BIO Super Session

Will COVID-19 Change the Future of Healthcare?

Among the many perils of COVID-19, one thing I appreciate is how the pandemic has forced us to connect, collaborate and foster relationships in unprecedented ways that we may have previously thought unrealistic.

For instance, this week’s BIO Digital conference is bringing together in a completely virtual setting thousands of people from the biotech industry, startups, entrepreneurs, government representatives, academics and many more stakeholders from around the world. I look forward to engaging in this new format, and am honored to participate in a session later this week to discuss how COVID-19 will change biomedical research and development across the globe.

The year 2020 is certainly one that future generations will study. From a global health pandemic to a civil rights movement, this year has been marked by uncertainty and fear; yet, amidst all of this, I have also seen progress and hope. Hope for a brighter future where all people – regardless of race, gender, beliefs, economic background, sexual orientation or any number of other factors that make us human – are treated with respect, have their voices heard and enjoy equitable rights and opportunities.

I also see a bright and exciting future of healthcare. As this pandemic evolved rapidly, we’ve also seen hundreds of companies pivot to focus on developing a treatment or vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Statistically, only a handful of these will go on to test their proposed solutions, and even fewer will bring them to market. Knowing the odds, the sheer number of innovators and organizations getting behind the quest for effective solutions, because they recognize the human need, is inspiring. This rapid, global, unified response to a novel threat demonstrates the scientific and healthcare community’s ability and willingness to rally in collaboration to solve critical health needs for mankind.

It also demonstrates the importance of a greater effort to understand root causes of disease, then develop solutions that prevent, intercept and cure diseases, rather than skewing our efforts towards treating illness. No better place to start than an infectious disease pandemic to highlight this need.

I anticipate that recent developments in science and technology, paired with the resolve emanating  out of the current health crisis, will lead to greater attention to the health and welfare of all people. Improvements in our public health infrastructure will focus our attention on factors that lead to susceptibility to disease and address those as we strive to form a more healthy society.  

As a physician scientist who has had the privilege of leading Janssen R&D and now heading J&J’s External Innovation group, I look forward to working with entrepreneurs around the world who are energized by today’s pandemic to move with urgency to prevent the next one and profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity.