Ambitions in Health: Tech Giants [2020]

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Publication Date:
October 2020
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The march of tech giants in healthcare continues—but to what end?

COVID-19 has accelerated the digital health agenda and raised stakeholder awareness of the value of technology across the healthcare landscape. As more tech companies enter the health arena, pharma is challenged to engage, utilizing tech capabilities in AI and machine learning to unlock the insights from its vast data stores and to improve its scientific and commercial operations and performance. Partnerships and co-working may increasingly characterize pharma/tech relations, but at what point does collaboration become competition?

To examine the growing ambitions of major technology companies in health, we interviewed pharma and health technology experts. In Ambitions in Health: Tech Giants they reveal how, from their perspective, the pharma/tech relationship is working out, the touchpoints of mutual interest and the operational challenges each sector faces.

Pharma and Tech experts explore key questions:

  • How are tech giants changing the healthcare stakeholder landscape?
  • Alphabet (Google), Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM: where are they having an impact and what are their ambitions?
  • What impact will the COVID-19 pandemic have on tech giants' ventures into health and on the relationship between big tech and pharma?
  • How have data protection laws affected the development of digital health solutions offered by tech giants?
  • Are big tech companies vying for the same opportunities as pharma? If so, what are the implications of this tension between the industries?
  • How are AI-led technologies changing the future of drug discovery?
  • It's all about the people: How can pharma compete for digital, analytical and AI talent?

What the experts say

"Cybersecurity has developed, but is very poorly implemented. We still have huge cybersecurity issues. Data privacy is one area we've failed at. Even the notion of using blockchain with its immutable records sounds super promising, but the reality is they have not been adopted. In the case of more traditional cybersecurity, even if there are better algorithms, the implementation has been quite low. It's almost as though it's not until people have had a major data leakage that has hit a bottom line that cybersecurity issues have made it to the top of an executive committee's desk. Otherwise, it's been in the sole responsibility of IT, who have to manage that budget in the context of just getting email to work properly."
Milind Kamkolkar, Cellarity
Pharma expert

"In pharma, we are very much afraid of regulation; just look at the GDPR regulations that came up. It is unbelievable, the work that has been going on internally in the company to get ready for this. There is nothing to be afraid of. It's just regulatory. Get someone that understands it, and then we work and create our solutions to fit within the regulatory boundaries given to us. Tech giants are not afraid. If they see the need, they will develop the solution and figure out how to make it compliant afterwards."
Tommy Annfeldt, Biogen
Pharma expert

"Big tech and pharma are vying for the same opportunities, especially in drug development, where AI and patients' data are used. However, the collaboration of pharma and big tech would ideally work best, rather than competition."
Doron Ben-Ami, ShizimXL and Medison Pharma,
Medtech expert

"Fight for talent remains fierce in both the pharmaceutical sector and tech sector. The majority of people in healthcare continue working for healthcare organisations, including providers, payers, MedTech, and pharma/life sciences. However, we are seeing more and more specialised talent with life science experience being hired within healthcare verticals of big tech companies. "This has a positive impact for both sectors as it implies that big tech companies develop stronger use cases applied to fields in pharma and life science, which in turn offers pharma/life science the possibility of hiring people who have stronger experience in underlying technological specialties such as high-tech devices, healthcare cloud computing, and AI applied to life science (genomics, immunomics, cognitive vision)."
Bruno Denys, Microsoft
Tech expert

Case studies included

  • Amazon's improvement of prescription drug delivery and patient assistance
  • Dealing with high volume COVID enquiries: Google's Rapid Response Virtual Agent program
  • Steth IO's device for remote COVID-19 monitoring
  • Premier Health collaborate with IBM to develop solutions for administrative workflow
  • Microsoft improves clinical trial recruitment processes with AI
  • Johnson & Johnson's partnership with Apple for clinical atrial fibrillation research

What to expect

A detailed report exploring where and how tech giants are driving the digital health revolution and the implications and opportunities for pharma:

  • An examination of 14 key issues that are driving tech giants' behavior and ambitions
  • 20 targeted questions put to pharma and health technology experts
  • Their responses which provided 65 insights supported by 108 directly quoted comments

Deliverables: Includes a PDF report and PowerPoint slide deck

Ambitions in Health: Tech Giants is delivered as:

  • A detailed PDF report including all insights, quotes and intelligence exhibits
  • A useful PowerPoint slide deck providing a summary of the report's key findings for presentations and sharing with colleagues

Pharma and health technology expert contributors

This report reveals the insights of both technology and pharma experts to provide a 360-degree view of tech giants' activity in health.

