Biopharmaceutical leaders are under greater pressure than ever before, with the need to accelerate R&D innovation, adapt to a rapidly evolving health care ecosystem, and deliver on the expectations of society and their investors. Pharma leaders are particularly attuned to managing risks, sometimes at the expense of innovating the model to address market evolution. To change the narrative, they may need to commit to a cultural shift that incentivizes deliberate risk-taking rather than maintaining the status quo. They need an organization that will thrive in today’s market while simultaneously preparing for the next market disruption.Most pharma companies have business models that are focused on certain geographies and customers. Pharma leaders should identify areas/customers where their current model is underperforming or failing and create innovation hubs to define the next evolution of the broader model. In doing this, large pharma companies can think and act more like their nimble small pharma counterparts. These innovation hubs can test new roles, technologies, policies, and strategies in an environment where failure is likely no worse than the status quo. Leaders can incentivize the organization to take informed risks, learn quickly from failures, and rapidly scale successes. Being deliberate about the intent of these hubs can support a more progressive culture that empowers those willing to march on to the next frontier. It can enable leaders to cultivate a playbook of informed bets they can place in response to ongoing market evolution, driving down the potential execution risk to the core business while enabling the margins to find new opportunities to perform.
While COVID-19 has fueled investments in digital R&D and customer engagement, it has also accelerated the transformation of health care delivery. Increased investment in and deployment of home-based health technologies are creating new opportunities for biopharma companies to create value. Technologies such as sensors, monitors, at-home diagnostics, and digital therapeutics create massive amounts of data that can be used for improving the clinical trial process and therapeutics, as well as for labeling and targeting products to patient populations who can benefit from them the most. Devices, apps, and other services have the potential to engage consumers and support them in becoming more active in owning their own health care information and be a part of their care plan. Evolving technologies, including blockchain, can help facilitate data interoperability, so that patient data can be more easily used for holistic and longitudinal analysis of health outcomes. Companies could be well served to take advantage of this momentum to incorporate digital technologies into the patient experience, either in clinical trials or via digital medicines and therapeutics. From a talent perspective, conquering the next frontier will likely require new talent and organizational structures to effectively play in the world of today and tomorrow simultaneously. Drawing new types of talent in high demand across industries, including engineers and designers, to inform digital investments has been a challenge within pharma. Many have sought to address this challenge by creating digital teams located in Silicon Valley, with limited success. Rather than focusing on geography, shifting the mission of these individuals to disrupt the status quo from within can be a strong recruitment driver. This model can require a dedicated team to assess, deploy, and evolve a portfolio of partnerships. The key is to build an organization that can thrive in today’s market, while being ever ready for the next market turn.