eyeforpharma Barcelona Conference VIRTUAL

Mar 30, 2020 - Apr 3, 2020, Barcelona

FREE TO ATTEND: Where pharma comes to life. The biggest and most important commercial pharma event in the world with over 2000 attendees across marketing, patient engagement, clinical, market access, medical affairs, commercial excellence, RWE, patient advocacy and digital health.

Advancing through partnerships

Collaboration makes sense on many fronts on our journey to sustainably improve the lives of patients, says Merck’s Chris Round



 
If any reminder were needed of the power of collaboration in healthcare, it is the global efforts underway to stem the current coronavirus outbreak and to develop treatments for it.
 
Chris Round, Merck’s Head of International Operations & Global Core Franchises, speaking to eyeforpharma ahead of his eyeforpharma Barcelona Conference 2020 keynote, mentions that Merck is lending its heft to industry efforts to help tackle the emergency. “The industry has shown what it is capable of with HIV and Ebola in the past, so I am hopeful that the industry can pull together very fast.”
 
Partnerships at scale at the intersection of biology and technology will unlock progress on many other fronts in the coming decade, says Round, who will be speaking in part on the topic at this year’s (now virtual) conference.
 
They are a means of mitigating the increased level of risk around innovation that has been rendering the classical pharma model less productive and with a decreasing return on capital. “One of the ways to balance that is to share risk, particularly for mid-size companies,” says Round. “In oncology there are lots of collaborations going on. No individual company is going to be able to tackle these in isolation going forward.” 
 
Strategic partnerships
The big breakthroughs in healthcare will increasingly happen through broad partnerships and Merck is already pooling its resources with others, says Round. Merck is a company that is willing, able and prepared to form partnerships where they make strategic sense. We have entered into some big partnerships with Pfizer, GSK and numerous others.”
 
Partnerships beyond the more familiar science and discovery as well as clinical development ones are of increasing importance, says Round. “We are also interested in collaborations that make sure our innovation gets to broadest range of patients possible.”
 
The digitalisation of healthcare and the potential for data-led breakthroughs is perhaps the fastest developing arena for collaboration with great potential in digital ‘beyond the pill’ therapies. “It is an area that is ripe for exploration,” says Round. 
 
“I see a world in which a diagnosis of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes triggers a range of things, not just a medical intervention. Maybe there is a routine monitoring device that sends updates to physicians and nurses, and even devices that give bio-feedback on the food you put into your body and how it is working. We are already living in that world in some ways.”
 
“We will see fertility treatments move in a more digitally enabled direction so that patients wanting to conceive are able to do so at home with fewer visits to the fertility clinic, with data collected in a more thorough way to improve the chances of success to better than one in three. We will see less painful procedures, that are more efficient, with better outcomes at lower cost.”
 
“We will also see the growth of pure digital therapeutics, where you are driving an improvement in outcomes without any medical intervention, just digital monitoring and measurement. This is a very exciting area and we can only anticipate that there will be increasingly more of it.”
 
The rise of the tech giants
The centrality to data in all this means big technology players have an increasing role in healthcare innovation, making them increasingly pivotal partners for pharma, he says. “There is a concentration of media and access, which means pharma has to find ways to get access to its customers and their customers.”
 
It is true of global tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Google as well as the dominant tech players in China, which is a market of huge importance to Merck. In fact China is every bit as potent of a crucible of innovation in the digital setting as elsewhere. In some ways more so, says Round, an MSD veteran of more than 20 years standing who has spent two years of that time working in Shanghai. 
 
“China is a fantastic market and a very important for Merck. We punch above our weight there; it comprises a large share of our sales right now and it is a big part of our business. It has great underlying dynamics. 
 
“It is astonishing to see how access to medicine is accelerating, the changes that are happening in reimbursement and in regulation there. It is a place to try new business models and pilot new forms of collaboration in an environment where it is possible to be highly innovative and creative.”
 
Targeted Communications
A big part of the appeal in China is the availability of digital infrastructure that is not available in other parts of the world, which enables us to work with partners and achieve a better understanding of how to put all those components together in a model that is effective and enables us to innovate for patients and at the same time run the business in a much more efficient way.”
 
One collaboration it has underway is with Tencent to create unbranded medical education material for couples potentially seeking fertility treatment. “It’s a fascinating area,” says Round. “You can give individuals the information they need to make a conscious choice. You can be much more effective with how you can target your communications.”
 
China is leading the way in the much broader and deeper use of digital when it comes to engaging with HCPs, and payers, as well as patients and consumers too. “What we are doing is very different with ongoing, digitally based communications as well as face-to-face meetings.”
 
What has Round learned about how to make a success of doing business in China? “You need good people, good structure and digital capabilities as well as a broad reach of highly skilled field managers. You also need to treat China more of a region than a country and you need to work closely with the authorities in each province."
 

Since you're here...
... and value our content, you should sign-up to our newsletter. Sign up here

eyeforpharma Barcelona Conference VIRTUAL

Mar 30, 2020 - Apr 3, 2020, Barcelona

FREE TO ATTEND: Where pharma comes to life. The biggest and most important commercial pharma event in the world with over 2000 attendees across marketing, patient engagement, clinical, market access, medical affairs, commercial excellence, RWE, patient advocacy and digital health.

comments powered by Disqus