Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Future of Drug Development in a Digital World

Rahlyn Gossen is the founder of Rebar Interactive, a clinical trial patient recruitment and digital marketing company. Rahlyn also maintains a blog, newsletter, and Twitter profile focusing on digital strategy for clinical trials.

Speaker Dr. Eric Topol
“If ever there was an industry in peril, this is it.”

That is how Dr. Eric Topol characterized the pharmaceutical industry in his book The Creative Destruction of Medicine.” Topol notes that pharma faces a “triple whammy:”
  • • Increase in research and development costs
  • • Decrease in the number of new prescription drugs approved per year by the FDA
  • • Lost revenue as a result of the “patent cliff”
For those of us working in clinical trials, these challenges are hardly news. Topol’s thoughts on how to solve them, however, are quite novel and thought-provoking.

Part One of this blog provided an overview of Dr. Topol’s vision for how the digital revolution will create better healthcare. With that foundation in place, I’d like to delve into Topol’s thoughts on “rebooting” the life science industry, a topic which he devotes a full chapter.

Central to Topol’s book is the idea that new technology tools will drive new healthcare models. Drug development is no different. According to Topol, this new drug development model will involve three major components.
  1. 1. Wikimedicine, or in other words, more collaborative drug development
  2. 2. The guaranteed-to-succeed model of clinical development
  3. 3. Innovative digital marketing and tracking of new products
A movement towards “wikimedicine,” as Topol describes it, seems to already be afoot. In September of 2012, ten of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies formed a non-profit called TransCelerate BioPharma. This non-profit is the first of its kind and will focus on creating a more collaborative and efficient drug development model. Meanwhile, companies like Eli Lilly are devoting resources to fostering open innovation. The Lilly Clinical Open Innovation (LCOI) initiative, incidentally, will be the subject of a future blog post, as well as a session during Partnerships in Clinical Trials.

In the guaranteed-to-succeed model, drugs will no longer be developed and commercialized according to blockbuster-driven population medicine. Instead, our newfound ability to digitize humans will enable far more individualized, and thus more successful, treatment. Topol notes that this approach has already been validated in medical disciplines like oncology and rare disease.

The third component of Topol’s new drug development model involves the marketing and tracking of products. Though pharma has experienced false starts with its early foray into digital marketing, new digital tools hold much promise. Social network analysis, for example, can pinpoint physicians who most influence the prescribing behavior of fellow physicians. Furthermore, social network analysis can be used to track side effect and efficacy information.

This blog provided a peak into Topol’s vision for rebooting the life sciences. But if you’d like more than a peak, you can hear Topol’s drug development predictions directly from the Dr.’s mouth. He will be speaking at the 22nd annual Partnerships in Clinical Trials, which will take place April 21-24, 2013 at the Orlando World Center Marriott.

Topol will present a keynote titled, “The Future of Drug Development in a Digital World.” Following the presentation, he will also participate in a panel titled “The Key to Connectivity: Opportunities for Disruptive Innovation in Clinical Trials.” Topol, along with fellow panelists Craig Lipset from Pfizer and James Heywood from PatientsLikeMe, will push attendees to transform clinical trial practices.

For more information on this track and the rest of the program, download the brochure. As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us, you'll receive 15% off of the standard rate, use the special registration code, which is XP1800REBARBL2.

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