Celebrating the Digital Age
Digital technologies could transform healthcare, including drug discovery, development, clinical trials and patient empowerment.
Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet |
At times, working in the healthcare industry can be very exciting, but also challenging and frustrating. You may have a very exciting drug candidate in development, and yet you won’t be able to get it to patients for a very long time. One of the big focuses for Roche right now is personalized healthcare – many people in the industry, including myself, are very excited by this concept and approach. Personalized healthcare is about matching treatments to patients’ individual needs, often driven by their genetic profiles – and we are seeing many advances in personalized cancer therapies in particular.
Personalized healthcare goes hand in hand with digital technologies – for example, machine learning and other advanced analytic techniques can enhance drug discovery and development by identifying new drug targets and effective surrogate markers. Research and development at Roche focuses on the therapeutic areas of oncology, ophthalmology, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, neuroscience, inflammatory bowel disease and infections – and digital technology that allows us to deeply explore the science of disease and its genetic basis are incredibly important. As one example, we are using smart technology and genomic analyses to identify new antibiotics targeting gram-negative bacteria.
Roche’s neuroscience portfolio includes several compounds for neurodegenerative diseases, including potential therapeutics for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease in advanced stages of clinical development. These could potentially become life-changing medicines for patients, but there is still the challenge of developing them in a timely manner. With digital technologies we can enhance our approach to clinical trials, making them faster, more efficient and cost effective. Data is the key here. At Roche, we recently acquired Flatiron Health, a company which specializes in real-world oncology data. We have been a partner of Flatiron for a very long time, and we are very impressed with their ability to build high quality, longitudinal, real world datasets, which have allowed us to better understand scientific hypotheses regarding whether people will respond to drugs or not. We used their data to develop virtual control arms for one of our lung cancer drugs, resulting in faster patient access in Europe. I think it’s fantastic to see companies like Flatiron thinking outside of the box and asking how clinical trials can be enhanced.
As head of partnering at Roche, my role is to look for innovations that could fit with the Roche pipeline – and we are spending a lot of time right now reviewing personalized and digital healthcare technologies. We aren’t just looking for technologies that can aid drug development, however; mobile technologies, apps and other systems that can empower patients are also vital. Mobile apps can help collect data on patient conditions and encourage greater communication between a patient and physician – which can only lead to better health outcomes. I am really passionate about this area.
At Roche. we are not only focused on developing better medicines, but also on getting the right medicine to the right patient faster than we have in the past – and digital technologies are key to enabling this.