Astellas adds digital to its top management team

Astellas' chief digital and transformation officer Nick Eshkenazi

Japan’s Astellas has named Nick Eshkenazi to the new role of chief digital and transformation officer (CTDO), the first time it has included a digital role in its top management team.

Astellas said that the appointment has been made to acknowledge that “digital initiatives and investments are critical in every part of Astellas’ business for transformation and to create value…for patients,” adding that Eshkenazi brings “experience driving complex business transformation.”

Eshkenazi will take up the new role from April 1, having been employed at Astellas since November as its first chief digital officer. He will be based in Australia.

A 25-year-plus veteran of the digital and technology sectors, Eshkenazi has previously held roles at gifting business Prezzee, retail chains Woolworths and Costco, and e-commerce company Fanatics. He is also a strategic advisor to Australian biosecurity specialist ExoFlare, which uses data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to protect businesses and build supply chain resilience.

Astellas formally launched a digital transformation drive in 2021, saying it intends to implement technologies like data analytics, AI, robotics and other digital platforms to revolutionise the way its products are designed, created, tested, and analysed.

The strategy, which is occurring throughout the pharma industry, recognises the vast amounts of data generated from research, development, and manufacturing, to sales and post-marketing activities that can provide a rich source of innovation and insights if harnessed correctly.

“We believe that considerations related to digital and business transformation considerations must be built into management strategy formulation and execution,” said Astellas, adding that Eshkenazi “has already made a great impact in terms of enhancing our digital capabilities, and has really helped us think differently about digitalisation and transformation.”

Among the digital initiatives adopted by Astellas include the use of AI and robots to shorten the time to generate lead compounds from screening hits, the use of natural language processing to interrogate experimental data, the use of wearables to enable decentralised and hybrid clinical trials, and the development of a data mining system – called DAIMON – that monitors manufacturing.

It has also started to look at the development of digital therapeutics (DTx), licensing rights to a smart stethoscope device developed by Eko Health last year that it will use as part of a digital approach to managing heart failure patients.