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Disruptive innovation in pharma

Pfizer CMO Freda Lewis-Hall calls for ‘meta-collaborative’ approach

Disruptive innovation - shattered lightbulbPfizer is looking to pool ideas from a diverse range of industries and organisations to see how it might harness the concept of 'disruptive innovation'.

The pharma company's chief medical officer Freda Lewis-Hall said she hopes in this way to find new ways to address health issues.

Speaking at last week's Economist Pharma Summit Lewis-Hall explained that while the biotech industry had a precision approach to bringing innovative ideas to targeted populations, this was not the same as a disruptive approach.

She said disruptive innovation - ideas that create a new market or value network at the expense of an existing one - could start as gradual incremental advances that were shown in the longer term to be ground-breaking.

Here Lewis-Hall cited Pfizer's Lipitor and the drug's influence in reducing cardiovascular disease death rates.

She also talked about the importance of repurposing what already exists, especially in a difficult financial climate.

By applying current technologies or discoveries in new ways, solutions could be found, she said, citing lightweight rocket materials that had been used to make prosthetic joints for babies. But she said that great results would only really be found through full 'meta-collaboration'.

“Nobody translates cutting-edge science into useful therapies better than our industry,” she asserted, adding: “Let's bring down some of the stereotypes so we can all work together… we've opened up a library of our compounds to researchers to see if we can find some exciting outcomes.”

Pfizer is conducting a joint study with academic research to investigate how tranexamic acid (which the company markets in Europe as Cyklokapron) could potentially be used for maternal haemorrhage in developing countries.

Takeda's Tachi Yamada on disruptive innovative

The theme of how pharma could harness disruptive innovative to help eradicate neglected health problems and unmet medical needs was continued by Tachi Yamada.

Takeda Pharmaceuticals' chief medical and scientific officer told the Economist Pharma Summit about several methods to alleviate malaria, including impregnated nets and lasers that could identify and destroy just the female mosquito carrier.

Yamada spent five years at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as head of global health programmes and prior to that served at GlaxoSmithKline as its chairman of research and development.

He impressed upon the audience that if pharma is to carry disruptive innovation forward then scientists and the companies that employ them should be ready to take big risks.

He also suggested these scientists should not be subject to peer-review, “because innovators don't have peers”.

14th February 2012

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