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GE Healthcare CDO Outlines Vision of Precision Health Using AI

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, September 16, 2020

In the third and final session of the second day of the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, medtech took center stage. Derek Danois, chief data officer at GE Healthcare, outlined his company’s nascent efforts to transform basic healthcare delivery models in his presentation “Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Care Delivery and the Opportunities to Accelerate Your Development and Commercial Strategy.”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the principal tools at the heart of a larger movement in the healthcare industry around “precision health.” The concept is simple: Rather than prescribing medications based on a set of generic symptoms, doctors will integrate lots of relevant data, such as genetic profile, family history, and environmental factors, in designing a custom treatment plan. Precision health will be built on precision diagnostics, therapeutics, and monitoring (e.g., wearables).

Data: the Source Code for AI and the Key to Early Detection

With the overarching mission of precision health explained, Danois showed the audience a video that told a story set in the future where a woman detects a lump on her breast, sends the self-exam directly to her doctor right from her bathroom, gets scheduled for a consult immediately, and is put through a battery of tests at the healthcare facility while doctors and technicians analyze the resultant data. The verdict: they caught a malignancy early enough to expect a full recovery. 

The video is meant to inspire, said Danois, but it also conveys GE Healthcare’s vision for the future.

“What can we do to intervene now in helping to spot the early signs of diseases? How can we intervene in a little bit more of an effective manner? How do we help patients feel less fearful and engage more with their clinicians?” he said. “We’ve got to start thinking even earlier. We have to start thinking about the data that is being collected around the world that allows us to think about this journey. Data truly is the source code for AI.”

AI, Danois explained, has to be educated, taught, and trained over a long period of time in order to be effective. For example, an AI program must be exposed to a trusted radiologist’s annotation of a tumor on an x-ray over and over again before it can learn to recognize a similar tumor on its own and become a “true companion source” and a reliable second opinion for doctors. 

Leaping Regulatory and Economic Hurdles to Make Leaps in Precision Health

The technological piece is one challenge. There are also regulatory, economic, and administrative obstacles to contend with. Healthcare providers are generating loads of valuable data, but this information is fragmented around the world, making it difficult to get the right data in the hands of clinicians at the right time. Moreover, hospitals still aren’t convinced that the cost-benefit ratio is in their favor yet. They still haven’t seen enough evidence of positive long-term outcomes, plus there’s a question as to whether health insurance plans will reimburse for AI-based treatments. Even if a health provider is sold on a new concept, it is difficult to deploy it in a highly regulated industry like healthcare.

Still, despite the hurdles that still need to be cleared, nobody disputes that the payoff is going to be transformative, to say the least, down the road in terms of fluid and effective healthcare delivery. Danois likened where we are today in digital health to the first iPhone more than a decade ago. Back then, there were only a few apps, but everyone saw tremendous possibilities. Now, we perform many of our day-to-day functions on our phones. Healthcare can get to the same place, in Danois’s view.

“It starts with understanding and thinking about the various data content that exists in these organizations. How can those be made available for, not just research but practical product development, AI development, collaboration with industry partners,” he said. “Thinking about how those can be turned into AI applications that can be deployed in the right workflows, what challenges exist from a security and privacy perspective? And then thinking about how those get injected into intelligent applications that can be deployed either on the devices in hospitals right now, or they can be deployed in a hybrid model using cloud infrastructure.”

Ultimately, said Danois, we need to get to a point where doctors don’t even think about the technology behind AI-powered apps and devices, where all it takes is a simple Internet connection in order to take advantage of them.

Alliances, of course, are a must if we are going to get there. GE Healthcare realized early that it couldn’t do it alone, despite the great investment it made into AI technology, software engineering, and data science. (For more details about GE Healthcare’s Edison AI platform, see “It’s the Data—and a Lot More,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q1 2020.)

