Inova Top 10 Newsletter – October 2017

Last month, we’ve seen quite a lot of activity in the partnering front, particularly in terms of digital health. Highlights include Apple’s partnership with Stanford Medicine to use Apple Watch as a diagnostic device, FDA’s digital health pilot, Merck’s partnership with Project Data Sphere to form a Big Data Alliance for cancer drugs, the list goes on. On top of that, another breakthrough is under the radar in the form of Alnylam and Sanofi’s RNAi therapy, which just recently hit its target in the PHIII studies. Read more below on the top October biopharma news:

1) Why Takeda thinks partnerships can revive innovation in pharma

Takeda’s always been a believer of partnerships. In just 18 months, the Japanese pharmaceutical company has inked 65 collaborations. In this article, we see why partnerships form a huge part of their strategy. Daniel Curran, their SVP in External Innovation explains that it is because “most of the innovation and advances are taking place outside of the four walls of our company”.

2) When two worlds collide — bigpharma meets big tech

Teva Pharmaceuticals’ CEO acknowledges the upcoming tech disruption in the pharma industry. He says, “Part of our competitors are not only the Novartis of the world, and the other pharmas, but really the Amazons and Googles.” But is big pharma ready for this? Read more in this article that covers the venture of the top three tech companies into the field of healthcare and how big pharma is at par, digitally

3) Alnylam And Sanofi Achieve An RNAi First

After announcing stellar PHIII results of their RNAi therapeutic, Alnylam and Sanofi Genzyme are getting closer to bringing the first RNAi therapy in the world. RNA interference works by targeting genes that drive disease and silencing/muting them and was considered one of the most important discoveries in the 21st century. This 225-patient trial is the first trial to have reached this far for this technology, and marks the potential arrival of an entirely new class of medicines.

4) Targeting Tumours

It’s the “most exciting” times for cancer research. Last month, we’ve seen the biggest deal and a new innovative cancer treatment approval, and the conversation has not died down yet. This article by The Economist provides a deep dive on why drug companies are putting all their money on cancer, the power of diagnostics, the available treatments available, the benefits of immunotherapy, as well as honest challenges on the field (which addresses the value-cost issue). It offers a very understandable glimpse into the future of cancer as a treatable disease and shows years of efforts from industries and patients, ultimately leading to the current cancer treatments we have today and the 600 still being developed in the pipeline.

5) Apple upgrades heart monitoring tech to flag arrhythmias, adds new study with Stanford Medicine

In mid-September, Apple announced their lineup of new products, including their new iPhones in their 1-hour keynote presentation. They also announced a partnership that just cements Apple’s outlook for their future in healthcare. In the months after Apple announced its health-and-fitness-tracking Apple Watch, users started making some surprising declarations. The Apple Watch had saved their life. Apple’s executive team took note and re-designed its specifications to further its functions. This new collaboration with Stanford and the FDA, called the “Apple Heart Study” aims to identify irregular heart rhythms, including those from potentially serious heart conditions like atrial fibrillation and to eventually establish partnerships that may use these insights in developing drugs.

6) How small companies can navigate partnerships in medtech

Not only the big three tech companies are willing to enter the healthcare industry, but also thousands of smaller start-ups, who have different challenges than their bigger counterparts. This article presents these challenges and why small companies shouldn’t hold back on partnering, despite these challenges. And although this article is specific for small medtech companies, we think the best practices presented in this article apply for biopharma partnerships in general.

7) Gates invests in Immunocore to spur infectious disease R&D

As part of their commitment to public health, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation collaborates with Immunocore to develop immunotherapies for HIV and Tubercolosis – two of the most fatal diseases in the world. The foundation is known to have established partnerships with several pharma companies for the development of drugs that would address infectious diseases. Immunocore is primarily involved in cancer therapies, as with other immunotherapies, but this partnership will ensure that the UK-based biotech will focus their efforts on these two infectious diseases.

8) Bayer unveils latest funding for digital health start-ups

Bayer has just announced four startups that it will fund through its Grants4Apps program. Bayer will provide 50,000 EUR in funding, and mentoring to the startups, who can be potential partners for their pharmaceutical processes. Triggering competition among small biotechs is a genius idea for scouting for partners and for generating ideas for drug development because 1. it sparks creativity 2. Bayer selects from a pool of highly-motivated potential partners.

9) Merck to co-lead Big Data alliance

Big data is a whole ‘nother animal than the data pharma companies are used to dealing with, in that the data is mostly vast and unstructured. A challenge that Merck and Project Data Sphere would like to address as they form the Global Oncology Big Data Alliance (GOBDA) in an attempt to harness the power of analytics and big data in the development of oncology drugs.

10) FDA poised to start digital health pilot

We all know that the healthcare industry lags behind other industries in terms of technology adoption due to the number of regulations and the sheer complexity of the industry. But what if the regulators themselves start to adopt technology? It should send ripples of change to the entire industry. See how the FDA is taking its first move towards digital health.

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