Highlights from 2012 EPPIC (www.eppicglobal.org) Annual Life Science Conference

The EPPIC annual life science conference in January, 2012 provided a rich platform for networking and information.   Within a few years, EPPIC has greatly matured in stature, offerings, and membership.  Below are some highlights from the conference.

Keynote by Richard Eglen, VP & GM, Corning Life Science. 

The conference started with the address by Richard Eglen, VP and General Manager of Corning Life Science.  Eglen discussed key trends focused around three primary themes.  One, changing competitive and business environment due to increasing regulatory challenges and increasing pressure to reduce healthcare cost is leading to consolidation of pharma companies.  Worldwide sales in big pharma are at risk from patent expiration and pharma companies now focus on sales and marketing, rely on in-licensing for innovative products and outsource activities in R&D and manufacturing.  A staggering $118 B in revenue loss is expected between 2012 and 2016, due to expiring blockbuster patents.  Pharma is shifting from blockbuster drug markets for large populations to small, more targeted patient populations.  The second trend is the focus on emerging markets.  By 2020, China will be the 2nd pharma market.  Healthcare spending in emerging markets will grow at 3X the rate of developed markets.  Pharma companies will be rebalancing as emerging markets grow faster than developed markets.  Also Government funded R&D growth will increase.  Third, there is a move towards biologic therapies.  As small molecule is declining, biologic and cellular therapies continue to show promise.  Quoting John Lechleiter, CEO of Eli Lily, Eglen observed that while 20th century was defined by great strides in chemistry and physics, 21st century will go down in history as the Biomedical century.  But increasing complexity will require complex technological innovation.


Keynote by Walter Koch, VP & Head of Global Research, Roche Molecular Systems

Walter Koch discussed companion diagnostics and the story behind recent Zelboraf launch, in his keynote.  Companion diagnostics are the cornerstone of medicine.  At Roche, personalized medicine is the differentiated strategy, said Koch.  There are a lot of challenges in molecular biomarker testing.  The earlier the diagnostic and therapeutic get together, the better the epidemiology of melanoma.  Melanoma is the 6th most common cancer and the incidence has tripled in the last 20 years.  There will be one person in a every 50, who will have melanoma, with only treatment options being chemo which has low response rate and is toxic and expensive.  Roche’s collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb for combination therapy with vemurafenib and ipilimumab in BRAF-mutated metastatic melanoma will advance the oncology field of personalized medicine.  FDA approved vemurafenib, commonly known as Zelboraf, earlier this year, specifically for BRAF mutation positive melanoma detected by an FDA approved test.


Keynote by John Northrup, CEO, Beta Cat Pharma

John Northrup talked about the emerging markets and the lessons learned. Asiahas a large scientific talent pool.  Brain drain from China has now become a brain gain and China’s R&D spending is going up.  All pharma companies will move into China.  However, there are also significant challenges that include different business practices and ethics and not well protected IP environment.

Like China, India is also experiencing brain gain.  Once again, companies will have to understand the nature of business in India.  For instance, in India, employees expect to be taken care of, like family.  There is also a lot of command and control business style in India and under investment in human capital.  Employees respond to more decision making and training.  Employees often make excuses, instead of performing.  And there is 15% inflation and high turnover.

Despite all challenges of operating in emerging markets, they are becoming a reality and companies will have to invest in learning the culture and business practices, in order to succeed.

Keynote by Geetha Rao, CEO, Springborne Life Sciences & VP, Corporate Development at Triple Ring Technologies

Geetha Rao discussed why emerging markets are critical to medical technology innovation.  There is a growing middle class in many developing countries, with increasing health awareness and growing demand.  That creates some lucrative investment opportunities.  In contrast, the device markets in the US is declining.  Almost 80% of executives are looking to target emerging markets.  A recent PWC survey indicated that innovation ecosystem is moving offshore.  The first move for device innovation was from US to Europe and now moving out of Europe to India and China.

There is a corresponding change in the nature of innovation.  Devices have to be smaller, faster, cheaper, and more accessible for these markets.  Rao shared several examples.  For instance, GE ECG machine was originally developed at $5.4 B cost, is available for about $10,000 in theUS.  In early 2010, GE launched world’s first ultra-portable ECG machine: the MAC 400, developed at the cost of $1500, with the help of cheaper labor pool of India’s bright and talented software engineers, low manufacturing cost, simplified algorithms, and by leveraging new technologies.  This machine now weighs 3 lbs. and GE hopes to sell it in the US and elsewhere, coining the term reverse innovation.  There are other similar technologies in development, including mini leadless pacemaker and other cool technologies.

Rao quoted Omar Ishrak, the new CEO of Medtronic, that the need for innovation for devices useful in emerging markets is moving us from frugal innovation, marked by cost concerns to leapfrogging, using advanced technologies to create low cost, large scale innovation.  This includes simple stuff like turning a cell phone into microscopic device or a device for glucose monitoring, asthma tracker and more. There are growing opportunities in mobile health, not just to provide healthcare to un-served and underserved populations, but by increasing effectiveness, reducing cost, and improving overall public health by managing chronic diseases.  More people have access to cell phones than to running water.  Mobile health is growing business and is leading to novel public private partnerships. For instance, a recent program by J&J for pregnant women in India sends text messages during different trimesters for care and checkup reminders.  All mobile capabilities can be leveraged.

Emerging markets will become critical in driving innovation, as innovation is staggered in the US due to regulatory challenges and spending mindset that makes the shift to newer technologies more difficult.  Emerging markets are therefore, no longer an afterthought and med tech innovation will shift from US to local centers, said Rao.



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