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When Worlds Converge: Digital Therapeutics Meets Biopharma Alliance Management

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Even a year or two ago, the idea of digital therapeutics didn’t stir up a great amount of interest among most participants at ASAP’s BioPharma Conference, according to Mike Leonetti, president and CEO of ASAP. That sort of ambivalence no longer applies, as was evident at the September 23 Leadership Forum that kicked off ASAP’s BioPharma 2019, held Sept. 23–25 in Boston.

            The invitation-only gathering of 20-some biopharma alliance leaders was treated to a glimpse into the future—and a privileged look at a rapidly changing present—by senior executives from two companies that have been fast-tracking prescription digital therapeutics in their own alliance. Alex Waldron, chief strategy officer at Pear Therapeutics, and Joris van Dam, head of digital therapeutics for the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, were introduced by Leonetti and by Brooke Paige, vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics and ASAP’s board chair.

            Waldron and van Dam described digital therapeutics as “software as a therapeutic,” or customer-facing software that helps clinically treat disease. It’s still relatively new, but already has become one of the five modalities of modern medical treatment (small molecule, large molecule, gene, cell, and digital). Whereas traditional biopharma alliances are asset-based partnerships formed on the basis of a molecule, in a partnership around digital therapeutics, the technology product is the asset.

            While we often think of wearable devices when we think about digital therapeutics, perhaps the most common such device is your smartphone. So far Pear and Novartis are experiencing some success around products used to treat depression that occurs with patients who have multiple sclerosis (MS) or schizophrenia, for example.

            Patients’ usage of and familiarity with their own cell phones is a big plus in such treatment, both in terms of access—a phone app is available 24/7, when patients need it, unlike a doctor or psychiatrist—and also adherence to the treatment plan, since the app can remind patients to stick to the program they’re on and help them get going with it again.  Other uses being explored include the treatment of addiction and other types of depression.

            Managing an alliance between a smaller, tech-oriented company and a large pharma company can be challenging, of course—as can any partnership between more traditional biopharma and tech. In this case, Novartis brought its commercial infrastructure, clinical trials expertise, and scientific strengths to the table; Pear brought technology, manufacturing, and ownership of the pharmacovigilance aspect, i.e., safety and data reporting.

            As part of the forum, the 20-plus alliance leaders were asked several questions and polled on their responses. Among the highlights:

  • More than 50 percent said their company had at least one or two digital/nontraditional alliances that were being operated as managed partnerships.
  • More than 50 percent said someone other than alliance management or business development managed these partnerships at their companies.
  • More than 80 percent said they expected their companies to increase the number of these digital/nontraditional partnerships in the next two years.
  • Nearly 70 percent reported the biggest challenges of such partnerships included finding a common language, the lack of alliance management skills, and cultural differences.
  • Fifty percent of respondents felt that these partnerships should be managed by the alliance management group in their organization—but nearly as many acknowledged that they don’t currently have the bandwidth to do so.

            In the roundtable discussion portion of the forum, participants came up with a number of elements or processes in traditional biopharma alliance management that would need to be revised, modified, leveraged, or speeded up to meet the needs of digital and nontraditional partnerships and to take advantage of the potential for innovation. These included:

  • Increasing the frequency of governance meetings and check-ins
  • Speeding up decision-making processes and structures and including more senior people in them
  • Educating senior management and managing stakeholders to ensure senior-level support and alignment
  • Hiring more tech-savvy alliance managers
  • Having more people on board who are well versed in IP issues and the regulatory environment
  • Needing to trust the partner in ways beyond what has been common in the past—including continuous data sharing
  • Hiring more disruptors and fewer people who are invested in protecting “the way we do things here”
  • Establishing clear roles and responsibilities from the outset of the alliance, as early as the kickoff (if not before)
  • Understanding each other better, given the different cultures of tech and biopharma companies

A window into the future indeed, and certainly there will be much more to come on this subject as the numbers of digital and nontraditional partnerships in biopharma continue to increase. And as ASAP BioPharma Conference 2019 continues, stay tuned for more of the latest coverage!

Tags:  Alex Waldron  alliance managers  ASAP BioPharma Conference  clinical trials expertise  commercial infrastructure  digital therapeutics  Joris van Dam  Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research  Pear Therapeutics  scientific strengths  software as a therapeutic 

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Relevance of Partnerships for Intelligent Workspaces and 5G Transforming and Disrupting Partners to Headline ASAP Tech Partner Forum in June

Posted By Michael Leonetti, CSAP, Friday, April 19, 2019

The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals is gearing up for the 2019 ASAP Tech Partner Forum scheduled for June 19 at Citrix Systems in Santa Clara, California. The third annual program features partnering executives representing companies such as Google, Facebook, Verizon, Ericsson, Salesforce, Citrix and many others throughout the one-day event which includes plenty of networking with those in the high-tech community. “From the perspective of an attendee, the quality of the program was exceptional…It was right up there with the quality of ASAP Global Alliance Summit presentations, but in an intimate environment allowing you more access to those speaking. So, I was blown away by the program,” commented an attendee from last year’s forum; more of the same can be expected at this year’s event.

Program highlights include; Citrix Systems’ Senior Vice President, Steve Wilson who will headline the forum as he discusses the relevance of partnership as companies embark on delivering intelligent workspaces. Other speakers include Josh Moss, editor-in-chief of the Silicon Valley Business Journal; Jim Chow, head, global SI strategic partnership for Google Cloud; Katherine O'Leary, global consulting partnerships at Workplace by Facebook; Davina Pallone, vice president, product with Neurotrack among others. Topics such as how 5G will transform and disrupt business and partners; managing coopetition-based partnerships through introducing disruptive technologies; digital therapeutics; the framework for creating an ecosystem dashboard; and using AI to create new partnerships is something Ken Gardner, CEO and founder of conDati will discuss. “We have found that this event takes a deeper dive into topics that are relevant to day-to-day challenges and things that will affect how partner success is driven,” comments another attendee.

To register for the 2019 ASAP Tech Partner Forum and take advantage of the special offer, intimate event and gain insight on how to accelerate your business visit www.asaptechforum.org today!

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Tags:  5G  AI  ASAP Tech Partner Forum  Citrix  ConDait  Coopetition  Davina Pallon  digital therapeutics  Disruptive Technologies  ecosystem dashboard  Facebook  Google Cloud  Jim Chow  Katherine O’Leary  Ken Gardner  Neurotrack  Santa Clara  Steve Wilson 

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