How pharma and medtech collaborations fuel progress

How pharma and medtech collaborations fuel progress

By Marta Kubala

Collaboration between medical device and pharmaceutical companies is one of the top five trends influencing growth in the medtech and pharmaceutical industries. An increasing number of such collaborations stem from rapid expansion in the biologic drug market, with protein-based therapeutics often requiring novel methods of drug administration. These drugs are typically administered by injection or infusion, which is less desirable from a patient’s point of view. Therefore, more convenient, less painful technological solutions are necessary. In addition, as the amount of generated patient data increases rapidly, big data companies are partnering with pharmaceutical and medtech companies to facilitate precision medicine approaches.

New delivery systems for biologic drugs:

In late 2017, Takeda Pharmaceuticals partnered with Portal Instruments to deliver their biologics using a needle-free device from Portal Instruments. This device, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by Professor Ian Hunter, delivers a biologic drug using pressurized liquid. Whereas the traditional syringe injection or drug infusion typically requires a hospital visit, the needle-free device can be used at home. In addition, it has been shown to be less painful for patients as compared to the standard needle-based injection.

Technological platforms to enable precision medicine:

To enable more comprehensive healthcare approaches for patient treatments and to accelerate the introduction of precision medicine for diseases like cancer, pharmaceutical companies are collaborating with big data companies. One major effort arising out of such collaborations entails developing platforms for processing large amounts of data for better prediction of effective individual treatments.

At the beginning of 2018, GE Healthcare and pharmaceutical giant Roche announced a collaboration to develop a precision medicine oncology platform. This platform will provide workflow solutions and apps to support clinical decisions regarding cancer patients’ treatments. Patient data (personal data, medical history, biometrics), medical results generated at the hospital, and results from ongoing monitoring devices will be integrated and analyzed to suggest the most optimal treatments for every stage of the disease, reducing complications.

Differences between pharmaceutical, medical device, and big data companies:

Although collaboration is a vital part of doing business, the languages spoken by pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies are different, especially in regards to development timelines and regulatory approval pathways. The approach of pharmaceutical companies also differs significantly from Silicon Valley companies. While pharmaceutical companies tend to guard their innovations, big data companies want open access and non-exclusivity to be able to sell their products and services to the largest number of customers.

In an effort to overcome such obstacles, GE Healthcare partnered with Nvidia to address the issue of large amounts of currently unusable data generated by hospitals through medical images and operational and financial sources. It is estimated that only 3% of this data is actionable. The collaboration aims to bring Nvidia’s AI technology to imaging devices of GE Healthcare to improve healthcare processing. As a result of this partnership, the companies claim that the new CT system is two times faster than its predecessor. The FDA-approved technology will be used in liver lesion detection and kidney lesion characterization. It will potentially decrease the need for follow-ups and reduce non-interpretable scans through applying a machine learning algorithm that reduces imaging metal artifacts.

Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi and Verily Life Sciences, a healthcare research organization owned by Alphabet (Google’s parent), are collaborating through their Cambridge, MA-based Onduo Joint Venture to tackle diabetes. They are combining Verily’s expertise in miniaturized electronics, analytics, and consumer software with Sanofi’s diabetes program, which includes a comprehensive portfolio of diabetes medicines. The collaboration aims to develop comprehensive solutions that combine devices, software, medicine, and professional care to enable simple and effective disease management.

How to partner: An early start is key

Experts from big pharma companies agree that instead of doing everything themselves, pharma and medtech companies need to partner to increase speed and reliability of delivery of new products. One of the solutions is to get ready for a partnership early, before all the decisions about the product have been made by a pharma company, leaving little room for adjustments on the medtech side. Early communication allows both parties to make better development choices. For example, different drug leads may be chosen by the pharmaceutical company depending on the proposed method of the delivery on the medtech side. It all boils down to communication between the formulation team and the device group, as the best business partners are strong communicators, good team players, and are focused on the patient.  

The growing trend in establishment of productive partnerships between pharma and medtech companies leads to new combination products that move beyond the traditional drug forms, advancing our ability to treat diseases in a fast and effective manner.

An early start is key and communicating with the right people will assist you in making the right decisions. Our team of experts can help your company get on the right track, from the start. Contact us today! 

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