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Digital Health Day sounds a wake up call to challenges in precision medicine

Oct 04, 2017 Tags: Drug development digital medicine

Precision medicine is accelerating with the convergence of digital health technologies. What seemed to be a fading trend is steadily gaining in intensity, becoming a key driver for advancing the future of healthcare.

“This is all developing so rapidly, we find ourselves on a steep learning curve,” says Jutta Heix, who has organized a panel session at BIO-Europe® 2017 under the heading, “Advancing precision medicine via novel digital solutions.”

“There are so many aspects to how digitalization is changing the biopharmaceutical value chain. The panel and case studies will be an inspiration and eye-opener especially for those people who are not dealing every day with the issues of digital health.” she says.

Jutta Heix, International advisor at Oslo Cancer Cluster

“The way forward is not really defined, but what is clear is that digital health is here to stay. Pharma companies face challenges from completely new players moving into the space.  Facebook is discussing with companies how they can recruit patients for clinical trials. Alphabet is recruiting 10,000 volunteers with their health data for medical studies. Alphabet’s Verily and Google just announced that they found a new potential test for heart disease,” she says.

“How will big pharma collaborate?  Will they compete? Do they have the right talent?  Can they move with the same speed to market as some of these tech companies?” Heix asks.

The BIO-Europe panel represents the diversity of stakeholders in order to cover developments from the clinical perspective, the pharma perspective, the investment perspective, as well as the regulatory perspective.

Erwin Böttinger is the newly recruited Head of the Digital Health Center and Professor for Digital Health at the Hasso-Plattner-Institute GmbH and the University of Potsdam. He brings 30 years of experience from leading US clinics and precision medicine institutes to Germany’s efforts to better exploit patient information for real-time decision making.

Richa Wilson covers Digital and Personalized Health Care in Roche’s Partnering Team and can share insights into the company’s advances in moving from pills to integrated treatment solutions including phone apps and other electronic solutions.

Klaus Stoeckemann, Managing Partner at Peppermint Venture Partners, has held a seat at the table for 14 years with companies developing novel drugs and now increasingly works with emerging digital health companies advancing very different products for patients.

According to Heix, “this creates a great opportunity to get first-hand insights, to hear key issues discussed, to get inspired, perhaps to draw some conclusions. The panelists can speak to the application of digital tools and approaches to real-world environments, including approaches that failed, and what they learned from these experiences.”

The second half of the session will turn to the PERMIDES project that in one year gathered more than 350 European SMEs who connect on a partnering platform to advance biopharma projects via novel IT solutions.

Funded by the European Union, the Personalized Medicine Innovation through Digital Enterprise Solutions (PERMIDES) helps startups and small biotechs identify their digitalization needs and find a potential partner. Funding is provided through an innovation vouchers scheme, and winning innovation projects receive funding up to EUR 60,000.

From her day job at the Oslo Cancer Cluster, Heix said she and other biotech and ICT clusters joined together to address what she called specific challenges for SMEs to go digital with a precision medicine product or service in the biopharma space.

Six clusters from three countries and two industrial IT partners formed the PERMIDES consortium.

“Typically a smaller biopharma company is focused on advancing their treatment candidates into clinical trials and attracting funding and partners for this effort. With small and dedicated teams they usually do not have the resources and in-house IT expertise to identify and implement emerging digital solutions,” she says.

“Yet, in order to remain competitive and not to miss out on opportunities, they really need to engage more with IT players helping them, e.g., to make better use of their internal data via context analysis of the vast amount of available external data to prioritize indications and patients for clinical development.

“PERMIDES comes in here to help them better understand which partners and competences are out there, and to express their needs clearly, despite lacking IT expertise.  Biopharma SMEs can formulate their needs, can run a systematic search find potential IT partners, and get funding for developing  solutions,” says Heix.

“We are one year into a two-year program, which from the beginning we realized is a very short time.  Yet what we have been able to achieve jointly is tremendous. We mobilized a great number of biopharma, bioinformatics and IT SMEs, issued an open call and as of now already more than 90 SMEs are engaged in funded projects, companies coming from Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, the UK, and Denmark. Great to hear, for example, from a Swedish IT company working with an Italian biopharma that they never would have met without PERMIDES,” she says.