“We needed to open our technology. We needed to create an ecosystem. We needed to create the landing platforms for other partners to work with us. We’ve been encouraging others to think about doing similar things,” he said. “When you can have ethically compliant ecosystems, when you can think about what each party brings to that challenge and help solve it, and that there’s a known entity at the end of that workflow stream, either in the provider or the patient, that will allow us to take advantage of these tools and technologies and leverage these delivery models, we know that we can achieve amazing precision outcomes.”

The FDA’s Position on AI in Healthcare Devices

With that, Danois fielded a few questions from the audience. The first dealt with privacy and security concerns that come with AI apps and devices. Danois explained that these apps are like any digital health technology in that they are designed “in a thoughtful way” to do a task.   

“These get deployed into an already-existing, highly regulated environment for medical devices, whether it is in the US, in Europe, or for most other countries around the world. There’s some regulatory process where these devices need to be approved from a technology point of view, both physical and digital hardware. Those AI applications will exist in those environments,” he said, before adding that the FDA’s position is that if you incorporate AI into an existing piece of hardware, you must treat the new product as an entirely new device. You can create a separate AI app instead, but whatever you produce must be delivered in a “in cybersecurity-hardened and technically thoughtful way.”

Danois was also asked if the partnering language and mindset is different in these partnerships, given the disparities between tech and pharma corporate and alliance cultures. He responded first by making an important distinction between pure technology ventures that are focused solely on creating AI apps and services and medtech initiatives which use diagnostic tools and technologies to deliver AI-powered services. The latter already undergo a rigorous three- to five-year approval process—Danois cited pet scanners as an example. His larger point was that many collaborations are already comfortable with the longer-term regulatory and alliance cycles.

Danois had plenty more to share during his presentation. ASAP BioPharma Conference registrants can review “Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Care Delivery and the Opportunities to Accelerate Your Development and Commercial Strategy” anytime this week and beyond to benefit from his knowledge and expertise. They can also enjoy a dozen other prerecorded on-demand presentations, as well as the rest of this week’s completed livestreamed sessions.

Keep checking this blog for updates from the conference throughout this week!

Tags:  AI  AI-based treatments  alliance culture  Artificial Intelligence  Clinical Care Delivery  Derek Danois  diagnostics  FDA  GE Healthcare  health  partnering  partnerships  pharma  strategy  tech  therapeutics 

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The Rugged Biopharma/Tech Topography—What Alliance Managers Need to Know (Part 2)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2018

This extremely well-organized session, “Non-traditional Partnerships:  The Changing BioPharma Alliance Landscape and the Implications for the Alliance Professional and Alliance Management Community” held by Stu Kliman and Ben Siddall of Cambridge-based Vantage Partners, started off by outlining the multiple challenges the biopharma industry faces today, many of which are financial. One major solution to those challenges lies in building more relationships across the lifecycle, specifically with tech, the pair pointed out. They described the complex ecosystem of partnerships that are emerging today and how to determine if it’s right for your company to jump into the trend and/or continue to engage in multi-partner collaborations. Also on the docket was a discussion on effective partnering, which requires the capability to make good choices and the ability to execute.

All major biopharma companies are following the route of building a greater partnering base, they explained. Some of the deals are very large—in the hundreds of millions. Some involve very big players that are exploring and investing in the digital health tech space, such as Apple and IBM. Some are much smaller, or combine large and small companies. No matter the size of the companies involved, when entering the field, “You need to be purposeful and execute quickly,” explained Siddall.

And you need to consider “What makes relationships work—what are the leverage points?” added Kliman.  “As we think about this new landscape of partnering, we are already seeing our clients making mistakes.”

One of the really important areas where companies are struggling in this ecosystem is the process of thinking through whether they should be partnering at all. “Should we just have a vendor relationship? What does partnership mean? Through what process are we making that decision? Where does partnering make sense?” said Kliman, ticking off the kinds of questions that naturally emerge.

“To achieve maximum value, biopharmas must select the right partners to address specific needs and manage these relationships in a way that acknowledges these differences,” Kliman emphasizes. It’s very important in the process to consider the differences between pharma and tech, he said, while flashing a slide.

