Photocredit: LEO Pharma

Speed ​​is Becoming a new Barometer within the ­Heavily Regulated and Conservative Pharma Industry

In the past they hunted the ideas themselves, now colleagues are proactively proposing innovative use ­cases for LEO Pharma’s R&D department as they see the value of technology innovation.

Digitalisation and globalisation creating both new business opportunities and challenges. Now, companies have to keep track of the rapidly developing industry to maintain their competitive advantage. Gone are the days where the company with the highest market share was tomorrow’s leader by default. Taking the lead requires company executives to understand how to innovate and adapt to the broader market.

Innovation comes in many forms whether at the production and product level, process, or business model.

At LEO Pharma, their new research and development department plays a crucial role in the company’s efforts to innovate. According to Troels Ravn Bærentzen, vice president of LEO Pharma and head of the newly established R&D data and analytics department:

“We need to be able to innovate across the board and follow the market, as well as be flexible about the business models we see today to help define what opportunities exist in the future. You cannot fail to innovate on any part of the business, but we naturally want to focus on creating new products.”

We are very transparent about our use cases, and they don’t necessarily have to create value measured in crowns and pennies
Troels Ravn Bærentzen, Vice ­President of LEO Pharma

Alongside his colleagues, Bærentzen is looking for opportunities to innovate LEO Pharma’s business by identifying how to effectively use data to optimise and streamline processes. In the end, refining their practices will help to get the company’s products to the market faster and benefit patients.

Different markets demand different solutions

Of course, it is essential to keep the external factors that affect business models in mind. After all, there is a big difference between whether products are shipped to the American or Danish market.

As Bærentzen explains: ‘The insurance industries dictate a patient’s treatment options and the medications available, so the health sector in each country has a major impact on how business models can be designed. In this, we must focus on what the patient journey looks like’.

The tendency in Denmark is to turn to ‘Dr. Google’ if we are experiencing any negative symptoms. Then we usually visit the doctor, who might refer us to a skin doctor or other specialists before we end up at the pharmacy to collect medication. However, in the future, these consultations will change, especially phone consultations. They will become more frequent and online pharmacies will be a more common option. This will result in a different ecosystem – not only in Demark but worldwide there will be greater access to medicine.

Bærentzen envisions that the ecosystem will also change the way they engage with stakeholders: “They are becoming innovative, so we have to be that way as well. We are turning to new directions as we develop our drugs in our clinical studies. It is no longer enough for us to take it slow, because our competitors are also in the market and they are constantly thinking about how to make their processes smarter and faster.”

New solutions demand new competencies

If LEO Pharma is too conservative and takes too much time to get their latest products to market, they run the risk that hospitals will not partner with them on their clinical tests. This applies equally to data collection and processing. In other words, it’s essential for teams to learn how to use artificial intelligence to make faster and better data-driven decisions.

That is why speed is a new barometer in the heavily regulated and conservative industry:

Photocredit: LEO Pharma

“When dealing with large amounts of data, we need to understand how artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and other new technologies can make multiple processes smarter while remaining within regulations. To be clear, the models and algorithms don’t make the decisions themselves, but they do support human decision-making. We put data on the table faster, so that we can make the right decisions faster,” Bærentzen explains.

We will start out by building a competency base which will end up being the driving force for the projects

It’s not only about research, then but also about information technology infrastructure. Mobilising this calls for the right competencies to use the right kind of data in the areas that most need it.

For this, LEO Pharma is looking to attract the right people with the right skills in the short term:

“We will start out by building a competency base which will end up being the driving force for the projects. However, when we do that, we will do it together with other business areas on specific projects, so our team never sits alone. They will always work with other parts of the business,” Bærentzen points out.

One use case at a time

From Bærentzen’s vantage point, the company has an appropriate size to innovate and their goals are clear. Theirs is a healthy innovation culture, one where it is okay to make mistakes. In fact, it is expected in building machine learning models you haven’t seen before.

Photocredit: LEO Pharma

LEO Pharma’s innovation strategy consists of building new solutions one use case at a time. The successful cases are implemented while the less successful ones are analysed to find out why they did not work out as hoped. Offering an inside look, Bærentzen explains:

“We are very transparent about our use cases, and they don’t necessarily have to create value measured in crowns and pennies. There can also be value in the quality and the speed of what we build. It can return value in many ways. If an algorithm for machine learning for some reason doesn’t work, we have to be open to asking: “why isn’t it working?” but of course, we need successes once in a while too”.

After all, successes are what puts the wind in the company’s sails to mobilise innovation:

“It’s not that the team necessarily has to understand the technologies, but rather that they start to see what you can use them for. Initially, we hunted for ideas ourselves, but with the more success we achieved our colleagues started to come to us. When you can see what the technologies are capable of, employees are buoyed by the goodwill.”