Digitizing healthcare opens opportunities for pharma, medtech and IT

Pharmaceuticals, medical technology, medical biotechnology are joining forces with IT companies to bring the "digital revolution" to healthcare. The latest alliances in this field were explored from a European perspective at the ninth Digital Health Solutions conference in Berlin on February 12. Many of the innovative, joint projects are for common diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer; all ailments that are expected to become more widespread as populations age.

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According to Marion Lükemann, the Director of the Export Initiative for the German Healthcare Industry – Health - Made in Germany, digitization also certainly offers German medical technology and pharmaceutical companies excellent opportunities that they are already exploiting. Strategic partnerships are of particular significance, she notes, such as the cooperation between Google and Novartis. Acquisitions of IT companies and big data platforms are similarly relevant. Pharmaceuticals companies use the big data platforms, for example, for "multiomics" data analysis (e.g. gene sequencing) but also in the area of clinical informatics (evaluation of clinical trials).

Besides, German medtech companies are using digitization to optimize production. Lükemann cites a current Siemens' project in "Virtual Manufacturing." Known as Siemens PLM, one of its aims – among many others – is enabling the simulation and design of customized and patient-specific artificial joints.

Medical technology companies are also using IT to help multiple sclerosis patients and diabetics. Bayer, for example, has a system known as Betaconnect for MS patients that includes an injection reminder and sharing of injection information. Diabetics can use another E-Health product, being described as a "coach," to manage their illness. That system is being created by a partnership between Google Life Sciences Analytics and Sanofi. A German SME, Emperra E-Health Technologies, is developing another system, ESYSTA, for diabetics, which, among other things, liberates patients from the burden of scrupulously recording insulin units and blood glucose values. It includes a device for measuring blood sugar levels, a smart insulin pen and assessment software that is accessible to doctors and patients alike to ease coordination of care. Recently, the company received a grant of several million euros from Robert Bosch Venture Capital for further work in this area.

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