While IT is probably the only ones talking about the 3rd platform, key stakeholders holding company purse strings have continued their focus on productivity, performance, and outcomes as ongoing justification of internal resources remains tightly managed. While seemingly simple, operational excellence in life science R&D remains challenging as the goalposts continue to move, driven by both changing business models and rapid innovation (both scientific and technological). This is not expected to change in 2016 (and beyond), but the pace of progress is expected to greatly exceed that of times past. Agility, regulatory rigor, and ease of transition will be among the key differentiators separating the winners from the losers in 2016, driving the industry closer towards the operational maturity already present in other industries.
The decision to externalize non-core competencies has strongly and irreversibly impacted the life science industry, and especially life science R&D. External discovery research collaborations are the norm and clinical development is primarily being performed by external CROs in place of internal resources. These changes have required significant IT infrastructure changes, which in most cases, are also being supported externally. At the same time, new scientific and technological advances (e.g. routine access to company-specific and/or disease-specific whole genome sequencing data) are providing a wealth of new data to begin to better understand diseases at the mechanistic level. This knowledge promises to enable more personalized medicine over the near term as discoveries are translated into both better diagnostics and new treatment options.
As both drug companies and their supporting vendor ecosystem consider their market strategies for 2016, it will be important to level set growth expectations based on practical business considerations. While highly innovative companies will always seek to break the mold in driving progress, most companies will be constrained by more practical metrics (e.g. near term ROI, quarterly reports, or other preset milestones). Leading innovators would be wise to externally validate their strategies to ensure that their underlying assumptions are sound and recognizing that with new business models bring influencers and other key success factors that may originate outside of traditional industry best practices.
As many already know, a favorite quote of mine is "May you live in interesting times," which is attributed to Confucius. We in the life sciences are certainly living in interesting times, with the expectation for much more of the same to come. Best of luck to all in 2016 and, as always, comments and alternative opinions are always welcome and appreciated.