In conversation with Nerida Scott: the latest trends in healthcare and how they’re influencing innovation

At this year’s BIO-Europe Spring Digital, I had a great discussion with Paul Tunnah, Founder of Pharmaphorum about the latest trends in healthcare and how they’ve influenced Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s (JJI’s) approach to collaboration. I have captured the essence of our thought-provoking conversation in this blog.

Nerida Scott

1. What’s most unique about working in innovation and JJI in particular?

It’s the breadth. There are few areas where you can work across pharmaceuticals, consumer health, and medical devices. The cross-sector capabilities of JJI enable us to identify truly transformational innovation that can positively impact patients and, in turn, change the whole paradigm of how a patient experiences healthcare.

“It’s the drive to try and find absolutely transformational innovation, we have to be delivering patient impact and value.”

2. What are the key shifts in the healthcare space that are impacting JJI’s approach to collaboration?

What’s accelerating is precision medicine. As we get more connected with data, disease information, and patient pathways, we have an opportunity to drive a patient-centric approach with a focus on keeping people well.

This is highlighted through our collaboration on the Whole Genome Sequencing Project with the UK Biobank which involves a consortium of UK government, charities, and leading biopharmaceutical companies. This world-leading Whole Genome Sequencing Project aims to sequence half a million people’s genetic code to better understand how genomics links to patients’ overall healthcare story. The exciting next step is to analyse supplementary proteomics data from a subset of this cohort to find links between genetics, disease processes and how that manifests in patient phenotypes.

“Precision medicine is really growing and accelerating as we get more connected with data and information about human disease pathways.”

3. How have advances in digital technologies impacted JJI’s collaborations?

Digital solutions and data are becoming increasingly important in our healthcare world. They can drive patient-centric innovation and demonstrate value to payors, patients and carers. The integration of behavioural and physical health metrics from data captured by remote assessment technology can support the delivery of truly holistic integrated healthcare.

One therapy area where digital solutions may be particularly impactful is in mental health. A recent example is our collaboration with Koa Health to research the delivery of digital cognitive behavioural therapy for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder patients, in conjunction with pharmacological treatments. This integrated approach involving a highly customised digital solution could improve outcomes for this difficult-to-treat patient population.

Digital solutions potentially have applications across detection/diagnostic pathways as well as monitoring and treatment. Johnson & Johnson identified lung cancer as a disease area with significant unmet need. Through the Lung Cancer Initiative, our goal is to eradicate lung cancer one patient at a time by developing solutions that prevent, predict, intercept and attempt to cure disease through consumer products, diagnostics, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals.

“There may be significantly more companion digital therapeutics in the future because how you monitor, treat and manage diseases is becoming more integrated.”

4. When looking at the European region, what changes have you seen to embrace the new digital reality?

When we look at health systems across Europe, we can see increased integration of digital solutions in their regulatory frameworks. For example, in Germany, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices has introduced a specific reimbursement pathway for some digital applications. This has expanded the access to these solutions and enabled a ‘test and learn’ approach where healthcare systems are incentivised to use digital platforms to drive efficacy and efficiency in healthcare delivery. Data privacy policies and regulations to allow secure and protected access to, and reimbursement of, digital health applications have been underway in European countries for some time and are likely to accelerate.

“The legislation in Germany is starting to peel away the onion of how we approach reimbursement of digital healthcare solutions.”

5. How has the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digitisation in healthcare?

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how fast we can all adapt to a new normal and this is evident within the biotech and healthcare industry with a pivot to the increasing inclusion of digital and data in our healthcare world.

The pandemic has seen a rise in collaborative research across the industry and changed how we engage with stakeholders including patients, payors, and physicians. The need to work remotely has altered how patients interact with healthcare professionals, including video consultations and home delivery of medicines. How we establish and conduct clinical trials has also changed, with everything from recruitment to monitoring being enabled digitally and remotely. By embracing new approaches to research and development, we aim to deliver better therapeutics and focus even harder on keeping people well.

“The pandemic has led to an explosion in life sciences collaboration and the public are more aware of this than ever before.”

6. What specific projects and collaborations most excite you right now?

We have recently entered an exciting collaboration in data sciences. Janssen and the University of Oxford have entered the cartography collaboration to develop a cellular map of genes and proteins across a range of immune-mediated inflammatory disorders. The map aims to support the characterisation of pharmacologically relevant therapeutic targets for future precision medicine.

“It’s about being able to predict what medicines we will need in the future and which ones we already have are most suitable for a given patient.”

Nerida Scott, PhD, Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, EMEA participated in an ‘In conversation’ chat at BIO-Europe Spring with Paul Tunnah, Founder of Pharmaphorum, Chief Content Officer & UK MD at Healthware Group. Registrants can view the full video recording here.