabo. Exploring ways to make adherence more fun and relevant for the patient is on the top of LEO Pharma’s agenda.
“We are working on combining artificial intelligence imaging with an app on your phone that can help you predict a treatment outcome. So if you were to go to a big event in a couple of weeks from now, you would probably like to know whether you could be clear of your psoriasis for example, and then it could help you predict, ‘okay if I take my treatment every day from now on until two weeks from now, I will actually achieve that kind of treatment outcome.’”
How do we get there?
There are practical considerations that must be addressed, says Aabo, such as getting different data aligned, ensuring that they are of a consistent quality and getting them validated so that different IT systems can work together.
There is a political element too. Structural changes are needed to simplify access to data and facilitate collaboration between public and private data systems. She cites her home country Denmark as a case-in-point, where data is captured in more than 160 different public systems but each of these systems has an individual gatekeeper.
There also needs to be a cultural appetite for change. “Why should I as a citizen trust the government to use my personal health data in collaboration with the private industry?”
Trust in government use of personal data varies from country to country. In Germany the public trust is comparatively low compared to Denmark, for example. There needs to be a way of allaying these fears while ensuring the right kind of privacy for patients.
Current Data protection laws go a long way to providing patients with privacy, but they can also be a bottleneck; stifling the pharmaceutical research that goes into better understanding different diseases and disease prevention, says Aabo.
Once there is the collective will to break these silos, data’s potential will be unleased. She returns to her home country of Denmark an example of what could be achieved.
“We track a lot of data about the individual all the way throughout life. If you start combining those data, I'm sure you'll get insights that would be really valuable. We see for instance atopic dermatitis has more than doubled among young children. It used to be every 10th child in Denmark suffering from that and today it is every fifth child. Now while we know that we don't know why.
“If you start combining those data with the lifestyle data and were able to say, ‘Look this is the reason why so many more children today develop atopic dermatitis and here's actually things you could do to prevent that from happening’ or that data could enable you to develop even more targeted medicines for this specific population.
“There are huge benefits in the data to measure the value of the medicine society pays for, how it is used and [ensuring] that it has the intended effect on patients.”
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