FT Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Conference: Driving life sciences innovation in a disrupted world - Thoughts from the Centre | Deloitte UK

By Karen Taylor, Director the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions

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Earlier this month, we were once again the strategic sponsor of the Financial Times Global Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Summit in London. This much anticipated event in the life sciences and healthcare calendar attracts senior people from across the global health ecosystem, including several of my Deloitte colleagues who appeared on the conference stage as either a moderator or speaker.

Given the conference spanned three days, it’s impossible to do justice to the breadth and depth of content covered. However, I have attempted to summarise in two blogs my main takeaways from the sessions in which my colleagues participated to give you a flavour of the crucial issues that were discussed. This first blog focuses on how pharma is responding to major global disruption and regulatory changes and the role partnerships can have on building resilience.

How is pharma responding to major reforms and global disruption?

The initial panel was moderated by our Global Life Sciences and Healthcare Industry Leader, Greg Reh, and discussed how economic uncertainty, geopolitical conflict, climate change, regulatory reform and other disruptive forces, but also technological advancements, are impacting the life sciences industry. While economic pressures are undeniable, technological developments in personalised medicine, genomics and AI make it a very exciting time to be in the industry. Such developments can improve health for all, engage patients and increase the probability of success of new products. 

In terms of the economic outlook, the panel acknowledged that the commercial challenges caused by the current environment meant the industry was on the brink of a perfect storm. Ageing populations, rising health inequalities and affordability of new medical innovation mean governments are struggling to meet the increasing demand and are therefore attempting to contain costs by reducing the price paid for medicines. In Europe, new pharma legislation is also looking at cutting market exclusivity for new medicines. Consequently, companies are increasingly looking to alternative markets for launching new assets.

Market competitiveness remains a sticky point in Europe. The panellists were clear that, given the long R&D cycles, more predictable incentives were needed in Europe to increase manufacturing in the region and close the ‘attractiveness’ gap between the US and Europe, especially given that China is eagerly awaiting to fill this gap. A balance needs to be struck between innovation and access, but the panel raised concerns that current pharma legislation reforms could have unintended consequences if they fail to guarantee the necessary incentives.

These challenges are exacerbated by a talent shortage across the healthcare industry, requiring a shift towards a new model of working, with a focus on flexibility and wellbeing, and a dynamic use of locations (including wider geographical coverage). Work schedules should drive productivity and importantly establish an environment in which employees feel trusted and empowered to do their best work. By 2025, 70 per cent of healthcare professionals will be digital natives so it’s important to provide the technology that will help them do their jobs more effectively.

How can you strengthen supply chains to withstand disruption?

Angela Bowden, Deloitte’s Supply Chain Lead for Life Sciences, introduced the session on Supply Chain Disruption by exploring the view that, while pharmaceutical supply chains are essential for national health security and economic prosperity, the global economic uncertainty, geopolitical unrest and cyber-threats present ever-evolving risks to the stability of complex pharma supply chains. Furthermore, investing in new solutions to integrate and optimise supply chains to make them more resilient require extensive adjustment to, or the replacement of, existing processes. The participants discussed the importance of being able to respond to macro and local challenges in providing critical medicines to patients and in getting great products to patients fast.

The pandemic exposed the risks of ‘just in time’ strategies and the lack of supply chain resilience, but also created several opportunities. It accelerated the adoption of technologies that enabled more end-to-end visibility and generated greater insights on the critical role of suppliers, the need for greater efficiencies and more inventory. The panellists acknowledged that protecting pharma supply chains will always be a priority for companies in ensuring access to lifesaving products and that they’re increasingly seeing the value that AI-enabled technologies can bring in improving the accuracy of demand forecasting, inventory management and logistics. As technology and capabilities evolve, biopharma employees will need to balance the pursuit of new skills with the application of their current skill set. The next generation of talent will need to be agile, digitally literate and open to continuous learning.

What are the options for strategic partnerships in biopharma?

Vicky Levy, our Global Life Sciences Sector Leader, facilitated a panel discussion on strategic partnerships in the industry, highlighting the need to go faster and further together. While on a commercial level the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) environment remains subdued, partnerships are increasing as technology transforms the range of services being offered to pharma companies by industry suppliers, creating a dynamic environment that enables partners to create and share value in many ways including joint ventures, alliances and co-promotion. 

At the macro level, the downturn in the economic environment means that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are being pushed to rationalise and prioritise their pipelines and consider equity markets and other options for raising capital. In this environment, partnerships provide a good alternative alongside other benefits, including the opportunity to get products to patients faster. Partnerships can also bring together people with complementary skills and talents. The increase in innovation hubs bringing different but like-minded partners together enables the identification of synergies as the industry moves to more of a pathway-based market, instead of a drug-based market.

Good relationships are key for successful and valuable partnerships. The panellists acknowledged that clarity about what each party brings to the partnership is crucial alongside the need to build trust and stay true to the agreed values. Moreover, establishing and managing partnerships requires careful thought and consideration for the partner, takes time and are often under-estimated especially when doing business across different parts of the world where cultures differ widely.  

Conclusion

The life sciences industry is in a period of relentless disruption. Advances in technology are transforming research and development, innovative treatments are reshaping healthcare as we know it and companies face the challenge of bringing products to market in an uncertain regulatory environment. Overcoming these challenges requires concerted action across the health ecosystem and is essential to reach our vision for The Future of Health in Europe that we explored in our latest report. I am hopeful that the discussions on these pressing topics and the various solutions highlighted at the conference will continue to drive progress towards this equitable and sustainable vision.

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Karen Taylor - Director, UK Centre for Health Solutions

Karen is the Research Director of the Centre for Health Solutions. She supports the Healthcare and Life Sciences practice by driving independent and objective business research and analysis into key industry challenges and associated solutions; generating evidence based insights and points of view on issues from pharmaceuticals and technology innovation to healthcare management and reform.

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