Pharma-Tech Partnerships: Key Success Factors

What does an ideal Pharma-Tech partnership look like? Learn from Merck, Sanofi, Boehringer Ingelheim and UCB

With tech companies making their presence felt in the health market and a demand for greater efficiency throughout the drug development process and patient journey, pharma needs to quickly build technology-driven capabilities. It can't do this alone, and tech partnerships offer a way forward. But for technology partnerships to reach their full potential and deliver real results, pharma must obtain a thorough understanding of the numerous factors that can influence their success.

To unlock the secrets of successful partnering, we interviewed leading experts who shared their knowledge and examined in-depth case studies of successful collaborations. Their insights and observations have been distilled in Pharma-Tech Partnerships: Key Success Factors, a report that provides critical lessons for everyone developing relationships with technology companies.

Successful case studies analysed...

UCB/Science 37's development of virtual clinical trials in which patients can participate in clinical trials from the comfort of their own homes.

Merck/Alibaba Health's agreement to develop a range of patient-centric digital healthcare services in China. Initially, the partnership will focus on the tracking and tracing of drugs to improve the safety and security of their use.

Boehringer Ingelheim/Qualcomm Life's partnership to develop a low-power sensor device for Boehringer Ingelheim's Respimat® inhaler for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Sanofi/Verily's development of digital technologies to help healthcare professionals treat and support patients with diabetes, as well as provide patients with new digital tools that make it easier for them to manage their condition.

Experts tackle key questions

What are the commercial advantages to pharma in forming partnerships with tech firms?

What criteria are needed for identifying the right tech partner and what are the pitfalls to avoid?

What type of agreements and contracts are needed to ensure the success of a pharma-tech partnership?

What are the specific roles required to form a successful pharma-tech team?

What KPIs should be set and how can the success of a partnership be effectively measured?

Case study specific questions include...

What motivated the partnership?

How do you ensure the goals of both companies are aligned?

How do you overcome the cultural differences between companies?

Within the partnership, have you been able to create a balanced business model that combines your company's strengths with those of your partner? If you haven't achieved this, what have been the biggest barriers?

Have you drawn up formal written agreements or contracts to define targets/milestones and both partners' roles and responsibilities? In your opinion, what do these contracts generally need to contain to ensure the success of the partnership?

What criteria do you use to ensure you find the right partner?

What our experts say…

"There are lots of motivating factors for pharma-tech partnerships. First of all, the two business areas are differently regulated, which means that pharma companies can get in closer contact with patients through a partnership with tech companies and obtain better access and use of their products. Secondly, the quest for better outcomes and value-based healthcare is to a large extent going to happen through tech inventions and the documentation of real-world data. These inventions can improve adherence and self-management of patients and facilitate the sharing of data, decision support, and an evidence-based dialogue between patients and healthcare professionals."Philip Munch, Roche Diabetes Care

"If there is one thing that determines the success of these partnerships, it is goal alignment, which can be very tricky, especially in terms of ensuring that the strategic priorities of key decision-makers within both companies remain aligned over time. For instance, you could have solid support for the partnership and then management teams' change and suddenly the partnership falls out of favour just because it was started by the previous leadership team. I have seen this happen in other industries too, such as media partnerships where there has been a shake-up in the management structure that has nothing to do with the merits of the project. Part of the solution is found in a solid contractual agreement, which companies can use to protect themselves from these unforeseen occurrences that are unrelated to the partnership. I think contracts offer some protection from it, but fundamentally, I do not know whether there is a way to be certain. In addition, you need champions within each of the companies, but they can also be let go or leave." David GrayCereval Therapeutics

"Pharma looks to technology because it is too risky not to. Fifteen years ago, pharma developed and marketed drugs with the support of a small sales force and everything was fine. It was a very nice business model. Today, payers are saying, 'We don't want to pay the same price because overall health care costs have increased by x percent and we just can't pay it anymore.' In the meantime, development costs are increasing. Therefore, pharma is being squeezed from all angles and the questions are: How do we disrupt ourselves before someone else comes in? If Amazon or Google enter into the healthcare market, as they already have done, what will they do? Hence, how can we disrupt ourselves with technology to be prepared for that?"Gergely VértesUCB

