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Tackling the healthcare innovation chasm


The diagnosis couldn’t be worse. Healthcare innovation as we know it is stagnating and there is no cure in sight. Is that really the case? The future of healthcare innovation was the central topic at the DayOne Experts Event on May 7 in Basel. Peter Groenen, long standing industry expert, head of Translational Science at Idorsia and founding member of the DayOne Initiative, set out the facts and figures: the percentage of drug approvals is stagnating at best (except for orphan indications), the numbers of drugs brought to the patients per billion dollars spent are in stark decline, and return on investment is projected to hit the zero mark in 2020. Even when these doom figures may not become reality in the next 10 years, pharmaceutical innovation and change of the business model is required.

So, what now? Someone who knows how to cope with innovation and no financial return on investment is Melissa Penny, professor at the Swiss TPH. She shared her insights on finding therapies for neglected diseases, which are often non-profitable. Her approach is to ensure evidence of a new therapeutic or cure for those diseases is “profitable” from a global health perspective. By utilising modelling and simulating as well as data analytics the effectiveness of an intervention throughout the whole value chain can be demonstrated to support payers to make the best decision possible.

The next speeches showcased ideas on how the healthcare innovation landscape could, should and most likely will change in the years to come.

Noé Brasier from the University Hospital Basel presented the new Innovation Lab that allows testing of novel digital solutions in a sandboxed environment, enabling medical doctors to achieve a more creative and entrepreneurial approaches alongside their daily routine. Another hands-on approach was introduced by Giovanni Nisato, founding member of the Health Hacking Lab in Basel, where a growing number of enthusiastic volunteers gather to fix real world patients’ challenges.

Tackling the healthcare innovation chasm at its very root is the mission pursued by Martin Etzrodt from Akasha foundation. His big idea is to rethink science by changing the way knowledge is produced, through a decentralized platform incentivising sharing and collaboration. Last but not least, we heard from Paul Kohlhaas, founder CEO of the blockchain development company Linum Labs. Paul presented the company’s core product, Molecule, which provides an open platform for the distribution of pharmaceutical intellectual property(IP). Molecule aims to promote open source mechanisms in drug development, enabling the distribution of cost, risk and ownership. Too ambitious a vision? Check out the alpha version promised for Q3 2019!

Here are my takeaways from the panel discussions with all the speakers and participation from the audience:

1) Incentivise disruption: innovation is surely driven by science and technology. Nevertheless, making innovation happen requires the right mindset. This is especially true in the healthcare industry as regulation is high and the appetite to disrupt is low. Therefore, it is likely that innovation will not happen within the present ecosystem and finding ways to remove the entry barriers for new ideas by incentivising their adaption will be crucial for reinventing healthcare innovation.

2) Embrace complexity: most scientific research is not reproducible and is therefore wasted. The reason for “fake science” lies mostly in the growing complexity of the subject matter as we move on to understand it in greater depth. While the reductionist approach leads to “fake science”, adapting to complexity requires new ways of producing and contesting knowledge, more likely to be achieved in decentralized and non-hierarchical structures.

3) New kids on the block: innovation succeeds in cycles and generally starts and ends within a generation of researchers and managers. Firstly, breakthrough technology opens new fields, then mere incremental innovation improves the existing offerings, and at the end of the cycle, efficiency gains have to squeeze out the last drops. At the same time, new kids on the block are emerging, providing new approaches and challenging the status quo. Facilitating exchanges and a handover between the two generations by connecting experienced wisdom and creative naivety will be the magic mix to make ecosystem innovation happen.

A huge thank you to all the speakers for contributing and sharing your insights!

Peter Groenen, Idorsia

Melissa Penny, Swiss TPH

Noé Brasier, University Hospital Basel

Giovanni Nisato, Health Hacking Lab

Martin Etzrodt, Akasha Foundation

Paul Kohlhaas, Linumlabs, Founder of Molecule

Slides presented at the Event

Presentation slides by Peter Groenen, Idorsia

Presentation by Melissa Penny, Swiss TPH – The global health perspective (innovation for neglected diseases)

Presentation by Noé Brasier, University Hospital Basel – Presentation by Innovation at the hospital – The USB way to do it

Presentation by Giovanni Nisato, Health Hacking Lab

Presentation by Martin Etzrodt, Akasha Foundation – Collaborative Research

Presentation by Paul Kohlhaas, Linumlabs, Founder of Molecule – The next evolution of drug development

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