The pharma cycle has:

  • High levels of regulation
  • Very long (five-plus years) “product” development
  • Management and investors familiar with longer development
  • Purposeful and predictable innovation and co-creation
  • Strong functional stakeholders (medical, legal, compliance, finance)
  • Contractual, asset-based alliances with fixed lengths
  • Well-defined commercial negotiation models with “customers” with significant regulation

The tech cycle has:

  • Variability—many markets are not regulated
  • Short to moderate (1-3 years) “product” development
  • Management/investors who tend to expect quick ROI and steady growth
  • Rapid and agile innovation and co-creation
  • Moderate or weak functional stakeholders (legal, compliance, finance)
  • A blend of formal/informal alliances, often with no fixed length
  • Flexible, market-driven customer engagement processes

Also of great importance is the process of thinking through the best possible partner choices and evaluating them according to the meta-criteria of capabilities. Both presenters recommend considering the marketplace and size of the deals and evaluating potential partners from multiple dimensions that go beyond just the financial impact. Vantage recommends doing this with a four-quadrant methodology that analyzes strategic, financial, operational, and relational fits.

“On the back end, we have challenges during execution to consider,” Kliman added. “Pharma and IT are significantly different. If your core expertise is to identify and manage alliance models that manage different partners, that needs to be brought into upstream activities as well.”

“If you are going to enter into this new world, you want to make sure the relationship is purposeful,” Kliman added. A purposeful relationship contains the following criteria, he said. It should be:

  • Purposeful (focused on a well-defined market; meets patient, partner, and company needs)
  • Choiceful (partnership is worth the effort; has the right answer, among other things)
  •  Designed and developed collaboratively (based on a shared vision; focused on joint gain, among other things)
  • Actively managed (with joint oversight; systems reviews; robust metrics)
  • Building over time
  • Assessed

See part one of this session coverage blog and stay tuned for more ASAP Media team coverage from the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference. 

Tags:  alliance  Ben Siddall  healthcare landscape  licensing-type alliance groups  partnering  pharma  Stu Kliman  tech  Vantage Partners 

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The Rugged Biopharma/Tech Topography: What Alliance Managers Need to Know (Part 1)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Business partnering today requires know-how to negotiate nontraditional collaborations for purposes that are different from those of classical business development and licensing (BD&L) alliances. The partnering landscape for biopharma firms is evolving to include a variety of these new kinds of collaborations, according to the session “Non-traditional Partnerships:  The Changing BioPharma Alliance Landscape and the Implications for the Alliance Professional and Alliance Management Community,” led by Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, and Ben Siddall, both of whom are partners at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Vantage Partners. The two took to the floor at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference to provide key insights on the value and challenges these partnerships bring, especially in the area of biopharma/tech collaborations, which are resulting in very different business models. I had the opportunity to talk with Stu Kliman before the session. Here are some of the insights he provided on this hot topic.

ASAP Media: What is the impetus for your session?

Stuart Kliman: This session is about this ongoing theme of new types of collaborations happening in the healthcare ecosystem. It’s really all about how biopharma and tech are doing more and more together—so new and different kinds of relationships. Those relationships have different purposes. They might differentiate the value proposition of a product or a drug or support outcomes-based deals within the healthcare system. Or they might provide real world evidence and value-based pricing models. This session is about some of the differences between pharma and tech and the different kinds of challenges that organizations need to deal with. About the upstream, how do you start to think about creating these kinds of relationships and the key success factors for doing so? This also raises the question about if and how classic business development and licensing-type alliance groups need to evolve to deal with the changed environment.

We can see from the lineup at this year’s ASAP BioPharma Conference that the biopharma/tech partnering relationship is a very hot topic. How pervasive is the interest on the tech side?

Every tech company that’s out there is trying to figure out how to get into healthcare. It’s this world of FitBit. It’s this whole world of software, hardware, and device companies exploring the healthcare world.

This session is an extension of some of the topics you’ve been discussing and advising on for some time.  What’s different in this session?

