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Is the pharmaceutical industry stuck in an innovation 'rat trap'?

Pharmaceuticals need to align innovative ideas to consumer needs and consider themselves part of the information business, suggested Pharma EXPO keynote speaker.

'Winning the New Innovation Game,' was the subject of a Nov. 5 keynote address during Pharma EXPO.
"Winning the New Innovation Game," was the subject of a Nov. 5 keynote address during Pharma EXPO.

Visitors to PACK EXPO International and the co-located Pharma EXPO just completed four days of visiting the booths of some 2,000 exhibitors in an effort to learn about the latest and greatest packaging and processing equipment, materials, and services.

But the education didn’t stop on the show floor. From Nov. 3-5, Pharma EXPO, via a joint venture of PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies and the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE), held three days of insightful conference sessions, focusing on manufacturing operations on Monday, compliance trends on Tuesday, then wrapping up with pharmaceutical packaging Wednesday.

The Nov. 5 keynote address from Fastraqq President Dan Balan was an eye-opener. Titled, “Winning the New Innovation Game,” Balan focused on the “changing landscape of the pharmaceutical industry and why we need a new innovation platform.” He noted the well-known challenges faced by pharmaceutical manufacturers that spend upwards of $900,000 and take nearly a decade to get a new product from the idea stage to the patient due to numerous approvals, clinical trials, and so on. “This is a nightmare for companies. The model has to be disrupted, and a new paradigm is needed,” he declared.

The deliberate pace of innovation in pharmaceuticals, which he recognized is attributable to multiple factors, is especially conspicuous given the pace of change and marketplace innovation during the past five or so years. Balan pointed to the consumer electronics industry, and in particular the smartphone, noting that Apple didn’t invent the phone, it didn’t invent music, and it didn’t invent photography, but it created a platform grown from combining contiguous industries. He described the process as “Platformation.”

Balan told the Pharma EXPO audience that while the Chicago fire destroyed the city in 1871, it also led to a spirit of innovation that ended up with the city becoming one of the architectural capitals of the world. “We need to employ creative destruction. The automotive industry redefined itself by adding sensors, controls, and software. The healthcare industry ecosystem doesn’t include just medical devices, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, but also benefits managers, pharmacies, physicians/support personnel, and medical informatics, such as electronic patient records, and the sharing of information on social media.

“Pharma is being challenged from all sides,” he added. “And that while consumers seeking better health represents the zeitgeist of our times. We have to think of ourselves as more of a health hub.” As an example, he used CVS Caremark’s name change to “CVS Health” for its company/pharmacies. “People want to express themselves and focus on health,” he noted, again referring to Twitter, Facebook, and social media as examples.

Balan explained there are six factors or phases involved in a pharmaceutical innovation platform that can be thought of as separate rooms in a house. They are discovery, drug, domain, distribution, delivery, and decline.

Accelerating each of these six phases will be critical to addressing the long time-to-market challenges. Balan explained that it will be important for companies to expand their domain and partner globally.

He suggested more crossover products such as nutraceuticals, explaining that Frito-Lay, one of his company’s clients, considers itself to be not only in the snack food market, but also in the information business. Balan asked, “What if Frito-Lay incorporated some type of medicine into the potatoes it uses for snack foods and someday introduce cheese chips that can also address a medical issue.” Could such an avenue be worth investigating as another step toward innovation?

“The pharmaceutical market is very entrenched and conservative. We need to drive great products that are reflective of current life,” said Balan. “Google gives employees Fridays to look at things outside of what they do to try to gain perspectives to make the collective whole better. People make all the difference and are the driving force for all innovation. The human spirit will find a way to do what it takes, as evidenced in how drugs were created to find cures for diseases. It’s how Daniel Burnham and the urban designers and civil engineers rebuilt Chicago. We need to harness the power of love and innovation.”

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The largest PACK EXPO East in history is March 18-20 in Philadelphia! In one convenient location, you’ll discover new technology from top suppliers, get quality problem-solving time with experts and learn the latest trends in free educational sessions.
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