By Alex Keown
To spur innovation and bolster ties with tech giants, Swiss pharma giant Novartis plans to set up innovation labs across the globe to partner with these companies to spur the development of new therapies.
The project, called Novartis Biome, will begin in San Francisco with a partnership with Mekonos and Medable, two Silicon Valley companies, Bloomberg reported this morning. Mekonos develops cell and gene therapies and Medable is a digital health firm. Bertrand Bodson, Novartis’ chief digital officer, told Bloomberg that now is a time when technology, big data and science are merging. Novartis, like many other companies, is looking to harness the power of big data and machine learning to develop more precise treatments for diseases such as cancer.
In New York, Novartis Biome formed partnerships with digital health company Hitlab and is also working with companies like Veta Health and ConversationHealth on various medical projects, Bloomberg reported.
Last year, ahead of taking over the reins of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan stressed the need for more efficient use of digital technology. At the time, Narasimhan said he intended to partner with companies that are specialists in artificial intelligence and data analytics. The move was intended to streamline Novartis’s strong but scattered data science capability,” Narasimhan said at the time. Bodson, a veteran of Amazon and Sainsbury’s Argos, was brought onboard Novartis about the same time that Narasimhan was tapped as the replacement for now-former Chief Executive Officer Joseph Jimenez. When Bodson was hired in August 2017, Novartis said he was expected to “lead the digital transformation Novartis has embarked upon to improve the way the Company uses data in drug discovery and development, engages with patients, doctors and other stakeholders, as well as automating business processes.”
With Bodson aboard and the new mission, Novartis has also made significant investments in its new path. In July, Novartis formed a deal with SHYFT Analytics to harness that company’s intelligent platform for life sciences. Novartis intends to use the platform to support the commercialization of key therapies in Europe. Novartis said it will use Shyft’s Strata Data Platform to “aggregate and manage” third-party and proprietary commercial data sources, as well as its Lumen Insights Platform to “deliver intuitively-designed analytics” that will be used to “drive the next-best-actions for commercial teams.” Through the power of Shyft’s platforms, Novartis said the partnership will “simplify and accelerate the aggregation, assimilation, and analysis of scores of disparate data sets that inform commercial sales and medical education programs.”
Novartis also formed an alliance with Chinese tech firm Tencent Holdings as it looks to harness that company’s digital power to develop innovative therapies in the Chinese market.