There is a lot of focus on understanding the healthcare landscape, defining the problems that the healthcare landscape is creating.  For example, there might be things related to better data, trial efficiency, or the context of a specific therapy, or the need to track value. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have thought through what the different problems are, what capabilities you need to partner with, consider different kinds of players that are out there, and be thinking about the right kind of business model to work with them, and how to design overall relationship around that shared vision.  We will spend more time talking about this notion of problem definition and think through tentative problem types. Does that lead to something that feels like an innovative alliance relationship or a more traditional one?

Stay tuned for more of the ASAP Media team’s coverage of this and other sessions at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference. 

Tags:  alliance  Ben Siddall  healthcare landscape  licensing-type alliance groups  partnering  pharma  Stu Kliman  tech  Vantage Partners 

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‘Swimming in Partner Soup:’ 2018 ASAP BioPharma Keynote Addresses Challenges of Tech Collaboration on Prescription Digital Therapeutics (Part 1)

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dr. Corey McCann is a man who wears many hats—scrubs, academic cap, campaigner, jester, and even hardhat. As the first of two keynote speakers at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference “Creating Value and Innovative Partnerships by Driving the Alliance Mindset,” Sept. 24-26 in Boston, Massachusetts USA, he provided a lively presentation in which he showed the audience how he switches his hats with aplomb. In his captivating talk, “Lost in Translation: Communication, Confusion, and Consensus in Strategic Alliances,” the physician, scientist, entrepreneur, healthcare investor, and founder/CEO of Boston-based Pear Therapeutics, Inc., delved into the timely but tough topic of the alliance management interface between biopharma and tech.

Colleague Brooke Paige, CSAP and vice president of alliance management at Pear Therapeutics, introduced McCann by lauding his many “heroic” accomplishments as founder of several startups, a trained boxer with endless energy, and highly approachable executive whom colleagues nicknamed “Snacks” because he rarely stops for a full meal.

McCann then delivered a clever, sometimes humorous, talk from the C-suite about the small, innovative company’s partnering with big companies in their quest to pioneer prescription digital therapeutics for the treatment of serious diseases, including addictions.  The cognitive behavioral therapy-based treatment is software that comes with a doctor’s prescription. The software responds and morphs over time, according to the needs of the patient. The downloaded product requires an access code from the physician.

“We are swimming in partner soup,” announced McCann as he talked about the challenges of Pear’s ample pipeline, which involves 10 products that require separate approvals from the FDA because of the unique framework of prescription digital therapeutics. “You will see us aggressively partnering across all of these verticals,” he continued, while flashing a slide of Pear’s pipeline.

Alliance management at Pear must bridge two distinctive worlds. Pear’s team is “half and half,” he explained: pharma is based in the Boston area; tech is based in the San Francisco Bay area. “We brought these two very disparate sets of people together” in one company—but to do that required a lot of effort to enable tech and pharma to understand the lingo of each’s area of work.   

“One of the things I would like to interweave into this talk is this idea of communication between alliance partners, and nonverbal cues, and how we are productive or nonproductive,” he said, while providing the example of etiquette surrounding the exchange of business card. “Even for those of us who think we have a handle on this very basic skill—this handing of paper to another human being—there is ambiguity.”

“How do entirely different disciplines communicate?” he asked the audience.  “There is an interface between tech and biotech. How tech people communicate with one another is very different than how biotech people communicate with each other.”

People in the two industries dress differently, he then explained. A person in the Bay area might “eat avocado toast and ride a scooter to work. … If I’m interacting with the tech team, I make sure to pet their dogs they bring to the office,” he explained in a sea of laughter from the audience. “One of my personal favorite examples is this issue of language. When pulling Pear together, we used the acronym API—which means Application Program Interface in tech, but for biotech, it means something different”—Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient.

It actually took a while for the two teams to figure out this discrepancy, he explained, again as the audience rippled with laughter. But in the end, the two industries found the glue that holds them together: “Impacting the patient. That is the rallying cry for us. That is how we approach partnership—through good and bad.”

