Innovation is about more than science…

By Christian Mazzi, Chief Commercial Officer, Mundipharma International

Earlier this month, I was on a panel at the FT Global Pharma and Biotechnology conference in London. We were talking about how to create value in the “new health economy”. It was a fascinating discussion – both in terms of what was covered, and perhaps more telling, what wasn’t.

Most of the discussion focused on how exciting scientific and technological advances are opening up entirely new frontiers of drug discovery. Whether it was a company’s vision to cure congenital heart disease using gene editing and stem cells or how new data sources – often termed ‘Big Data’– and artificial intelligence are going to transform the industry, in ways such as accelerating R&D and driving precision medicine.

The enthusiasm is understandable: we are living through a period of extraordinary scientific and technological innovation. But there was far less discussion at the FT event around how to ensure these innovations actually reach patients, or how health systems might be able to afford them. Simon Stevens, CEO of the UK National Health Service, welcomed the emergence of outcomes-based payment deals between pharma and payers during his opening remarks. But he also called for a new drug pricing system to expand treatment access without breaking budgets.

At Mundipharma we like to think we see what others don’t and recognize that innovation isn’t only about brand new molecules, mechanisms of action or digitally-enhanced solutions. Innovation is also about improving existing medicines to make them more efficacious, or patient-friendly (for instance through more convenient formulations) or safer, and importantly accessible. To enable sustainable innovation –that’s widely available and affordable – industry needs to be far more customer-focused, more willing to cooperate with other stakeholders, and more transparent.

Within the Mundipharma network of independent associated companies, we’re trying to do just that.  Traditionally, most pharmaceutical companies are terrified of giving up control of their data. I went on to suggest that effective data sharing among healthcare stakeholders is the only way for our industry to create value for patients. As an example, I highlighted our efforts to build and share a common framework for demonstrating value to payers. (You can ask our market access expert, Will Dunlop, for more details). This is critical to all drug developers: you can have as much clever science as you like, but if you can’t demonstrate why payers should fund it, then it won’t reach most patients, let alone help them. Another panelist from an investment bank Beijia Ma, an investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, summed it up nicely on a later panel about Geopolitical and Economic risk: “Every company must become more patient-centric, and more data-centric,” she said.

I think market access has become the single biggest challenge facing our industry today. Yet there’s a real risk that this is being overlooked– not just in smaller biotechs that may not have the expertise and resources, but also within very large R&D-based organisations, whose culture means science is king.

The Mundipharma network has a growth strategy built on developing partnerships with companies looking for a partner to develop and commercialise their medicines and we work with alliance partners of all sizes help address that access challenge. We’re also developing our own medicines in certain therapy areas, to meet patients’ needs at a price that payers can afford.

For instance, through Mundipharma EDO GmbH, experts in early stage oncology, we’re developing new ‘smart’ chemotherapies to hopefully offer cancer patients better outcomes with fewer side-effects.  Despite all the incredible advances in targeted cancer therapies, they’re not always available for all cancers, and aren’t usually first-line, because of their price high price-tags. Hence our belief that chemotherapy will remain the backbone of oncology treatment – a view shared by 70% of the FT Global Pharma event audience polled.  Smart chemotherapy, then, may create an extra layer in cancer treatment that beats standard chemotherapy.

Global access, local expertise

On the market access side, our strength is in combining global reach with local brilliance. Many aspects of business have globalised, but market access remains stubbornly local. Thus Europe’s dozens of distinct national and regional healthcare systems, each with unique needs, present an increasingly tough prospect for drug developers. With over 500 million inhabitants, Europe is far too big to ignore, however – not least as pricing and reimbursement pressures hit the highly profitable US market, too.

The Mundipharma network of independent associated companies has a strong presence within 30 European markets, and understands deeply the characteristics, priorities and constraints of each. We’re a networked organisation, not a hierarchical one. That means good ideas can come from the ground up, as well as top-down. Each of the companies in the network benefits from pan-European-level development, regulatory and commercial expertise. Yet each are free to pursue the most appropriate market access and commercial strategy for any given medicine, tailored to local or regional health providers, physicians and patient needs.

Flexibility

This flexibility is key in an industry that’s being rocked by payer pressure, new digital entrants and more empowered consumers. Mundipharma’s networked structure, our entrepreneurial culture and our openness to all forms of innovation that can bring value to patients, give us that flexibility.

The overall theme of the FT event was ‘Thriving amid uncertainty’. Mundipharma is doing just that.