Leading Japan-based drug company Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. has recently held a two-day event in Israel, aimed at scouting for new digital healthcare firms. Two representatives of Takeda International, Chief Digital Officer Bruno Villetelle and Head of Europe, Middle East and Africa Stephanie Bova, who is involved in the Takeda Digital Accelerator, have joined Takeda's Israel office manager, Arie Kramer, in order to get acquainted with Israel's leading technologies.
Like many drug companies, Takeda is highly interested in digital technologies that could be utilized in the drug sector. In some cases, it has acted to buy the technology, in other it is only a user. However, it has often formed partnerships with startup companies, enabling the development of technologies beneficial to both the drug company and the consumer. In such cases, the startup brings its digital and consumer-related know-how, while the drug company contributes its knowledge and experience in the field of healthcare, as well as its understanding of the consumer's behavior as a patient.
Takeda, which recently marked its 200-year anniversary, is traded at a market cap of $35 billion. In the past few years, it has focused on the fields of oncology, the digestive system and the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord). It founded its Israel office two and a half years ago.
Reminders for prescriptions
What kind of cooperation is Takeda already conducting?
Bova: "We maintain a consumer service program. Once you undergo a diagnosis, you are able to log in to an application that provides reminders regarding prescription renewals, recommendations on living with the disease, games teaching how to contend with the illness in a way that will easier to memorize and less oppressive.
"We are currently developing a doctors' portal, which will enable doctors to find medical information regarding our drugs and the diseases that we treat. We have discovered that 7% of doctors will visit drug company websites, but 50% will be willing to ask questions in a forum under the auspices of a drug company. People seek to receive information when they want it and not when you want to provide it."
Villetelle: "We try to provide extensive in-company education for managers and employees concerning the way digital means could be integrated into our communication with people, and we have many cooperation venues."
The partnership scouting event has been held in cooperation with Start-Up Nation Central Ltd. In the past, Takeda had been aided in scouting for technologies in Israel by the Israeli fund OrbiMed Advisors LLC, its partner in the FuturRX incubator.
"We have been searching for technologies related to our core medical operations and to capabilities such as diagnostics, customer support in taking medicine and general patient service. In the future, we will also examine FinTech solutions that could help with our economic interface with hospitals and doctors, as well as cyber solutions. We will be pioneers in these fields."
What interesting projects have you seen?
Bova: "We have met with a company named Data2Life. What I liked about them is their capability to simultaneously examine data from social networks and patient communities, as well as more structured information from medical records, in order to provide advance warning regarding drug side effects, based on the intersection between symptoms appearing in the records and conversations between patients. They compete with well-established companies in this field in the US, and are doing it better. They are already running a pilot with Clalit Health Services.
"Another company does not even deal with healthcare. They have developed an incredible technology identifying terrorists in social networks. They are able to predict, with a 70% certainty, compared with 30% using existing means, whether a person is planning a terrorist attack. We are trying to understand how this capability could be implemented in the world of healthcare.
"Another excellent company, ElMindA, is capable of mapping neural networks in the brain that operate in different situations. In a clinical trial we are running, we are testing whether their technology could be used to improve the way brain treatment drugs are being developed and tested."
What are currently the hottest, most futuristic global developments in the field of digital healthcare?
Bova: "We have been interested in the field of augmented and virtual reality. For example, enabling a person to experience how his body looks and functions from the inside and how the drug operates there, as well as in artificial intelligence in the field of epidemic prediction, stock shortages, predicting side effects and etc."
What parameters, other than technology, are you examining in such companies, when you consider cooperating with them?
Bova: "We want to understand what competition these companies are facing, although some do not have competitors."
Villetelle: "We are trying to understand the companies' chances of survival, since we will not offer our clients a product that is likely to suddenly disappear. Obviously, we also look into their team, and see if they have anyone in the organization who could become involved enough in the project to push it forward."
Villetelle: "It feels that two days have not been enough. There are some amazing things here. Israel is the startup nation, but it also the health data nation. You started building your databases several decades ago (the personal digital records maintained by healthcare services), and this is a unique asset. We believe that better information leads to better decisions, and thereby to better results."
Kremer: "We have enjoyed seeing companies not only presenting the technology itself, but also showing a fair understanding of the market. Some of the companies are already in contact with healthcare services, which constitutes an important initial demonstration of feasibility which is unique to Israel."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 24, 2016
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016