7 Questions: Hikma Ventures’ Lana Ghanem

The managing director of Hikma Pharmaceuticals’ corporate venture capital arm, Lana Ghanem was part of the team that established Hikma Ventures in 2015 and prior to joining the Jordan-based pharmaceutical company in 2012 she worked as a financial analyst.
She spoke to pharmaphorum about the adoption of healthcare technology, the role that pharmaceutical companies can play and where the sector most needs a heavy dose of digital disruption.

Question-1

Where do you think technology is likely to make the biggest change to pharma?

Technology’s biggest influence will be felt in both disease prevention and personalised medicine. As genomics and diagnostic tests advance, and are increasingly adopted, pharma will be able to focus on tools and products that empower patients and help them prevent certain diseases by incorporating their unique genetic makeup and lifestyle.

Solutions will no longer be one-size-fits-all; they will become more catered to the individual and reap better and more effective results for the patient. In addition, these solutions will produce more user-friendly and convenient ways for patients to avoid developing certain conditions, while treatments will be more effective should they arise.

What role will pharma play in the adoption of technologies in healthcare?

Technology and digital tools in healthcare are no longer a nice-to-have – they are becoming more of a necessity for all healthcare stakeholders. Pharma companies’ role will be key in the adoption of emerging technologies as they are connected to all major healthcare stakeholders, from patients and providers to payers and distributors. Acting as mediators, pharma companies can facilitate the integration of digital tools into daily life, incentivising their use by all participants of this system. In order for these technologies to become mainstream, pharma companies need to partner with these innovative start-ups to advance their technologies through business development deals or pilot programmes.

What areas of pharma/healthcare need digital disruption?

The supply chain is a major area in need of digital disruption. Many inefficiencies exist when it comes to forecasting product demand and inventory management. Having the ‘right’ amount of materials to manufacture the ‘right’ products in the ‘right’ quantities is both a challenging and imperative part of the pharma manufacturing process. Predictive data analytics will play a big part in this disruption, as they can tackle all three pillars of this problem. Block chain technology could also provide structured, transparent and traceable databases to improve inventory management.

Another area is sales and marketing. Pharma companies spend excessive money and time detailing doctors and launching marketing campaigns. Using digital tools to reach providers is more efficient at both ends, as it enables pharma companies to get their messages across to doctors via the click of a button and thus allows doctors to have more time with patients. Regions in particular need of disruption are the Middle East and North Africa.

Lastly, R&D is also in need of disruption. Research forms a sizeable portion of the overall costs for any company, but by using machine learning and enhancing clinical trial processes, digital tools can help pharma companies develop, recruit patients, and test and approve new drugs or devices in shorter timeframes for less.

What is preventing a faster uptake of disruptive technologies?

Gathering of data remains an obstacle. The more people who contribute data, the more powerful the results, but it can be challenging to both acquire – and keep – users engaged in an application, platform or gadget. All stakeholders require a more open mindset and must be willing to provide this data for this to work, which remains problematic as privacy concerns continue to emerge.

In addition, patients value convenience, so self-reporting tools may limit the accuracy and collection of data. Some technologies have not gained traction because of that self-reporting characteristic, whether through patient laziness, forgetfulness or inaccurate input of data.

Another obstacle is the lack of clarity in the eyes of regulators. Because these disruptive technologies are entering new and uncharted territories, there are no set and transparent guidelines to enable their expedited launch.

Where has technology made the biggest impact in pharma/healthcare?

Mobile phones and wearables are beginning to revolutionise the pharma/healthcare industry. By helping to track vital information, like medication adherence, heart rate, sleep and temperature, they are very useful for consumers and clinical trials – particularly as the data collected is in real time and actionable. They also help companies reach more people and geographies. Another area that is gaining traction is telemedicine. Patients are becoming more empowered because they can now see a doctor for a fraction of the cost at their convenience anytime, anywhere.

How is Hikma Ventures using technology to improve healthcare?

Hikma Ventures invests in global digital health companies that can supplement our own business lines and differentiate Hikma’s offering. We have invested in four companies so far, including ones in medication adherence and telemedicine.

In 2016, we established the Innovation and Leadership Advisory Board (ILAB), comprised of 16 members from different departments and different regions across Hikma, to make sure the company is improving processes and fostering innovation.

The ILAB [which Lana heads] launched iTECH, which features digital health start-ups presenting their work to Hikma’s employees. The events are open to all 8,500 employees and are live-streamed on our Facebook page. This initiative helps to change the mindsets of employees so that they think of Hikma as a healthcare solution provider and not just a generic manufacturer.

Which technologies have the most potential in healthcare?

Big data analytics platforms that incorporate AI have enormous potential. The insights they provide affect all healthcare stakeholders: they enable payers to reduce their costs, providers to better monitor and diagnose patients, pharmaceutical companies to allocate their budgets more efficiently, and patients to be better informed about their health and how to avoid developing certain diseases.

Combining data analytics with electronic health records (EHR) will unlock invaluable information about a patient’s medical history and behaviour, improving outcomes by better catering to individual needs. This will allow providers to better diagnose diseases and reduce errors.

Other areas with high potential are adherence to medication and continuous monitoring of ‘vitals’, which will also improve healthcare, as they will reduce the readmission rate into hospitals and provide patients with actionable, timely data that will empower them.

About the interviewee

Lana is the managing director of Hikma Ventures, which she helped establish in 2015. Lana started her career at Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC in 2012 as assistant to the CEO and director of corporate strategy and development, where she worked on strategic projects across the company’s various functions, including strategy, M&A, operations and finance.

Prior to joining Hikma, Lana was a financial analyst in the mergers and acquisitions department at Dresdner Kleinwort investment bank in London, where she worked on transactions for clients across multiple industries.

She currently heads the Innovation & Leadership Advisory Board (ILAB) at Hikma, which consists of young employees who share a dedication to advancing the company and ensuring it is at the frontier of innovation.

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