In 2019, we saw pharma pulling back from some of its digital health partnerships.

Sanofi announced a surprising decision to back out of its joint venture around diabetes with Verily and to stop funding Onduo. This high-profile, big investment partnership was originally touted as an example of Sanofi’s commitment to innovation. Now that they are backing out, people wonder if Sanofi is losing interest in digital health.

Another significant announcement was the decision from Novartis’ Sandoz to end its novel commercialization partnership with Pear Therapeutics. In Q3 2017, Pear garnered a lot of attention for receiving US FDA approval as a “digiceutical” (digital therapy) for addiction treatment. In March 2018, the company signed a joint venture deal with Novartis. But a year later, the deal was off.

Shortly thereafter, Proteus Digital Health’s pharma partner Otsuka announced it would not commit to additional investment toward the ingestible sensor company, forcing Proteus to lay off most of its employees.

Where do these retreats leave early-stage digital health companies looking for the benefits of a big pharma partner? Are pharma companies going to turn their backs on digital health innovation in 2020?

In this video produced by Pharmaphorum, Dr. William Hait, global head of Johnson & Johnson External Innovation, talks about how the organization is hoping to accelerate this shift through the convergence of digital and traditional R&D.