California’s Low-Cost Insulin Is Symptom of Lifesaving Innovations to Come

California’s plans to manufacture its own insulin is the most recent example of a life sciences industry in the throes of tremendous upheaval. Imagine if every hospital could manufacture medications without leaving the building, producing regulatory compliant 3D-printed medications and medical devices on demand. How about if developing countries could quickly set up turnkey, self-contained medical production operations to quickly dispense vaccines when diseases flare up?

These were among the innovations that Michael Schmidt, cofounder and executive board member of Tenthpin Management Consultants, shared when he spoke at a recent SAP-sponsored event with customers and other partners about the transformational opportunities facing the life sciences industry.

“Moving manufacturing to the point-of-care will disrupt the traditional pharmaceutical supply chain with the patient on the first floor and the manufacturing facility in the basement,” said Schmidt. “With production downstairs, you’ve reduced your physical supply chain to an elevator, limiting costly risks from transportation delays or patient no-shows and disrupting packaging norms. Self-contained production facilities for vaccines are another innovation, supporting the fundamental right to people’s health in developing countries.”

Headquartered in Switzerland, Tenthpin is a global management consulting firm focused on life sciences companies worldwide. Drawing from his firm’s experience working with pharmaceutical and biotech organizations, medical device manufacturers, clinical researchers, and other clients, Schmidt shared an intriguing look into what happens when life sciences ecosystems are driven by health outcomes and market demands shift from patient treatment to prevention, diagnostics, and cure.

Cloud-Based Collaboration Is Central to Outcome-Driven Healthcare

Supply chain disruptions – with positive results – are a symptom of the transformational journey that every life sciences organization is undergoing. In an environment where health outcomes matter most, life sciences companies are moving business models towards value-based care, conducting research and evaluating drugs and treatments based on comparative effectiveness and risk-based pricing. In this context, California’s decision to make its own insulin shows the dramatic impact across healthcare value chains as power shifts to governments and payers intent on reducing costs.

Talking during the SAP life sciences event, Schmidt saw cloud-based platforms as critical to bringing experts together for faster innovation and mentioned COVID-19 vaccine development as an example of competitors working together towards a shared objective to save lives.

“Life sciences organizations are collaborating to connect data across a patient-centric value chain for early engagement of partners in areas like research and manufacturing,” he said. “We believe there will be more opportunity-driven collaborations in the future. For example, the supply chain changes fundamentally with compressed timeframes between research, production, and delivery. You want to be set up from an organizational perspective to allow for more strategic ad hoc and cross-industry collaborations such as ramping up new facilities to adapt your manufacturing footprint in response to ongoing disruptions.”

Data Sharing for Human-Centered Healthcare

As the healthcare industry explores advanced therapies, personalized treatments, and services, there’s a shift from traditional batch to continuous manufacturing. New technologies provide greater access to real-time patient data for developing more effective drugs with improvements in the patient experience and health results. However, these market ramp-ups stress existing business and treatment models.

“Personalized treatments mean that organizations suddenly get much closer to patients,” said Schmidt. “The human health experience is all about connecting a tremendous amount data – which room of the house you were in when you took the medication and what you had for breakfast. Technology allows us to collect, analyze, and reuse detailed data.”

Schmidt urged companies to consider the next evolution of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, investing in data governance and data quality now for automation and other innovations built on cloud-based platforms.

“The life sciences value chain of tomorrow is data-driven and patient-centric, putting technology at the heart of industry transformation,” said Schmidt. “Once you have a stable system core, you’ll be well-positioned for the future growth of markets such as cell and gene therapies for personalized treatment regimens.”

The Next Treatment Innovation Is One Elevator Ride Away

Organizations in the life sciences industry face numerous other challenges such as imminent patent expirations and increasingly complex regulations, including waste reduction. But technology has a major role in all areas, for instance, speeding up the development of advanced treatments and regulatory approvals so innovations reach patients faster. Schmidt advised companies to connect digital transformation plans to high-end strategic innovations expected years down the road, as well as tomorrow.

“The life sciences industry is at a crossroads, and we need to reimagine its future,” he said. “The next disruptors are companies that may have a portfolio of investments, or are partnering with different networks, using external manufacturing and other innovations, creating competitive IP in new ways. There’s a significant opportunity for established and startup entrants that are collaborating with connected data to better understand how human body works and prevent and cure disease.”

California’s trailblazing efforts to manufacture a drug is just one way that the life sciences industry is getting a healthy makeover. Let’s hope industry leaders heed the call to collaborate in new ways for more life-saving innovations.


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This also appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.