The Role of Digital Technologies in Transforming the Life Sciences

Jun 17, 2019

By Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, COO of MassBio

Digital technologies and the life sciences are converging at an incredible pace, creating new opportunities to transform patient care as well as drug discovery and development. It seems every day there is some new announcement, acquisition or organizational change to support this trend. Verily, the life sciences arm of Alphabet, recently announced alliances with four major pharma companies to modernize and bring new efficiencies to clinical trials. Just last week, CVS Health announced a new partnership with Big Health, a company that’s developed an app to treat insomnia, allowing employers or health plans to reimburse for the app using the same systems and processes used for drugs. Last year, global pharma giant Roche bought digital health startup Flatiron Health, which built a platform to analyze real-world data on cancer patients, for $1.9 billion, and PillPack, an online pharmacy that pre-packages medications for seniors, was acquired for $1 billion by Amazon. In a win for Massachusetts, Boston-based Pear Therapeutics became the first prescription digital therapeutic to be granted FDA approval.

Investment in digital health companies is also at an all-time-high, with investors pouring a record $8.1 billion into the industry in 2018, a 42 percent increase over the year before, according to venture capital firm Rock Health. Even the regulatory bodies are taking notice, as the FDA recently issued a Digital Health Innovation Action Plan to “reimagine FDA’s approach for assuring that all Americans, including patients, consumers and other health care customers have timely access to high-quality, safe and effective digital health products.” The World Health Organization (WHO) in April released its first-ever set of guidelines on digital health interventions, targeted toward government agencies and public health practitioners, which provides recommendations on how to use digital health tools to improve patients' health outcomes and access to care. Massachusetts has even established a Digital Health Council, whose role is to advise the Governor on the digital health industry, and to develop a plan to make Massachusetts the leading global ecosystem for digital health.

It’s clear this convergence between the life sciences and digital technologies is fundamentally changing the way we do business. From wearables to machine learning, digital technologies are easing data collection from patients, increasing medical adherence, reshaping clinical trials, and offering new insights into real-world applications of therapies. Embedding digital health tools into the life sciences will also allow new therapies to better work within the growing value-based healthcare system that relies on data and measurable outcomes, and to help ensure broad access for patients. 

This is the impetus behind MassBio’s first-ever Digital Health Impact 2019 event, where we’ll bring together the brightest minds in digital health, biotech, med device and more to explore new strategies for life sciences and digital health innovators to converge and ultimately deliver better outcomes for patients. Don’t miss your chance to be part of MassBio history! Learn more here.

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