Supporting the Innovation and Digital Health Ecosystems in Massachusetts

Apr 29, 2021

A Q&A with David Zuckerman, Digital Health Partnerships Lead, and Alex Russell, Digital Partnerships Manager, Takeda

MassBio’s State of Partnering Week (May 10-14), the life sciences’ premier innovation summit, is an interactive and immersive digital experience that connects emerging companies with the partners, insights, and resources they need to take their businesses to the next level. To learn more about the role of partnering and the impact it has on the early-stage community, we sat down with David Zuckerman, Digital Health Partnerships Lead, and Alex Russell, Digital Partnerships Manager at Takeda. Here is what they had to say:

What role does partnering/external innovation play in your organization?

Fostering strategic partnerships, with an emphasis on patient-first innovation, is critical for Takeda’s success. Our Digital Partnerships team focuses on sourcing and scaling best-in-class digital partners from across the globe, with the goal of being the biopharmaceutical partner of choice for the digital health innovation ecosystem. Our partnerships team’s vision is to develop a global and centralized digital partnership capability, expand our local networks, expertise, and presence, provide easily accessible, straightforward, and transparent processes, and ensure implementation excellence across our organization.

We actively source vendor partnerships from our global networks of accelerators and incubators, venture capital firms, government organizations, academic institutions, and consortiums and alliances. Our strategic relationships with industry experts and participation in innovation challenges enable us to assess new relationships quickly and efficiently. After potential partners are identified, our team leverages a custom vendor assessment framework tailored to the digital health industry to determine partnership strategic fit and priority.

How do you support and/or engage with the startup community in Massachusetts?

Takeda is the largest biopharmaceutical employer in Massachusetts, and the state serves as our U.S. hub for several global business operations, including the U.S. Commercial Business Unit, Global R&D, Global Oncology and Global Vaccines and Biologics manufacturing. Our deep roots in the Massachusetts region extend to the startup community, where Takeda’s Digital Partnerships function has been actively engaging for many years. As one of the key tenets of our vision, we actively source new partnerships in the state and have collaborated with accelerators in the Boston area. Most recently, we sponsored the rare disease track of the MassChallenge Healthcare 2020 cohort. Our close ties to leading academic and provider networks such as MIT Hacking Medicine, Harvard LISH, MassGeneral Hospital, and others, helps us keep our finger on the pulse of healthcare innovation, and offers a sandbox environment for our local partners to develop their solutions. This said, we are always looking for ways to increase our presence and commitment to the Massachusetts startup community, which is why we’re excited to participate in MassBio’s Partnering Week.

What is one of the greatest unmet medical needs that your organization hopes to address in the next several years and how do you intend to do so?

As a subset of Takeda’s Emerging Technology & Data group, seated within Enterprise Digital and supporting Takeda’s Digital Advisory Board, our Digital Partnerships team aims to solve complex problems across the organization by sourcing innovative solutions. Takeda focuses its R&D efforts on four core therapeutic areas: Oncology, Rare Genetic and Hematology, Neuroscience, and Gastroenterology, with targeted investments in Plasma-Derived Therapies and Vaccines. We are focusing on targeted patient populations in areas of high unmet need, where there is potential for greater therapeutic benefit. We are advancing a modality-diverse pipeline with an increased focus on immuno-oncology and rare diseases. Leveraging platform capabilities in cell therapy, gene therapy, and data sciences, we’re working to deliver a steady stream of next-generation therapies with transformative or curative potential across our core areas.

The partnerships team looks for a broad set of beyond-the-pill solutions that address whole patient health across therapeutic areas, with a primary focus on eleven key technology themes: Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and deep learning; wearables and biosensors; genomics and sequencing; telemedicine; remote monitoring; augmented reality / virtual reality; Internet of Things (IoT); non-medical device hardware; robotics; digital medical devices; and blockchain. We are always looking for the next leading-edge tool on the market via our partnership initiatives.

Why did you sign on to MassBio’s Partnering Week and what do you hope to accomplish?

 We are continuing to augment our internal centralized partnership repository system with new potential partners who may be the right fit to support innovation and digital health initiatives at Takeda. We are looking forward to further accelerating and advancing our sourcing of strategic partnerships, with a specific focus on growing our presence in the local area. The Massachusetts digital health ecosystem is one of the most advanced in the world, and we are eager to meet with startups providing cutting-edge digital health solutions, ultimately to improve the lives of our patients.

Partnering with Takeda means partnering with an organization that places the patient first, with a global footprint and ambition to scale. How we operate and work with partners is guided by Takeda’s core values, forged over 240 years. These values are the inspiration for our spirit of collaboration and our unwavering commitment to bring better health and a brighter future to people worldwide. We couldn’t be more excited about building the foundation for the next 240 years, where data and digital will play an ever more important role, with robust, innovative partnerships key to our shared success.

To learn more about the State of Partnering and to register to attend, please visit the State of Partnering Week website.


David Zuckerman
Digital Health Partnerships Lead, Takeda

Alex Russell
Digital Partnerships Manager, Takeda

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