In 2019 seven well-known pharma companies including J&J, AstraZeneca and GSK started collaborating to train machine-learning algorithms for drug-discovery on each other’s data. They chose Owkin’s (a Google ventures-backed start-up) secure and blockchain-based system to analyze competitors’ data without revealing commercial secrets. It helped predict how new molecules will work and hopefully speed up the drug discovery process (1). 

Roche invested $175 million in cloud-based cancer software startup Flatiron Health. Flatiron Health’s software analyzes cancer treatment results. The goal is to speed up Roche clinical trials for new cancer treatments (2).

With R&D as a starting point, more and more exciting digital things are happening along the pharma value chain. Take the successful cooperation between diabetes start-up MySugr and, once again, Roche. MySugr and Roche offer a digital patient support service that combines an app based diabetes diary with Roche’s AccuCheck’s medical device. A 6-months survey of patients using the diabetes app revealed that out of 440 subjects almost 20% experienced a drop in average blood glucose levels and an average 1.3% drop in HbA1C (3).

Beyond services, pharma companies can enhance their products with medical sensors to collect the outcome data they increasingly need to prove the value of their drugs. US $387 million went to wearables and biosensing companies in 2015 (4). 

Proteus Digital Health is using microchips to monitor a patient’s drug taking behavior. Together with their prescribed drug(s) patients ingest a sensor: Once the sensor reaches the stomach it transmits a signal to a patch the patient wears on their torso. A digital record is sent to the patient’s mobile device and can be shared with their healthcare provider. Activity and rest can also be recorded (5). Another successful example comes from a study on wirelessly observed therapy (WOT) in tuberculosis therapy. Within the study, the mean detection accuracy of medicine intake was 98.7% (6).

More good news: pharma is willing to invest. “As part of our strategy to shape the future of healthcare and build new businesses in digital health, we are investing in integrated digital solutions to improve health outcomes through data driven solutions”, said Stefan Oelrich, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG in 2019 (7).

It is time for pharma to go digital. Now more than ever as we face the COVID-19 pandemic as pharma sales forces can’t easily access HCPs  and patients are confined to their homes.

The next blog will deep dive into addressing the $627 adherence problem with digital tools (8). 

Preview: Adherence is no one size fits all solution but can still be approached in a structured way.

Stay connected, stay healthy!


P.S.: Ariana can help you to succeed with a digital service  – get in touch to learn how she does it.

(1) Kuchler, H. (2019). Financial Times: Pharma groups combine to promote drug discovery with AI. (
(2) Ramsey, L. (2016). Business Insider: A cancer startup just raised $175 million from a pharmaceutical giant, and it could be where the industry is headed. (
(3) Ricci, M. (2017). Pharmaphorum: mySugr impresses, expands Roche partnership.(
(4) Sehlstedt, U. et al. (2016). Drug Discovery World: Digital Pharma – How Digital Is Reshaping The Pharma Arena. (
(5) Proteus Digital Health (2020). Website:
(6) Browne, S. et al (2020). Wirelessly Observed Therapy (WOT): a new paradigm in TB therapy monitoring. University of California San Diego / School of Medicine / Division of Infectious Diseases:
(7) Bayer Global (2019). Bayer and Informed Data Systems Inc. to develop One Drop digital therapeutics platform for multiple therapeutic areas. (
(8) Matthius, A. (2019). New study finds increasing adherence can boost pharma’s revenue. (