Stay tuned for more of ASAP Media’s coverage of Pear CEO Corey McCann’s keynote and other sessions at the 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference.  

Tags:  2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference  Alliance management  Alliance Mindset  biopharma  Brooke Paige  cognitive behavioral therapy  creating value  C-suite  Dr. Corey McCann  partnering  Pear Therapeutics  prescription digital therapeutics  software  Strategic Alliances  tech 

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Pervasiveness of the ‘Alliance Journey’: ASAP president’s opener reflects on Summit challenges with humor on how our alliance journey can involve surprisingly high waters, police escorts, and fire

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, March 30, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, March 29, 2017

“Come hell or high water” is an apt description of this year’s pre-Summit preparations in “sunny” San Diego for the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Partnering Enterprise.” A unique “alliance journey” is how Michael Leonetti, CSAP, president and CEO of ASAP, summed it up in his clever opener in the Marriot Mission Valley hotel ballroom. Record-setting torrential rain and the swollen San Diego River set the stage for a unique gathering fraught with “headaches”—but fortunately laced with humor. Sound familiar?  

“It was raining, and we were ready to go, getting ready for board meetings, et cetera, and then the hotel had a fire with actual smoke, people leaving the building, people refusing to leave. That’s when it started to remind me of an alliance journey,” Leonetti quipped. “The next day in ‘sunny San Diego,’ there was the rain again. We were setting up an executive committee meeting … and things started to come unglued,” he said while flashing a slide behind him of soggy hotel ceiling opening to the elements.

But in spite of it all, “We had a great day, a great discussion on how to make ASAP great,” Leonetti said.  “It just never stops with you alliance managers,” he joked to the roaring audience.

Leonetti praised the audience for their perseverance with flight delays and taxi mishaps. Disruption is a component of any alliance journey, he pointed out, and that’s especially true when your hotel is surrounded by a “moat.”

“I’ve heard some amazing stories,” he quipped. “Some of you arrived in canoes, fire engines, and police cars” because of the rising waters of the San Diego River. “Some got to Qualcomm Way, and the cab driver said ‘get out.’ A couple grabbed their bags, started walking to the hotel, and walked through water up to their knees. Then the police escorted them.”

 “Next morning, I wake up and the San Diego River is behind the hotel, and the hotel is surrounded by water. Which is when some of you did some amazing things to get here. We’re going to have a great meeting because you’re here,” he said to rousing applause. “And we’ve worked hard, so get ready for a great ride!”

And it was. The weather turned a sunny 70 degrees, and participants enjoyed outdoor networking sessions and abundant quality content. Summit highlights included the ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards (http://www.strategic-alliances.org/blogpost/1143942/269640/Exemplary-Alliance-Management-Practices-Receive-Accolades-and-Honors-at-ASAP-s-2017-Alliance-Excellence-Awards-Ceremony), followed by a well-attended session “Meet the 2017 ASAP Alliance Excellence Award Winners,” monitored by Anthony DeSpirito, CSAP, Schneider Electric. Also of note: an engaging leadership forum, ASAP Aquarium, four outstanding plenary talks, and an engrossing keynote by Alex Dickinson, PhD, founder and executive chairman for ChromaCode and recent senior vice president of strategic initiatives at the San Diego-based DNA sequencing leader Illumina. Dickinson’s address, The New Convergence: Life Science + Tech + Government,” discussed the complexity of partnering as DNA sequencing and genomics technology companies, research institutions, healthcare providers, and many others (such as life insurers) have converged around an explosion of applications that leverage cloud computing for large-scale DNA sequencing, storage, and usage of genomics data.  

Scroll through this blog site for additional coverage of the dynamic plenary presentations (similar in format and content to TED Talks), captivating workshops, and a wide selection of engaging sessions, which will continue to be posted through April. 

Tags:  Alex Dickinson  Alliance Excellence Awards  Alliance Managers  Anthony DeSpirito  ASAP Global Alliance Summit  ChromaCode  Government  healthcare providers  Life Science  Michael Leonetti  Schneider Electric  Tech 

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