Expert contributors

David Gray is Vice-President at Cerevel Therapeutics, where he combines passion and expertise in delivering impactful therapeutics to consumers. Previously, Gray worked at Pfizer for over 13 years, starting as Senior Scientist before eventually progressing to become Senior Director. His experience in the different stages of clinical development and knowledge of various aspects of research, commercial planning and patient engagement make Gray a valuable contributor to this report.
Rogier Janssens is the Managing Director and General Manager of Merck Biopharma China and has been a key player in the pharma-tech partnership between Merck and Alibaba Health. An industry veteran with 25 years' experience in pharmaceutical sales and marketing, Janssens is passionate about shaping Merck's patient-centric healthcare strategy in China via advanced internet approaches.
Tero Laulajainen is the Vice President and Head of Global Clinical Science and Operations at UCB. Laulajainen is responsible for implementing strategies to navigate the ever-evolving clinical operations ecosystem at UCB by leveraging the benefits of pharma-tech relationships to facilitate R&D processes and accelerate development timelines.
Philip Munch is the Digital Solutions Manager and Roche Diabetes Care and the co-author of "Storytelling Branding in Practice." Munch is a results-driven individual with experience from Medtech, working with the Roche/mySugr digital ecosystem at a Nordic level, and from the pharmaceutical industry having worked 9 years at Novo Nordisk and the Steno Diabetes Center.
Brian Niznik is the Senior Director of Business Development at Qualcomm Life (QCL), US, where he is responsible for establishing and managing strategic alliances with key partners, including pharmaceutical companies and biomedical device manufacturers. Niznik is a key player in driving the ability of QCL to deliver the technology and engineering design for digital therapeutic solutions.
Tom Stanis is the Head of Software and Analytics at Verily Life Sciences, USA, where he leads all software projects, including the development of machine learning algorithms for applications ranging from robotic-assisted surgery to diabetes management. Throughout his career, Stanis has focussed on improving the user experience, and performance and scalability of systems through cross-functional collaborations.
Gergely Vértes is the Solution Accelerator Lead - Wearable for Epilepsy, UCB, Belgium. He has over 10 years of international experience in biopharma and digital health product development. In his role at UCB, Vértes is a key player in developing wearable technology to bring predictivity into epilepsy. His work will enable patients to have a more objective way to count their seizures via the use of technology.
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1. Subject synopsis
1.1. Intelligence exhibit
1.2. Sources
2. Research methodology and objectives
2.1. Methodology
2.2. Which experts were interviewed and why?
2.3. Objectives
3. Key insights summary
3.1. Rationale for partnership
3.2. Partnership alignment
3.3. Optimising partnership success
3.4. Partnership teams
3.5. Partnership challenges
3.6. Ensuring the success of future pharma-tech partnerships
3.6.1. Intelligence exhibit
4.Issues and insights
4.1. The rationale for pharma-tech partnership
4.1.1. Issue summary
4.1.2. Questions
4.1.3. Key insights
4.1.4. Supporting quotes
4.2. Partnership alignment
4.2.1. Issue summary
4.2.2. Questions
4.2.3. Key insights
4.2.4. Supporting quotes
4.3. Optimising partnership success
4.3.1. Issue summary
4.3.2. Questions
4.3.3. Key insights
4.3.4. Supporting quotes
4.4. Partnership teams
4.4.1. Issue summary
4.4.2. Questions
4.4.3. Key insights
4.4.4. Supporting quotes
4.5. Partnership challenges
4.5.1. Issue summary
4.5.2. Questions
4.5.3. Key insights
4.5.4. Supporting quotes
4.5.5. Sources
5. Case study 1 – UCB/Science 37
5.1. Background of partnership
5.2. Rationale for partnership
5.2.1. Questions
5.2.2. Key insights
5.2.3. Supporting quotes
5.3. Partnership alignment
5.3.1. Questions
5.3.2. Key insights
5.3.3. Supporting quotes
5.4. Optimising partnership success
5.4.1. Questions
5.4.2. Key insights
5.4.3. Supporting quotes
5.5. Partnership teams
5.5.1. Questions
5.5.2. Key insights
5.5.3. Supporting quotes
5.6. Partnership challenges
5.6.1. Questions
5.6.2. Key insights
5.6.3. Supporting quotes
5.6.4. Intelligence exhibits
5.6.5. Sources
6. Case study 2 – Merck/Alibaba
6.1. Background of partnership
6.2. Rationale for partnership
6.2.1. Questions
6.2.2. Key insights
6.2.3. Supporting quotes
6.3. Partnership alignment
6.3.1. Questions
6.3.2. Key insights
6.3.3. Supporting quotes
6.4. Optimising partnership success
6.4.1. Questions
6.4.2. Key insights
6.4.3. Supporting quotes
6.5. Partnership teams
6.5.1. Questions
6.5.2. Key insights
6.5.3. Supporting quotes
6.6. Partnership challenges
6.6.1. Questions
6.6.2. Key insights
6.6.3. Supporting quotes
6.6.4. Intelligence exhibits
6.6.5. Sources
7. Case study 3 – Boehringer Ingelheim/Qualcomm
7.1. Background of partnership
7.2. Rationale for partnership
7.2.1. Questions
7.2.2. Key insight
7.2.3. Supporting quotes
7.3. Partnership alignment
7.3.1. Questions
7.3.2. Key insight
7.3.3. Supporting quotes
7.4. Optimising partnership success
7.4.1. Questions
7.4.2. Key insight
7.4.3. Supporting quotes
7.5. Partnership teams
7.5.1. Questions
7.5.2. Key insight
7.5.3. Supporting quotes
7.6. Partnership challenges
7.6.1. Questions
7.6.2. Key insight
7.6.3. Supporting quotes
7.6.4. Intelligence exhibits
7.6.5. Sources
8. Case study 4 – Sanofi/Verily
8.1. Background of partnership
8.2. Rationale for partnership
8.2.1. Questions
8.2.2. Key insights
8.2.3. Supporting quotes
8.3. Optimising partnership success
8.3.1. Questions
8.3.2. Key insights
8.3.3. Supporting quotes
8.4. Partnership teams
8.4.1. Questions
8.4.2. Key insights
8.4.3. Supporting quotes
8.4.3. Intelligence exhibit
8.4.3. Sources
8.5. Ensuring the success of future pharma-tech partnerships
8.5.1. Issue summary
8.5.2. Questions
8.5.3. Key insights
8.5.4. Supporting quotes
8.5.5. Sources

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