Pharma contributors met the following criteria:

  • Over 5 years' experience in a pharma role that has a digital component, such as digital strategy, customer engagement, drug development or data analytics


  • A named digital role: Chief Digital Officer; Digital Engagement, Digital Health, Digital Strategy or Digital Transformation Lead

Health technology professionals met the following criteria:

  • Over five years' experience in a digital health-related role at a health technology company
  • Experience in health-related AI tools or cloud systems

Experts interviewed included:

  • Doron Ben-Ami is a seasoned executive with over 20 years of experience in management and leadership roles within the pharmaceutical, medical device and digital health fields. Doron served as Associate Vice President for the Eastern European and Israel region at Merck (MSD), Managing Director of the Merck subsidiary in Israel, and General Manager of Lundbeck Israel. Since 2015, Doron has held the role of Senior Consultant for The Harel Group Inc., a business development advisory group for companies in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries. He also joined Medison Pharma Ltd. as the Head of International Markets in 2018. Doron is the founder of Triticum Medical, an early-stage start-up company, which is developing a clot retrieval device to be used in the treatment of acute ischemic stroke and occlusions in peripheral vessels. Passionate about innovation within the field, he is also the CEO of ShizimXL Innovation Center, an accelerator for promising Medtech seed companies.
  • Bhushan Bonde is the Head of IT, Early Solutions Innovation Development at UCB, UK. He is currently working as the innovation lead on artificial intelligence and machine learning for R&D, as well as repurposing open-source software to promote innovation. In his previous position at UCB, he led a team focused on data integration, image and 'omics'-based data management, and analytics-based drug discovery projects. With over 15 years of experience in Computational Biology, Bhushan continues to explore new areas of research, including next-generation sequencing, gene signature-based mapping for drug repurposing, digital/sensors data and biological imaging. For this report, Bhushan leans on his technological expertise to provide valuable insights into the ambitions of tech giants within the health sector.
  • Federico Chinni is the Managing Director of UCB Italy. He has accumulated over 20 years of experience in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors, holding leadership positions in Covidien, Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie before moving to UCB in 2018. In his current position as Managing Director, he is focused on digital transformation in pharma, emphasizing the importance of innovation and digital as well as long-term orientation and patient-centric ideals.
  • Rudolf Denelyan is the Digital Transformation Lead at Roche, Russia. He is an omni-channel marketing leader with experience in the pharmaceutical and specialty care markets. Prior to Roche, Rudolf served in various management-level marketing positions in pharma companies including Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck and Pfizer. Currently, his focus is on the digital transformation of sales and marketing functions, the use of different promotional channels and the development of effective strategies for customer engagement in pharma and biopharma. He is also pursuing best practices for the adoption of technology for business processes and cost-effective solutions.
  • Bruno Denys has held the role of Business Lead for Pharma and Chemical Industries at Microsoft, Belgium, since January 2018. Prior to this, he worked for Orange Business Services for eight years, starting as a Global Account Director and progressing to Business Development Director. Bruno holds master's degrees in Applied Economics and Intercultural Management, and International Economics. He also took part in an Erasmus program of Applied Economics, Business Administration and Management. In his current role, Bruno's key focus is applying artificial intelligence to support the business transformation of the pharma and chemical industries. He is a results-oriented, out-of-the-box thinker with 10 years of experience in international business development.
  • Milind Kamkolkar is the Chief Digital Officer for Cellarity, the first integrated biotech company to design medicines targeting cell behavior. He is an expert in digital disruption and AI, with a focus on health and sustainability. Over his 20-year career, he has also gained experience in start-ups, consulting and Fortune 500 enterprises. Before Cellarity, Milind served in top management positions of companies including Sanofi, Novartis and Cognizant. For this report, Milind leverages his digital health experience to provide valuable insights into the ambitions of tech giants in the health industry.
  • Tommy Kok Annfeldt is the Associate Director Digital, 3rd Party Media and Innovations, Europe, Canada and Partner Markets at Biogen. He is an innovative pharmacist with a mission to change the world through pharmacology, tech and behavioral economics. At Biogen, Tommy is part of a team of multichannel and digital experts, working to ensure effective and innovative customer engagement. Prior to that appointment, he spent eight years as the Customer Experience Lead Northern European Cluster at Eli Lilly, where he oversaw the launch of a new therapeutics across several countries. Tommy, alongside his team, is continuing to develop and execute projects to achieve digital maturity in customer engagement. All opinions expressed in this report are his own and not those of Biogen.
  • Anonymous big tech expert has over 20 years' experience in tech and healthcare. He has worked for three of the big five tech giants throughout his career, placing him in a position to provide valuable insights into tech giants' ambitions in health.

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