Collaboration drives the future of personalised healthcare

As pharmaphorum publishes its first round table video debate, sponsored by AstraZeneca on the topic of personalised healthcare, Paul Tunnah reviews some key themes to emerge from the discussion with regards to oncology and beyond.

Planning for our first round table video debate started way back in February, so it is great to see the final media come to life on the virtual pages of pharmaphorum. This includes not only the final full round table debate itself (almost one hour long), but also interviews with each of the individual participants, associated transcripts and an exclusive white paper exploring the patient-oncologist relationship (produced with the support of Inspire).

“Although some sections played more to the strengths of particular panellists, everyone made a strong contribution throughout”

The topic we selected was ‘oncology shaping the future of personalised healthcare‘ with a view towards understanding what has been learned about delivering targeted medicines to patients in the oncology sector and how we can translate this to other therapeutic areas.

In total, the expert panel consisted of four participants from diverse backgrounds:

• Ruth March, VP and Head of Personalised Healthcare and Biomarkers for AstraZeneca.

• Professor Malcolm Ranson, a renowned oncologist currently working at the University of Manchester and The Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

• Richard Stephens, Chair of the Consumer Liaison Group for the National Cancer Research Institute and former cancer patient.

• Mya Thomae, a leading global expert on in-vitro diagnostics and CEO of US-based consultancy Myraqa, Inc.

During the round table we covered four broad areas and, although some sections played more to the strengths of particular panellists, everyone made a strong contribution throughout. You can read my immediate reaction to the value of such discussion in the piece I wrote back in July, post filming.

The areas covered were:

1. What has personalised healthcare already achieved in oncology? – exploring notable success stories and current perceptions in the oncology space.

2. How do we effectively implement personalised healthcare in practice? – assessing current challenges within healthcare systems around such medicines reaching the right patients.

3. What is the role for pharma in bringing personalised healthcare to the patient? – asking how the pharma industry needs to change its development and commercialisation processes to drive success.

4. What is the future of personalised healthcare? – looking ahead to see what technologies will be game-changers and how personalised healthcare will develop in other therapeutic areas.

Overall, what was fascinating about the discussion was how each and every one of these individuals is an expert on personalised healthcare, but brought entirely different perspectives to the table.

The full round table video debate ‘Oncology shaping the future of personalised healthcare’

The pharmaceutical industry is recognising that it is impossible to navigate a route to more broad-reaching application of personalised healthcare without working in a much more collaborative way with all the other stakeholders. Diagnostics manufacturers see that the artificial divide between the two industries is detrimental for all, in addition to the current regulatory environment needing to progress in this area.

From the perspective of the clinician, there is great excitement at the potential that new targeted medicines can offer to patients, both in terms of efficacy and reduced side effects, but also concerns about lack of understanding, the challenges of effective diagnosis and the risks of leaving some difficult-to-treat diseases behind.

“The patient representative reminded everyone that personalised healthcare is not just about medicines, but the whole healthcare ecosystem”

Finally, the patient representative reminded everyone that personalised healthcare is not just about medicines, but the whole healthcare ecosystem that revolves around each and every individual patient. Equally, for them this is not just about helping them manage their disease, but also a much more altruistic ambition of helping others facing similar diagnoses by working much more collaboratively with the pharma industry.

Without wishing to steal the punch line (and I would encourage anyone to take an hour to view the full video to witness the exchange of ideas for themselves), there were three main conclusions to emerge from the debate:

1. A more open, collaborative innovation process is need for drug development in this area – with all parties, including patients.

2. Global regulatory systems need to adapt to keep pace with the diagnostics side and the ‘big data’ it is generating, which can really enable much more targeted treatment.

3. New technologies are needed, which can deal with this mass of data and support the rapid diagnosis and evaluation of diseases at the individual patient level.

But perhaps a much more important overall theme emerged from this discussion – there is a real willingness to cooperate on all sides and a drive to find personalised healthcare solutions as quickly as possible.

Some media may, on occasion, like to present divisions between the pharma industry, other commercial partners, regulators, payers, healthcare providers and patients, but the reality from this discussion is exactly the opposite. Each party comes with its own agenda, but there is a common desire to rise above this and together find new ways to help patients.

“There is a common desire to rise above this and together find new ways to help patients”

In truth, this debate does not offer any easy solutions; instead it is merely scratching the surface of a much bigger on-going dialogue around how the pharmaceutical industry can collaborate with other healthcare stakeholders to maintain the pace of innovation. However, I hope that by bringing all sides together in this way and sharing their discussion with a broader audience it can trigger further ideas and interaction that can really help progress this space over the longer term.

After all, personalised healthcare represents one important new direction for the pharmaceutical industry, but its importance to patients currently facing untreatable diseases is second to none.

Other links:

‘Oncology shaping the future of personalised healthcare’ media hub


About the author:

Paul Tunnah is CEO & Founder of pharmaphorum media, which provides digital content marketing and communications solutions for the pharma sector and also manages the industry leading channel, a digital podium for communicating thought leadership and innovation within pharma. For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

What type of collaboration can drive personalised healthcare forwards?