The BIG Leap (Part 1 of 2): Will Tech Companies Replace Traditional Life Sciences Incumbents?

Posted by Leonard Fuld on May 20, 2014 8:00:00 AM


In a scenario planning discussion with life sciences experts from MIT, Big Pharma, and biotech entrepreneurs, we facilitated a number of future stories focusing on the availability of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) talent. Scenario planning helps an organization envision a future very different from the present and develop concrete strategies that anticipate and prepare an organization for a change in future market and competitive conditions.

Considering where the discussion began, the group built a scenario that stood in sharp contrast to its initial assumptions about the future of STEM talent and the implications to the life sciences and biotech industries. Here is their scenario:


PALO ALTO, JANUARY 2, 2020 - Google has just launched its second blockbuster drug in the past three years, an almost unheard of accomplishment in the modern history of the pharmaceutical industry – except that only five years ago no one had ever thought to classify Google as a pharmaceutical company.   Amazon, Google, IBM and other high-tech behemoths have rapidly rewritten the rules of the life sciences business by collapsing the supposedly sacrosanct Discovery – Clinical Trials – Product Launch timetable by more than half. As IBM’s Watson 10th generation computing systems have shown, the company’s disciplined and nearly bottomless R&D talent pool can trump the comparatively medieval and bureaucratically cumbersome approaches of Big Pharma that ruled this marketplace for over a century.

Despite a shortage of technical and scientific talent in the United States and a drop in Federal Government funding, the high-tech industry has taken up the slack in drug R&D – along with the support of private investment groups from around the globe.

As Google cofounder Sergei Brin stated in a keynote speech at a major oncology conference, “Google is never one to leave money on the table. We saw a great efficiency gap in the pharmaceutical market and decided to take the lead in filling that gap and recognizing both the goodwill and the profits that we would enjoy….”

Do you believe in this story? Can it happen based on what you know today? 

In part two of this blog post, I will report on some of the implications noted by the group - as they peered through the STEM filter - for the future of life sciences in the coming decade. My bet is that some you already have considered a few of these future implications but that a few may be counter-intuitive surprises.

SEE RELATED ARTICLES – Fortune Magazine: America's tech talent shortage: Is it just myth?

Topics: Innovation, Pharma, Life Sciences

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