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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Think big, not small

In challenging times pharma will benefit from a collaborative approach
Think big

The life sciences industry works within an environment that has more than its fair share of challenges when compared to some other industry sectors. Commercial pressure to develop new and better products all the time is a challenge shared by businesses of all types. However, life sciences R&D has its own scientific and technical challenges that can be complex and expensive to overcome. In addition, the regulatory environment that is absolutely necessary to keep the patients safe and their information secure requires life sciences companies to clear significant legal and financial hurdles in getting their product to market.

Many of the solutions that companies come up with to address these challenges are the same, with each company inventing its own solution in isolation from the others and gaining no competitive advantage by doing so. Some companies however choose to collaborate with others in order to develop joint approaches that they can all benefit from in the pre-competitive stages of their R&D. Doing so doesn't just lead to efficiency savings in development costs, but also leads to the establishment of industry standards and compliant systems that third party solution providers can interface with and build upon. A healthier ecosystem of products and services built on these standards provides the life sciences industry with increased competition and choice from solution vendors, which has additional positive impact on the quality and efficiency of R&D and innovation across the board.

Collaboration doesn't always have to be used to address immediate technical or tactical issues, as it is equally well suited to longer-term strategy building. Exploring a new area or radical idea may be too much of a financial or strategic risk for any single company to take on, but by pooling resources with other companies that share similar views of the future they can share the burden and achieve things that would not be possible if they went alone. A good example of what can be achieved by this approach is ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture established by GSK and Pfizer in 2009 to carry out research into HIV medicines. Jeff Kindler, Pfizer's CEO at the time ViiV Healthcare was set up, highlighted the value of collaboration by saying “the new company can reach more patients and accomplish much more for the treatment of HIV globally than either company on its own”.

Long-term benefits
On a more humble scale, collaboration on technical solutions can also provide more than just a short-term financial benefit. The Pistoia Alliance's Controlled Substance Compliance Services (CSCS) project resulted in the establishment of two commercial solutions, built to the specifications of a joint industry panel of compliance experts, which can be used to check compliance with regulations around controlled substances.

Companies that manufacture or use regulated compounds in-house or ship them to other sites need to make sure that they remain within the law when handling them, and that their research partners and suppliers are also compliant. These commercial CSCS software solutions reduce the need for companies to develop their own compliance-checking software systems or manual processes in-house by providing a standardised approach that reduces risk.

Collaboration doesn't always have to be used to address immediate technical or tactical issues

The Pistoia Alliance, whose members represent almost every type of organisation active in the life sciences sector today, is not alone in the space of facilitating industry collaboration as other specialist consortia exist on almost every major subject that is of concern to the industry at present. The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health is looking into improving genomic medicine through more effective data sharing, while TransCelerate BioPharma approaches R&D innovation from the perspective of those carrying out the R&D themselves. Another example, BioPhorum, looks at operational challenges, improving competitiveness, and reducing patient risk. It is hard to predict what type of innovations might arise in future from this network of collaborative alliances and consortia, but key areas of activity at present are in genomics, mobile and personal health devices, and the much over-hyped big data.

Mapping alliance possibilities
There are many alliances to choose from, but there is no definitive resource that might help potential members decide which to join or support. The Pistoia Alliance is addressing this by developing a Map of Alliances. This map, while useful as a simple public catalogue, will also allow a serious look to be taken at the proliferation of alliances and foundations and ask whether there might be benefit in establishing closer relationships between the alliances themselves, through a kind of meta-alliance of like minds.

Article by
Richard Holland

Executive director of operations at the Pistoria Alliance

26th June 2015

From: Research, Sales



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