Predictions for 2016 - Pharma and Beyond

As 2015 draws close to an end, we begin to reflect upon where we are now and consider where we're headed.

1. Artificial Intelligence Applications in Pharma

This year has been amazing in terms of huge leaps forward for some companies, including Eularis, with Artificial Intelligence and machine learning applications. Even though this arena has been around for many years, the leaps we have been able to make using mathematical approaches that did not exist 3 years ago shows the speed of change we are now witnessing.

From gauging the applications of Eliza in the 90’s to Siri in the 00’s, and now to Erica and Amy in 2015, the next decades of these type of applications will be much more impressive, with far greater capabilities, including probably being able to predict our needs and make decisions for us based on data it already has on our preferences and behavior.

Eventually, AI will power pretty much everything! We already have a hotel run by robots that uses face recognition software for room keys, and health check systems in a cube that replace both GPs and lab test results for many conditions (see We have also already seen experiments showing AI beating lawyers in legal matters and beating Pathologists in diagnosing progression of tumors.

The future of this and its applications are truly awe-inspiring. In fact, it is predicted that by the 2030’s, Artificial Intelligence (non-biological intelligence) will be a billion times more than biological intelligence. However, after that - possibly in the 2040’s - humans should be able to increase their intelligence a billion-fold by linking wirelessly from their neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud.

2. Disruption of Healthcare by Non-Traditional Players

When I suggested this a few years ago, people laughed and said I was taking it too far - not anymore. We are already seeing massive disruption to healthcare in so many ways with Google, Apple, Microsoft, Fujifilm, and Samsung already now playing in this space. Thousands of new start-ups will enter this space in 2016, each with new and exciting offerings as well as new business models.

We will be seeing massive advances in using Artificial Intelligence in genomics and precision medicine. If Genetech/Roche were able to do this in previous decades with Herceptin for HER2+, imagine what can be done in 2016 with all the recent advances in this field – especially for understanding root causes of cancer, heart disease and all forms of neurodegenerative diseases, and what to do about them.

3. Wearables and the Internet of Things

Wearables and the Internet of Things tackle aspects of chronic conditions at earlier stages. Take the glucose sensor contact lens developed by Google, the glucose sensor temporary tattoo developed by UCSD, and the electronic chip in a pill from Proteus. mHealth will eventually revolutionize health outcomes.

4. Business Models of the Future

Uber, a car company with no cars and AirBnB’s, a BnB company with no property, will become the business models of the future. How can this be applied to healthcare?

5. Printing Drugs becomes more common

Recently the first 3D printed drug was approved. Aprecia’s drug, Spritam, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and uses the company’s trademark ZipDose technology – i.e. 3D printing. Soon this will be commonplace but will require massive changes in pharma processes if they want to compete.

6. Blockchain will begin to transform industries

Blockchain is a protocol that allows for secure, direct, digital transfers of value and assets (so maybe contracts, money, etc). It is what powered Bitcoin. It has the potential to revolutionize many industries with applications using it, including insurance, business transactions and IT.

7. Nanobots

Nanobots (nanotechnology robots) will be replacing much of the current medical technology as early as the 2020’s. In 2012, nanotechnology was already able to mimic a dog’s olfactory system so well that it could detect explosives and other substances with the aim of making portable, accurate explosive sniffing devices.

This technology was made possible from the merging of mechanical engineering and chemistry. Other uses being currently explored are improving the human digestive system and even eliminating our need for food and eating. The nutrients individuals need will be able to be tailored to that person and delivered via nano replicators.

This would go some way to alleviating the obesity epidemic; however, I doubt taste will be replicated as well initially. Maybe, eventually, that also can be built in as in the movie ‘The Matrix’, and you will be able to get a satisfying, amazing taste experience without real food. Whilst on Nanobots, it is also likely that in the coming decades we will be able to make almost anything we want out of thin air and create any object we wish.

8. Driverless Cars will be the Norm

I am sure that in the near future, driverless cars will be the norm and humans will not be allowed to drive themselves on highways to reduce road traffic accidents.

There are already 25 companies developing driverless cars, including Google, Apple, Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Volvo, Tokyo, Tesla, Bosch, Baidu, Delphi, SAIC Motor, Mobileye, Nissan, Renault, Scania, Tata Elxsi, Yutong and Uber. That shows where things are heading.

9. Value Disruption throughout Healthcare

Pharma companies are beginning to realize now that they need to change from clinical to value-based propositions, but to do this they need to understand what value is to each of their customer stakeholders in each applicable context.

This will be different for different customers at different times. However, understanding how to personalize the value for each customer and context will be a combination of: using strong Artificial Intelligence-based analytics, strong products, strong pricing models, and strong valuable, relevant services and communications bundled around these.

10. Competing on Customer Experience

Customers (patients, physicians, payers) have so much choice for both information as well as drugs. This means that competition will move from the old product-based competitive advantages to new value-added differentiation.

Customer personalization and customer intimacy are key to ongoing success. And when they get customer experience right, the winners will ensure that there is consistency in delivering that strong customer experience. The companies providing the best customer experiences will be winners in 2016 and beyond.

11. Competing More Strategically with Data

I still get amazed at how low level so many pharma companies are in their use of data and analytics. Speak with innovators and you will find that they are using data and analytics well – in most cases. They value data, they spend more money getting it, they utilize strong analytics on it, and they derive value from their data.

12. Innovation becomes more main stream

Innovation is critical in today’s pharma environment. The old behemoths that don’t innovate will die a slow (or fast), but certainly painful, death. Companies need to reward innovation. Not all innovation will be successful, but no innovation will certainly lead to failure.

I could go on and on but the fact is that we are living in a fascinating time of change. The changes themselves and the speed of these changes are remarkable and constant. The future is here and many more advances will be coming soon…so try your best to stay on top of these changes.

For more on any of these topics, please contact the author, Dr Andree Bates, at Eularis:

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