German drugmaker Merck KGaA took another step forward in its bid to become a digital health giant, inking a big data partnership with California's Palantir Technologies.
Under the terms of the deal, Merck will use Palantir's advanced data analytics capabilities to "more rapidly develop and deliver medicines and commercialize new products to achieve better patient outcomes".
"Biomedical research generates unprecedented volumes of rapidly evolving data every day," said Merck in a statement. "But accessing, learning from, and expanding on those assets has become a huge bottleneck in scientists' ability to bring new innovations from the bench to the bedside."
Merck will work with Palantir on cancer therapies in the first instance, with the aim of developing a collaborative data and analytics platform for the drug development processes that will give researchers new understanding of how new medicines work.
Palantir contends that many scientists in pharma companies struggle with unstructured data and information silos that "reduce creativity and limit researchers' corrective analyses". The data analytics and sharing platform will help Merck researchers analyse real-world and bioinformatics data so they can "understand the patients who may benefit most" from a treatment.
The alliance also has a patient-centric component, and according to Merck will improve the experience of patients using its products, improve adherence as well as provide feedback on real-world efficacy.
Finally, the two companies will collaborate on a platform that will allow improved global supply chain forecasting and help to get medicines to patients who need them around the world as quickly as possible. Neither company has disclosed any financial details on the deal.
Merck has made digital a core part of its strategy in healthcare, setting up incubator schemes in Germany, the US and Africa to seek out and fund promising start-up projects.
In addition to the new Palantir collaboration, Merck has signed a deal with Stanford Graduate School of Business, allowing Merck executives to tap into the academic centre's expertise with training on innovation and digitalisation.
The latest agreements come shortly after Merck signed a licensing agreement with Vertex Pharmaceuticals giving it rights to four cancer candidates in return for an upfront payment of $230m.