As the event was spread out over three days with four different tracks, I thought I could use a little help in gathering information. So I invited Pharmaceutical Online (www.pharmaceuticalonline.com) editor Lori Clapper to attend. Here are some of the highlights we found most interesting.
John Baldoni, Ph.D., SVP platform technology and science R&D with GSK (NYSE: GSK), discussed knowledge as becoming a commodity, and he predicts the next therapeutic game changer will come not from drugs, but electrons. Being an executive with a Big Pharma company, he described the changing business model for drug development and discovery. For example when he took over product development in 2004, GSK had 120 people working in the area of drug extensions. Today GSK employs zero in this capacity. Baldoni is taking a proactive approach to tackling the problem. For example, he created a new position and asked several employees to step out of their comfort zones and join a team he refers to as “The Seekers.” I had the opportunity to meet one of the members of this team. Lee Shorter, Ph.D, now carries the title “Director Disruptive Technology Seekers Platform Technology & Science” and is charged with seeking out new ideas, inventions, processes, and technology advancement within and outside of pharma.
In addition to learning about the seekers, I also had the opportunity to be updated by LaToya Jones Braun, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Colorado’s School of Pharmacy, in the areas of novel vaccine delivery advancements. Another presentation I found captivating was conducted by MediMetrics chief technical officer, Jeff Shimizu, who explained the Intellicap, a compact capsule which incorporates a microprocessor, pH sensor, temperature sensor, RF wireless transceiver, fluid pump, and drug reservoir all in the space of 11mm x 26 mm. Not only does this product show promise for extremely targeted drug delivery for site specific diseases such as Crohn’s, it may also prove beneficial for improving clinical trials.
One of the more controversial figures at DDP was G. Steven Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Company. Fresh off his deal involving Gilead agreeing to purchase Pharmasset for $11 billion, Burrill used a variety of sources to back his claim that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry is in “deep yogurt.” Burrill advises the drug development industry to look outside its core for innovation. He referenced Twitter, Google, Zynga, and Facebook as examples of companies creating and capturing value outside of the product. Pharma needs to figure out ways to do the same. I had the opportunity to talk with Burrill one-on-one prior to his presentation. He’s a member of Life Science Leader’s editorial advisory board, and I wanted to bounce a few ideas off of him. For example, I shared with him that one of our future “Leadership Lessons” articles is being written by Ron Karr, author of Lead, Sell Or Get Out Of The Way. Is this book relevant to our audience? He seemed to think so, relaying that in his experience the best CEOs tend to be awesome salespeople.
Another interesting presenter was the fast-talking Texan, Marc McClellan, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform. His entire presentation seemed to go at the pace of an audio disclaimer at the end of a Viagra TV ad. Two of the more interesting takeaways from his presentation — the rising importance of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and the expectation by government and health insurance reimbursement bodies to see better patient outcomes being clearly demonstrated by pharma companies. Low price and high volume are no longer enough to gain formulary approval. If you are unfamiliar with ACOs and would like to learn more, here is a link to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal http://on.wsj.com/AmRKSL.
Another presentation which captivated and stunned the room was conducted by Marc Koska, inventor of the K1 Auto-Disable syringe. Koska’s presentation enlightened me to the problem of syringes and needles being reused, recycled, and misused. Often thought to be a problem associated with illicit drug use, through pictures and video captured while working with his charity SafePoint, he showed how doctors, hospitals, and children in emerging markets all play a role in recycling products intended for single-use — leading to the spread of blood-borne diseases. (For more information go to www.marckoska.com.)
In addition to having the opportunity to network with the above mentioned opinion leaders and experts, I also met executives from other top 50 pharma companies and key vendors supporting the pharma industry (e.g. Merck, Abbott, Tapemark, Aveva, DSM, Novozymes, Flextronics). Two pieces of good advice stood out during my networking. First, if you know the drug your company is developing will require a device for administration, begin partnering with vendors early and incorporating it into your clinical trials so as to accelerate the approval process. Second, talk to your folks in commercialization and marketing prior to bringing a combination drug device to market. Being close to the market, their insight can prevent you from launching a combination product destined for failure. This would be some good advice for the company currently working on a daily injectable drug for erectile dysfunction.