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Five innovations driving change in biopharma

There’s an old adage that goes, necessity is the mother of invention. This is certainly true in health care where market forces are spurring new innovations in biopharma. Recently, Deloitte published an analysis of some of the boldest breakthroughs likely to impact health care across the spectrum. In the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ Top 10 health care innovations: Achieving more for less report, we surveyed leaders across the health care system on the innovations they believe will be transformative over the next decade.

We define innovation as those activities or technologies that break performance constraints to attain a desired outcome in a way that genuinely pushes the envelope of change. All industry sectors, whether health care providers and plans, life sciences or government agencies, face similar challenges: how to manage costs and unwanted or inconsistent care outcomes, aligning incentives to achieve higher quality at lower cost.

There are key areas where innovation is expanding the realm of what is possible. In biopharma, we focused on five innovations we believe might be transformative for diagnosing and treating disease, and engaging patients.

Immunotherapy. Certain types of immunotherapy treatments help the body’s own immune system attack a broad range of critical illnesses, including cancer, infectious diseases, and neurodegeneration. The growth of two types of therapies, checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive t-cell therapies, hold great promise. They have the potential to improve cancer patient survival rates, lengthen life spans, and improve quality of life by reducing the typical side effects of chemotherapy. Chimeric antigen receptors (or CAR) combined with T-cell therapies (CAR-T) has been used to treat blood malignancies and show response rates as high as 70-90 percent. However, further research is required to see if the technology will have similar success in treating solid tumors. These benefits could reduce the need for other costly interventions like ER visits for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Next-generation sequencing. Fifteen years ago, researchers with the Human Genome Project sequenced the first human genome. Since then, sequencing advances have produced an exponential increase in the amount of data output – and the costs have dropped dramatically. DNA profiles that once cost in excess of a hundred thousand dollars can now be developed for $200. This technology raises the prospect of new diagnostics that are better able to identify at-risk patients and to tailor treatments to each patient’s genome – making treatment more effective and efficient.

Social media. Leveraging the tools of social media to understand the patient experience offers health care organizations a unique opportunity: to develop data that effectively track population trends in real time, and often more efficiently than what is now available. Health care organizations should take a chapter from retailers who apply customer data to understand market needs. Data analytics can tap a rich vein of vital consumer information, and most consumers are interested in engaging with health care information online, as noted in the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions 2015 Survey of US Health Care Consumers. In that study, 52 percent of respondents reported actively searching for health care or related information online.

Artificial intelligence (AI). A computer’s ability to think and engage like a human has long been associated with science fiction in pop culture. Over the next decade, it may become a transformative element in providing improved speed and accuracy in treatment decisions. Envision a future of patient diagnoses delivered with greater timeliness and precision – contributing to better rates of therapeutic success and reducing the need for medical interventions. Analysts predict that 90 percent of US hospitals and insurance companies will implement AI systems by 2025. Furthermore, AI can be applied to harness real-world evidence to expedite and supplement clinical trials.

Biosensors and trackers. Wearable health devices are getting smaller and more technologically advanced, further enabling consumers, their doctors, biopharma, and medical device companies to more efficiently monitor far-ranging aspects of a patient’s care. One anticipated result of biosensors is in earlier interventions that lead to less intrusive, and less costly, diagnoses and treatments. As patients continue to integrate wearables into their daily lives, biopharma companies could leverage the information that comes from them to understand and improve adherence to drug therapies.

Putting these five innovations into practice is no easy task and involves changes in how health care organizations attack disease from the standpoint of prevention, diagnosis, tracking, and treatment. Leaders in the industry should understand which of these emerging trends will likely break performance trade-offs in ways that impact their core businesses and, ultimately, transform how they deliver care.

Author bio

Ralph is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Life Sciences consulting practice and biopharma sector leader. With over 18 years of experience, his work includes developing and executing strategic and operational initiatives broadly across the Life Sciences value chain. Ralph has led the development and assessment of innovative collaborations for discovery and early development, global operating development and design, and executed large scale R&D business model transformations.