In our last blog post about the Lake Nona Impact Forum, we focused on technology as an enabler of the health care of the future. Today’s post will be about the importance of partnerships and collaboration in the quest to make health care more efficient, affordable, and accessible. Already, it seems like there’s an extensive amount of collaboration happening in the field. Pharmaceutical companies partner with nonprofit research institutes like Sanford-Burnham to advance drug discovery, health technology companies collaborate with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop novel prostheses, and medical schools partner with hospitals to better educate the physicians of the future. But as we learned during talks and panel discussions at the Impact Forum, collaboration will become even more important in the near future.
As Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, said during his speech, “No one is going to solve the world’s health care problems alone.” We need to work together to innovate health care solutions that make an impact.
Collaboration in the future will go beyond partnerships between organizations within the same industry. We’ll see more partnerships across industries, across borders, and between private organizations and government. There are many reasons why collaboration will be more important than ever: drug candidate pipelines are drying up; “blockbuster” drugs (see last Impact Forum post) seem to be a less and less viable option; novel technologies arise, but are very expensive; top talent is spread across the world (e.g., the largest genome sequencing lab is now in China); and regulatory environments make it very cost-intensive to get treatments approved—to name just a few. Collaborations bring together the leading experts in a given field and across disciplines. They encourage out-of-the-box thinking, allow for honest and critical feedback loops, and can spread the financial impact of product development across organizations.
Convergence technology will and already does play a crucial role in health care and how it is being delivered. By definition, convergence technology means that skills from at least two different areas come together to advance an innovation or idea. A good example is Cisco Systems, a company that designs, manufactures, and sells networking equipment. At first glance, people may not think of Cisco as an important player in the health care field. Think again! The company is an enabler of health care access. Through its HealthPresence™ technology, Cisco brings the doctor to the patient via a virtual doctor’s visit on a TV or computer monitor—a great example of innovation and collaboration between health care providers and a technology company. Cisco developed this technology with an eye on countries like India and China, where a large part of the population lives in rural areas and does not have access to medical care as we know it.
Convergence technology is also a hot topic among scientists working on personalized medicines and innovative new products. Nanotechnology is such an area of convergence—we may soon swallow camera pills instead of having CT scans or MRIs, or we’ll live with an implanted chip that monitors our bodily functions.
Innovation and regulation
During the Impact Forum, there was also broad agreement that we need more cooperation between the developers of drugs and products, and regulatory bodies.
As Susan Siegel, CEO of GE Healthymagination, said during a panel discussion, “Innovation already outpaces our system. Discoveries are immense, but we cannot get them out.” With their limited operating budgets, agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) often struggle with approving or clearing products quickly so they can benefit patients as soon as possible.
“The FDA today regulates 20 to 25 cents of every dollar spent in the United States,” said Vicki Seyfert-Margolis, senior analyst at the FDA. But the FDA’s operating budget is less than some counties spend on their schools. In the future, the process may benefit from having regulatory agencies integrated into the discovery and development process at an earlier stage, in order to avoid an information and analysis overload once products are submitted for approval. The clinical trials of the future may engage the FDA earlier in the drug development phase, which may help bring costs down and eliminate unsuccessful drug candidates early on, before they incur high costs.
Collaboration is in Sanford-Burnham’s DNA. Not only do we encourage collaboration among various teams at our Institute, we also work with many external organizations such as research institutions (Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute), universities (University of Central Florida, University of California, San Diego, Harbor Branch), clinical organizations (Scripps Health, Florida Hospital, Nemours Children’s Hospital), and pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer, Takeda, Johnson & Johnson) to advance our research and innovation.
It is through partnerships that we advance our basic medical research toward clinical utility. And it is through partnerships that we as a society have to solve the health care challenge. We strongly agree with Alex Gorsky that no one organization can solve the problems facing the health care industry alone. The challenge is too big and daunting.
Here’s a Lake Nona Institute video featuring several key Impact Forum speakers: