7 questions: Hikma Ventures’ Lana Ghanem

Preceding the healthcare innovation conference Frontiers Health, in November, Marco Ricci has been interviewing speakers for the event. First in his series is venture capitalists Hikma Ventures’ managing director, Lana Ghanem.

Lana Ghanem
Where do you think technology is likely to make the biggest change to pharma?

I think technology’s biggest influence will be felt in both disease prevention and personalised medicine.

As genomics and diagnostic tests advance and are increasingly adopted, pharma will be able to focus on tools and products that empower patients and help them prevent certain diseases by incorporating their unique genetic makeup and lifestyle. Solutions will no longer be one-size-fits-all; they will become more catered to the individual and reap better and more effective results for the patient.

In addition, these solutions will produce more user-friendly and convenient ways for patients to avoid developing certain conditions, while treatments will be more effective should they arise.

What role will pharma play in the adoption of technologies in healthcare?

I believe that technology and digital tools in healthcare are no longer a nice-to-have – they are becoming more of a necessity for all healthcare stakeholders. Pharma’s role will be key in the adoption of emerging technologies as they are connected to all major healthcare stakeholders, from patients and providers to payers and distributors. Acting as mediators, pharma companies can facilitate digital tools’ integration into daily life by incentivising their use by all participants of this system.

What areas of pharma/healthcare are in need of digital disruption?

The supply chain is a major area in need of digital disruption. Many inefficiencies exist when it comes to forecasting product demand and inventory management. Having the ‘right’ amount of materials to manufacture the ‘right’ products in the ‘right’ quantities is both a challenging and imperative part of the pharma manufacturing process. Predictive data analytics will play a big part in this disruption, as it tackles all three pillars of this problem. Block chain technology could also provide structured, transparent and traceable databases to improve inventory management.

Another area is Sales and Marketing. Pharma companies spend excessive money and time detailing doctors and launching marketing campaigns. Using digital tools to reach providers is more efficient at both ends, as it enables pharma companies to get their messages across to doctors via the click of a button, allowing doctors to have more time with patients. Regions in particular need of disruption are the Middle East and North Africa.

Lastly, R&D. R&D is a sizeable portion of overall costs for any company but by using machine learning and enhancing clinical trial processes, digital tools can help pharma companies develop, recruit patients, and test and approve new drugs or devices in shorter timeframes for less.

What obstacles are preventing faster uptake of disruptive technologies?

Gathering of data remains an obstacle. The more people who contribute data, the more powerful the results, but it can be challenging to both acquire and keep users engaged in an application, platform or gadget. All stakeholders require a more open mindset and must be willing to provide this data for this to work, which remains problematic as privacy concerns continue to emerge.

In addition, patients value convenience so self-reporting tools may limit the accuracy and collection of data. Some technologies have not gained traction because of that self-reporting characteristic, whether through patient laziness, forgetfulness or inaccurate input of data.

Another obstacle is the lack of clarity in the eyes of regulators. Because these disruptive technologies are new and uncharted territories, there are no set transparent guidelines enabling their expedited launch.

Where has technology made the biggest impact in pharma/healthcare to date?

Mobile phones and wearables are beginning to revolutionise the pharma/healthcare industry. By helping to track vitals like medication adherence, heart rate, sleep and temperature, they are very useful for consumers and clinical trials – particularly as the data collected is in real time and actionable. They also help companies reach more people and geographies.

How is Hikma Ventures using technology to improve healthcare?

Hikma Ventures (HV) invests in global digital health companies that can supplement our own business lines and differentiate Hikma’s offering. We have invested in four companies so far, including ones in the medication adherence space and telemedicine.

In 2016, we established the Innovation and Leadership Advisory Board (ILAB), comprised of 16 members from different departments and different regions across Hikma, to make sure the company is improving processes and fostering innovation.

ILAB launched ITECH, which features digital health start-ups, at Hikma, where entrepreneurs come for an hour to present their work to Hikma’s employees. The process is open to all 8,000 employees and is live-streamed on our Facebook page. This initiative helps to change the mindsets of employees to think of Hikma as a healthcare solution provider and not just a generic manufacturer.

Which technologies have the most potential for improving healthcare?

Big data analytics platforms that incorporate AI have enormous potential. The insights they provide affect all healthcare stakeholders: they enable payers to reduce their costs, providers to better monitor and diagnose patients, pharmaceutical companies to allocate their budgets more efficiently, and patients to be better informed about their health and avoid developing certain diseases.

Combining data analytics with Electronic Health Records (EHR) will unlock invaluable information about a patient’s medical history and behaviour, improving outcomes by better catering to individual needs. This will allow providers to better diagnose diseases and reduce errors.

Other areas with high potential are adherence to medication and continuous monitoring of vitals, which will also improve healthcare, as they will reduce the readmission rate into hospitals and provide patients with actionable, timely data that will empower them.


Frontiers Health will take place in Berlin, Germany, on 16-17 November 2017. Lana Ghanem will be delivering a keynote presentation on day one of the event. To find out more, click here.