Collaboration & Agility – Core Themes & Lessons from Reuters Pharma USA 2021

At this year’s Pharma USA conference, Collaboration was the theme of the opening keynote session and a common thread woven throughout the event as industry leaders gathered to discuss how to move “Beyond Normal” to shape the future of health.

The event aimed at challenging attendees to not return to our old ways of working. To set new boundaries for partnerships across healthcare, implementing operating models that aren’t just resilient, they ensure a sustained cultural shift toward authenticity, patient centricity and agility.

John Young, Pfizer’s Group President and Chief Business Officer kicked off the event with a fireside chat on the value of competitive collaboration in driving innovation and creating a roadmap to delivering important medicines to patients who need them.

Over the past 18+ months, we’ve seen that the right collaboration brings together unique capabilities to create unprecedented innovation.

Collaboration in Action

Pfizer’s partnership with BioNTech is one example of what Forbes’ Magazine dubbed “The Great Coronavirus Collaboration.” In response to COVID-19, Pharma was forced to quickly pivot and explore new ways of working to act with urgency and a sense of responsibility. Pfizer’s size, solid manufacturing capability and experience running large scale vaccine trials combined with BioNTech’s strong science, created a synergistic effect that resulted in the first COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA for emergency use in December 2020, just 336 days after the genetic blueprint of the virus was published.

Beyond drug discovery, we witnessed Pharma pull together in ways that would have never been considered in the past. For example, where they had capacity in the supply chain, Pfizer further leveraged its capability to support other pharmaceutical organizations, which was evident when we saw Pfizer team up with Gilead to support the production of Remdesivir.

The unexpected wave of teamwork in 2020 gave us important lessons on the power of such collaboration and its potential to deliver a similar impact with a similar sense of urgency for patients suffering from illnesses where treatment options are still needed.

Breaking Down Silos

Panellists reminded us that when it comes to collaboration, it’s important to look inward as well. Other speakers highlighted the results of their efforts to drive cross-functional collaboration within their organizations to deliver greater impact to patients through enhanced customer experience.

Andy Kennemer, Vice President, Customer Experience & Digital Innovation at GSK, shared a case study on GSK’s efforts to transform from a brand-centric organization to a customer-centric organization by creating collaborative roadmaps across internal teams. Working cross-functionally is the real re-engineering that must happen to add value at every customer touchpoint, and he sums up that effort in one word: Agile.

Agile ways of working pull together cross-functional teams to facilitate collaboration, break down silos, create common goals, align objectives and deliver speed and agility in the process. For organizations looking to embed these principles in their own organizations, Andy offered the following suggestions:

  • Start Small. Create a small, dedicated Agile team and empower them to move fast and make decisions. Stay as lean as possible to start – one brand, one customer type – to mitigate risk.
  • Disrupt the Old Ways. Use Agile planning tools to break work down into components to see where bottlenecks exist and identify new pathways.
  • Reduce the Handoffs. Find where stages of work have too much idle time or where tasks sit waiting for action. Create a passing lane to speed approvals and review if necessary to keep things moving.
  • Build & Scale. Once you have a viable working model, add more brands and specialized roles as you scale, adding new pods as you go.
Keeping Patients at the Center of Care

Anchoring the conversation around critical collaborations, Fatima Scipione, Head of Global Oncology, Patient Advocacy and Engagement and Kristen Huehbner, Associate Director, Engagement Strategy, BMSspoke to the importance of keeping patient insights and experiences at the center of the strategy.

While unbiased, 2-way connection with patient advocacy groups can be valuable, collaboration with patients, who are living with short-and-long-term-diseases, is crucial to understanding how we can improve their experiences at every stage in their healthcare journeys. Listening to patients will provide direction on what type of collaboration is most valuable. Depending on the insight you are looking to acquire, the solution may be a secondary research project or a roundtable with advocates – or something else.

Pharma USA 2021 was committed to instilling in attendees what it will take to deliver true impact to patients, and to healthcare professionals who treat them. Moving “beyond normal” will empower pharma and health leaders to drive new collaborations, greater innovations, and more personalized experiences that will continue to enhance the lives of patients.




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