By

David Shaywitz

6
Jan
2021

mRNA Vaccines Inspire Hope for Emerging Technologies; Is Digital Pharma Next?

The mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, developed by Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer, were a conspicuous bright spot in a generally devastating year. Besides giving us a chance to bring the pandemic to an end, they remind us more generally of the profoundly transformative potential of emerging technologies.  Audacious scientific and entrepreneurial ambitions can take years of grinding persistence, often sounding unrealistic or...
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9
Dec
2020

Priority for Next Administration: Tech-Ready Health Leadership

From the moment Joe Biden takes the oath in January, his Administration will confront a brutal onslaught of urgent health challenges. The work starts with the complex distribution of a multi-dose vaccine to a remarkably skeptical public. To do this job, and countless others, there is a desperate need to upgrade the nation’s health data capabilities, which were pressure-tested by COVID-19...
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4
Nov
2020

Why Learning From Electronic Health Records Is So Appealing – And So Hard

The application of technology to medicine offers the promise of better, more intelligent care; yet success has proved elusive.  To better understand this, we will consider, first the broad ambition of the “learning health system,” understand the general challenges presented by electronic health records (EHRs), and then finally, consider the complexity of a topical use case: a consortia’s effort to...
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1
Nov
2020

Rebuffed as Overlords, AI Experts Return in Peace, Seeking Partnership with Clinicians

Why not healthcare? That’s the core question at the heart of efforts to apply emerging digital and data technologies to healthcare and life science.  As Suchi Saria, an entrepreneur and a computer scientist at John Hopkins, where she directs the Machine Learning and Healthcare Lab, puts it, in the 2000s, these technologies transformed sectors, such as banking, in a fashion...
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7
Oct
2020

Learning From COVID-19: The Lessons For Real World Data

The COVID-19 crisis created an urgent need for healthcare data. For starters, it was necessary to characterize the spread of the pandemic. Quickly, reports were needed on the capacity of healthcare facilities responsible for care of the severely afflicted. Then there was the urgent need to assess the trajectory, and outcomes, of patients admitted to hospitals.  The profound difficulty our...
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2
Sep
2020

Tech Impact Requires Deep Engagement With Biopharma Lead Users

In today’s Wall Street Journal, I review The Innovation Delusion, a new book arguing that innovation is overrated and maintenance is underrated; moreover, the authors assert, we have magical thinking around innovation, and often view it as fairy dust that can be imported from Silicon Valley then sprinkled on ossifying organizations to revive and rejuvenate them. (Steve Blank discussed the...
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26
Aug
2020

An Underappreciated Aspect of Power: Listening

As the summer draws to a close, I thought TR readers might enjoy a final August distraction. I’ve always been an avid reader, and lately, I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to the history and science of American politics.  On the history front, and inspired by Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer (an expert on power and leadership), I’ve started Robert Caro’s famously...
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31
Jul
2020

Closing Medicine’s Feedback Gap: Can Tech Help Integrate Clinical Care and Clinical Research?

Medicine is plagued by a feedback gap, or perhaps more accurately, a feedback paradox.  On the one hand, clinicians are bombarded by feedback. Every day, there are a slew of process and billing metrics to review, providing an accounting of the volume of patients seen, and the intensity of each visit.  How thorough was the exam? What procedures may have...
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30
Jul
2020

Jill Hagenkord’s Rags To Riches Story Reminds Us Why We Still Admire Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurial stories, often told through the narrative framework of the hero’s journey, are by now well past the point of cliché.  Yet, it’s important, perhaps even instructive, to remind ourselves every now and again about the exceptional, transformative power of entrepreneurship, the can-do thinking it motivates, and the remarkable progress it can propel. This potential emerged as a central theme...
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20
Jul
2020

Clinical Trials: High-Value Attack Surface For Pharmatech Entrepreneurs

There’s an emerging sense among early stage investors that there are profound opportunities at the intersection of healthcare and technology, and no shortage of white papers from consultants and venture groups addressing this topic. Consultant white papers tend to be focused on the inevitability of “digital transformation,” emphasize the $X billion dollar opportunity, and argue that if large organizations don’t...
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11
Jul
2020

Can Novartis Digitally Transform Clinical Development?

In 2018, Dr. Vas Narasimhan, newly-installed as CEO, told the Wall Street Journal he saw Novartis as “a focused medicines company that’s powered by data science and digital technologies.”  Since then, Novartis has tried to grow into this ambition, embracing the concept of digital transformation perhaps more conspicuously than any other large pharma.  It’s not easy, as Narasimhan himself acknowledged...
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11
Jun
2020

AstraZeneca Opens Its Digital Komono

AstraZeneca has emerged with a reputation as one of the industry’s most imaginative pharmas – it was named the “most innovative” global pharma company by IDEA Pharma in November 2019, and was cast as Gallant to GSK’s Goofus in a recent Financial Times piece examining their contrasting trajectories. In this context, I was especially excited when I saw what looked...
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5
Jun
2020

Tech Integration Into Pharma: A Report From The Front Line

Most biopharma companies can talk at some length about embracing data science, and sometimes it’s hard to get beneath the surface of what they’re doing, at least publicly. But it was my privilege recently to frame and moderate a very insightful recent conversation – recorded for on-demand viewing at this year’s virtual BIO 2020 conference. This provided an unusual opportunity...
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2
Jun
2020

Digital Natives and Skilled Operators: Weaving Data Science Into Pharma R&D

An abiding challenge at the intersection of technology and pharma R&D is the need to bring together two historically disparate cultures.  Tech companies tend to be led by engineers. Pharma R&D is generally run by chemists and biologists in the early stages, and by physicians further on in development. Each of these domains has its own distinct language, culture and...
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20
May
2020

Pharma’s Digital Champions Should Focus On Solving One Problem Well

Come for the tech, stay for the culture.  That seems to be the hope of most digital champions inside large pharma companies. These executives hope to instill in their organizations not only important new capabilities, but also a “Silicon Valley” mindset, an innovative spirit characteristically associated with tech entrepreneurs. The reality, of course, is more complicated; pharma executives – and...
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19
May
2020

COVID Doctors Navigate Tension Between Individual Autonomy and Systematized Care

I was recently speaking with a friend of mine, a pulmonologist at a large academic medical center in the Midwest, about his COVID-19 experience. I was especially interested, in the context of iterative experimentation, to learn how his hospital was working on improving the care of COVID-19 patients, especially those in the ICU, which he oversees.  It’s real problem, he...
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7
May
2020

Randomized Controlled Trials For Healthcare Delivery Work; Now Let’s Do More At Scale

The value of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in healthcare delivery was highlighted earlier this year with the publication in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) of a paper that rigorously evaluated a deeply appealing hypothesis: that you can improve care and reduce costs by focusing on “superutilizers” – the patients who consume the most healthcare resources.  I discussed this...
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22
Apr
2020

Build Back Better

As the nation has struggled to cope with the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has become the voice so many have looked to for support and leadership. What Cuomo seems both to offer and effectively communicate is not just a mastery of the facts, but also a grounded yet hopeful narrative. The story he projects...
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