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


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? 


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

Fuld + Company Blog

The material on this page draws on the research and experience of Fuld + Company thought leaders, consultants and others. Learn more about our expertise here.

Recent Posts

Request for Information

If you'd like someone at Fuld to contact you regarding your strategic competitive challenges, fill out the form below.