The life sciences marketplace has been ripe for collaboration for the past decade, but new players, new technologies and new regulations are changing the space. Traditional life sciences companies are working together in new and exciting ways, bringing a variety of deal structures and new complexities into the landscape. Our Collaborative Transformation podcast episode “Driving the Deal: Life Sciences Partnership Opportunities, Pitfalls and Impact” with Emmanuelle Trombe and Gary Howes explores these issues in depth. Below are key takeaways from the episode, which you can listen to in full here.

It’s not just new players changing the space—it’s new approaches by traditional players. “It’s not only about pharma and biotech,” Trombe said. “We are seeing collaboration with health care players such as payers, insurers and providers.” Technology companies are also entering the space, bringing financial and philanthropic investments to the table. “People are still trying to do the same things, but they’re getting there in slightly different ways,” Howes said. Collaborations are also shifting from exclusive collaborations to more open collaborations, where partners are more closely involved in the product lifecycle, co-developing products and sharing technology, data and profits.

Bridging the gap between different industry cultures is crucial to building a successful collaboration. Product lifecycles and regulatory regimes vary across industries, but the gap between technology and health care/life sciences is particularly broad. “Life sciences health care companies looking at a lifecycle for their product is something like 20-odd years. That’s not the model that pure tech companies are used to,” Howes said. “There has to be some sort of realignment, so that both parties on either side of the collaboration understand each other’s business enough to make them a success.”

Data drives efficiency and efficacy in treatments, but the regulatory environment continues to present challenges to using it. Data collection is restricted in most countries, particularly for pharmaceutical companies and insurers, which makes it challenging to structure deals around data. Data regulations such as GDPR “could be a hurdle for the development of digital therapeutics, because they limit the ability to use the data collected in a meaningful fashion,” Trombe said. Overcoming these hurdles will be crucial to unlocking the potential solutions in medical data.
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Technology companies are pouring unprecedented capital, time and energy into the health care and life sciences industry, and are reshaping the deal landscape in the process. The top 10 US tech companies have made $4.7 billion in acquisitions in the health care space since 2012, according to CB Insights. Key market factors driving health care joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions include the merger of molecular science and computer technology, a growing focus on patient-centric care, increased mobility of consumer health products and services, and deep capital markets. In this fast-paced, proactive deals environment, traditional health players have exciting—and disruptive—new opportunities to enter into unexpected partnerships and pursue transformative innovation.

With Great Disruption Comes Great Opportunity

A helpful analogy for understanding the role of tech companies in this rapidly evolving sector is Uber’s disruption of the ride-hailing industry. When Uber came on the scene, on-demand ride-hailing was only available through taxicabs, and frequently only available in major cities. Now on-demand ride hailing is available through numerous companies and in areas that previously did not have such services available. Ride-hailing companies have also expanded their services offering to include food delivery.

Tech companies entering the health industry today are doing the same thing: reimagining and redefining the fundamentals of consumer access to health care. These companies often have deep insight into distribution and consumer purchasing behavior, and are willing to invest more capital and take on more risk than traditional health industry players in order to explore and develop creative health care offerings. Furthermore, the solutions they are developing don’t just offer incremental improvements—creating a more expensive service or drug option doesn’t cut it. Instead, they want to create dramatic solutions that make health care better overall. Tech companies in the health care space are pursuing innovation that carries value in context of the entire health ecosystem.
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