If you couldn’t attend the London event, never fear: today, we’re counting down the top three investor takeaways. It’s almost as good as being there.
Last week, Life Science Investing News attended the second annual executive summit hosted by FierceBiotech. On the table? The state of the ever-volatile life science sector as we look ahead to 2017. The question is simple, but the answer is not: where do biotech, pharma and medical device companies stand going into the new year?
It’s a huge conversation—and one we live-tweeted all the way. But if you couldn’t attend the London event, or prefer not to take to Twitter, never fear: today, we’re counting down the top three investor takeaways from this conference. It’s almost as good as being there.
1. Pharma goes high tech
Forget those traditional business divisions: going forward, big pharma will have to collaborate with medical device manufacturers. That’s because of an increased focus on “beyond the pill services.”
Pharma companies are no longer fixated on finding the next blockbuster drug because frankly, not that many exist. Instead, they’re looking to provide value in other ways: embedding drug offerings in a whole suite of medical services, like mobile apps to manage chronic illness or wearable technology to measure patient compliance.
Already, big pharma is moving in this direction. Major drug manufacturer Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) invested in a medical device startup in 2015, while Roche (VTX:ROG) has developed its own mobile apps to manage conditions like breast cancer, Parkinson’s or diabetes. GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK, LON:GSK) is another entrant in the medtech space: they just partnered with Google’s Verily to create Galvani Bioelectronics.
2. Evolving clinical trials
“Clinical trials have already evolved hugely in the last couple of years,” said Divya Chadha-Manek, part of the NIHR Clinical Research Network. That transformation will only continue going forward, with trials becoming far more patient centric.
Chadha-Manek noted that the National Health Service (NHS) of England has worked to make clinical trials part of therapeutic care—in fact, 22 percent of cancer patients in the NHS are participating in clinical trials, as compared to just 4 to 6 percent in the United States.
What does that trend mean for investors? A more accessible pool of participants may expedite clinical trials, which can struggle to find enough eligible patients to get off the ground.
At the same time, however, this increased “patient-centricity” means that patient advocacy groups are more involved in clinical trial design. The goal is to ensure the trial benefits everyone—and while that is a noble aim, it does have the potential to slow things down.
3. Precision medicine at the fore.
Dr. Jonathan Fielden, Director of Specialized Commissioning and Deputy National Medical Director of the NHS, reiterated what investors have heard for a while: precision medicine is the way of the future.
Years ago, he explained, “breast cancer was breast cancer.” But that’s not the case any longer: “We now know it’s at least 20 or 40 different conditions.” That’s true of numerous diseases and disorders. And each variant requires a targeted treatment—one genetically tailored to the individual patient.
Of course, there are high costs associated with this sort of drug discovery—and perhaps limited returns. As Dr. Fielden acknowledged, targeted therapies only work for a smaller selection of the diseased population and that means the costs for such medications may be sky high.
It’s a particularly relevant conversation, considering the controversy around drug pricing as of late. As more precision medications hit the market, investors will want to watch the pricing strategies drug manufacturers employ, as well as how lawmakers respond.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Chelsea Pratt, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.