di , 04/03/2019

Pharma companies, the health industry’s original lovers of all things innovation, have embraced digital health with abandon over the past four years. And the startups in this space couldn’t be more excited

As this area of pharmaceutical innovation matures ‘beyond the pill’ and ‘pill plus,’ what can players on both sides of the term sheet expect? Are things cooling off? Here to weigh in with the ‘state of play’ is Paul Tunnah, CEO of Pharmaphorum, a news site that has followed innovation in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years. In this interview from Frontiers Health, Tunnah talks trends and offers insight from his unique vantage point as an industry observer and analyst carefully watching both sides of the field.

Here are some of my key takeaways from Paul’s comments:

1. Pharma’s investment in digital health has gone from ‘patient facing’ to the ‘back end’

Tunnah takes us back five years, to a time when digital health was strictly regarded as a marketing communications play – a way to better engage patients to take their meds. Now, the boundaries have expanded, and big pharma is looking at digital health as a component of growing importance in their drug development process. From collecting and analyzing individualized patient data to reducing the cost of clinical trials, pharmaceutical companies have begun to literally let digital health startups inside and are evolving their own business processes to incorporate new tech solutions into the way they create their own IP.

2. Startups need to get good at regulatory, which means getting good at clinical validation

Sorry startups. You can forget saying that your tech will be out-of-date before a proper clinical trial can be conducted. Tunnah reminds us that the pharmaceutical industry is used to an average 10-year cycle for the development of their new products. What you’ll need to do to gain sufficient clinical validation to satisfy regulators will only take a couple years. If you’re not savvy at building an evidence base, find some help. As Tunnah says, “You gotta have evidence…that’s no different for digital health startups than it is for medicines.”

3. Pharma investors are starting to handle digital health startups the same way they handle biotech companies – carefully

There’s a shift happening in the way pharma investors are engaging digital health startups – and it’s in favor of the startups. As Tunnah puts it, pharma investors don’t want to accidentally ‘kill the golden goose,’ so they’re changing everything from the way they woo and negotiate with startups to how they finally establish their deal structures and reporting relationships to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Check out the full interview and find out more: