It was not too many moons ago that speaking ‘Digital Health’ and ‘Pharma’ in the same breath would have been oxymoronic to the max.

But things have changed, at least if you look through the lens of Pharma & Tech companies partnering, with a focus on developing Digital Health solutions.  I have a big interest in tracking this space and there are usually at least a half dozen notable new partnerships arising ever month.

I would like to do 2 things in this short post:

  1. Provide a condensed view of some of the most interesting Digital Health Pharma partnerships over the last 6 months or so.
  2. Try to give a bit of context, i.e., what do these partnerships mean to patients are what are some of the pharma strategies that are driving them.

 

Integrated Solutions

Ok this is not the sexiest topic to kick off with but an important one.  And it is good to see pharma companies guilty of ‘collusion’ around a patient centered goal.  For a diabetes patient the condition must be hard enough to manage without worrying if all your treatment kit is compatible.  Good news Roche’s mySugr app is to integrate with Novo Nordisk’s smart insulin pens.  This may not be pure altruism, as the integration is aimed at boosting data collection but hopefully it will have a positive ‘side effect’ for patients’ wellbeing. Tech collaboration is also supporting integration, Roche have inked a deal with Diabeloop to integrate automated insulin delivery.  Eli Lilly will connect its Digital Insulin Pen with Welldoc’s Diabetes App. 

Diagnostics

This is an interesting area, Daiichi Sankyo has signed a collaborative agreement with three technology partners to improve the detection and diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (AF) in the UK.  Daiichi have a drug (Edoxaban) for AF, so increasing diagnosis could clearly increase drug sales.    Now there is nothing wrong with this type of self-interest, but it illustrates Pharma are more comfortable directly linking tech solutions to their drug rather than seeking a reimbursement model where they get paid to diagnose (or support) more patients, regardless of whether their drug is in the mix.

Remote Monitoring & Support

Biogen & Apple are to launch a virtual study on cognitive decline using the Apple Watch and iPhone.  Similarly, to the above Daiichi example, the focus could be turned to diagnosis, particular to support their Alzheimer’s drug, Aducanumab (assuming it launches).  But if the study proves successful the technology could be used to gather real-world-evidence and monitor the (hopefully) reduced cognitive decline for patients on their drug.

Novartis recently joined forces with Kaiku Health for melanoma monitoring and support. The companies will be looking at the real-world data from treatment with BRAF and MEK inhibitors.  Importantly the plan is to make practical use of the data by offering the patient personalized support and informing caregivers if they should intervene.

Astra Zeneca recently launched the AMAZE digital platform that captures patient data and provides updates to clinicians. Algorithms applied to the data give insight about a patient’s condition and whether a drug or other aspect of care needs to be adjusted. This is particularly interesting as it is designed agnostic of specific drugs or therapy areas with a broader focus on chronic diseases.

Digital Therapeutics

Essentially think of a therapeutic intervention that does not contain a drug but rather a digital solution, that is focused on improving outcomes.  There are a multitude of examples but here are some recent ones:

Click Therapeutics kicked off a decentralized clinical trial for Depression using a digital therapeutic solution.  Click also recently partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to develop digital therapeutics in the Schizophrenia space.  Importantly the digital interventions can be used alone or in combination with existing drug therapies.  A key challenge is to gain reimbursement of the digital solution (after of course showing it offers value above existing pharmaceutical drugs).

Teijin Pharma & Jolly Good have begun a partnership to develop Virtual Reality digital therapeutics for depression.  Virtual Reality seems to have a lot of potential in helping alleviate a range of other mental health issues from Anxiety to PTSD.

See a recent post I created that maps many of the pharma and tech partnerships in this space.

Funding and Incubation

Pharma companies are frequently investing in digital health companies, particularly those aligned to therapy areas they are active in.

UCB Pharma recently backed epilepsy-focused digital heath startup Nile AI with $29M, becoming a majority shareholder with hopes to gain insights from the platform.

Bayer provided funding to five more Digital Health Start-Ups via its G4A program.  Bayer tends to invest closely to therapy areas of its own interest.  See a summary I created on pharma investments in the space.

In summary this is just snapshot of some of the activity in the space.

For regular updates and a condensed monthly digest, Gary publishes ‘Last Month in Digital Health’ – feel free to connect with and follow Gary on LinkedIn.

Pharma and Digital Health.  What’s Happening?
Gary Monk
Healthcare Innovation Consultant - Gary Monk Digital Consulting
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