The BIG Leap (Part 2 of 2): What's Next for Life Sciences If Big Data Dominates the World?

Posted by Leonard Fuld on Jun 12, 2014 9:00:00 AM

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Imagine a future world in which technology companies would come to the rescue of the traditional life sciences industry. A world dominated by Big Data companies, such as Google, rather than a world of firms that live with lab benches and test tubes. A world like this might produce a highly efficient and cost-effective life sciences industry where virtual talent could easily supplant large supplies of scientists married to one location.

This scenario was previously detailed in a scenario planning discussion and blogpost here. Let’s say Google tries to “own” some part of the life sciences market, what strategic implications would a biotech or pharmaceutical firm need to consider? Below are a few strategic imperatives for this Big Data world.

  • More bets, smaller bets. Pharmaceuticals and biotechs will make smaller bets and more of them.  Private money – not government grants – will fuel these bets. Biotechs will take experiments and pre-market products, and then license them out to Big Pharma companies that still have the marketing organizations they need to become successful. 
  • Foundations could replace government as a funding source. There will be more R&D partnerships between Gates Foundation-type organizations and biotechs, as well as Big Pharma. Private foundations will only supplement, not totally replace, anemic government funding in the future.
  • Crowd sourcing will become a fundamental R&D engine. This will allow same or similar levels of R&D without corporations having to incur the overheads they do today.
  • Google and other Big Data companies will rethink and re-shape how science does R&D altogether, redirecting its labor from the lab bench to solving health challenges using computing power and mathematics.

On this last point, a number of voices around the room questioned a Google’s ability to go beyond the Big Data analytics. That is, could a Google develop the wherewithal to manage clinical trials, submit NDAs and generally learn the competencies needed to fully enter the healthcare, drug-development mainstream?   While a Google may not have these competencies today, most participants agreed at the end of this mini-debate that it is very possible for Google to not only could manage the administrative tasks needed to launch a drug but also likely find a way to rewrite the drug submission and launch rules altogether.

A parting message

You can be sure that no single future story will describe our world in ten years. In fact, our future will likely be a combination or more than one of these stories. That is exactly the point of our scenario planning workshops. If you are doing your job right as a strategist your goal is not to predict the future but rather to outline the boundaries – where our world can take us in five, ten or twenty years from now on a particular issue and understand the implications should they actually happen. If this world came to be in 2020, what are the strategic implications for you and your R&D operations over the coming decade? 

SEE RELATED ARTICLES:

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

Fortune Magazine: America's tech talent shortage: Is it just myth?

Topics: Product Roadmap, Innovation, Pharma, Scenario Analysis, Life Sciences

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