That meeting was focused on biopharma, and started with a talk by Elias Zerhouni, president of Sanofi's Global R&D, on innovation and India. Billed as the keynote, he had to cancel plans to attend at the last minute and instead participated from Paris, via a near-lifelike videocast. “I was struck several years ago by the extraordinary ability of the healthcare system in India to adopt new technologies to provide high quality care at low cost…so I know there is the fundamental power and energy to create in India,” he started off.
Sanofi, of course, bought India’s Shantha Biotechnics vaccines business, where it is working to produce vaccines at low cost for the global market. The company also has a partnership with Glenmark on developing a monoclonal antibody for inflammatory diseases. “It is possible to see that India has capability of addressing very fundamental obstacles that exist in R&D,” Zerhouni said. "…No one, no country, no organization, has all the needs to master the complexity of biology and to have access patient population and patient samples that would give us profound insights into disease. The role of India is to innovate, not just the delivery of health care, which it has been excellent at doing, not just be less costly, what makes the difference is creativity.”
Zerhouni wasn’t specific but others at the one-day conference gave examples. The Boston Consulting Group has studied India’s capacity for innovation in healthcare, which BCG partner Bart Janssens, who is based in Mumbai, called India’s “magic beans.” According to BCG, these are information technology and computational research, which could help direct pharma’s growing appetite for big datasets (biology is becoming an information science, one speaker noted). Also on the list: nanotechnology and, to no one’s surprise, process efficiencies, a hot topic, particularly in the area of translational research .
In health care, much of the reverse innovation activity has been on the device side, which Govindarajan and Trimble, along with GE CEO Jeff Immelt, wrote about in the Harvard Business Review in October 2009. That article received a lot of attention and gave some circles in pharma food for thought, although pharma seems to be a step behind.
Nevertheless, as I grab the book and run out the door, with more say on this post-holiday, it seems worth pointing out a mainstay of pharma's efforts to capture innovation, namely through deal making. And this week's activities boil down to....