Second Opinion: Which Is The Most Innovative Pharma Company?

2021-09-03 |  Shrinivas Anikhindi

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Today in Second Opinion, we are going to answer the age old question: how do we make the future happen today, and how do we do it first?

In the last instalment of Second Opinion we discussed the future of healthcare, and in this edition we’re looking at how to get there by building and incubating innovation within your organisation.

We’re also going to look at who’s really driving the future of the pharma industry, and where some of the big drivers and detractors of innovation can be found.

Blue skies and deep oceans:


The Pharmaceutical Innovation & Invention Index by IDEAPharma was just released for 2021, in which it poses the question: ‘If you gave the same idea to two different companies in the early phase, would they be successful?’

The most inventive: Bristol Myers Squibb

Largely attributed to their acquisition of Celgene in 2019, BMS has seen a number of clinical successes in 2020 – from the MS drug ozanimod through to the plaque psoriasis TYK2 treatment.

The most innovative: Eli Lilly

Innovation is defined by the PII Index as the ability of companies to capitalise on invention. Eli Lilly have demonstrated their proficiency through a range of product successes – key differentiating data for the migraine drug Emgality, and two approvals for Retevmo and Tauvid, targeting RET+ cancers and Alzheimer’s respectively.

 Explore further: What drives (or stalls) innovation in pharma?

In episode 2 of our Rise of the Customer podcast, Neil Sharp spoke to Paul Simms, the self-titled pharma provocateur and previous Chairman of Eyeforpharma, about why pharma companies succeed and fail at innovation. If you only have 5 minutes to spare, tune in at 00:07:55.

What else we've been reading

Old problems, new solutions

Innovation happens at a number of levels, with a number of stakeholders. This report from IQVIA explains the myriad factors that go into innovating solutions to a complex disease – in this case diabetes.

The report is fascinating in its detail, but the key highlight for us was its identification of the patient as the linchpin to success. It really emphasises how organisations should never innovate for problems that don’t exist – and how understanding the patient experience is key.

In our experience, early engagement of patients in the experience mapping and innovation process is not only beneficial, but essential in today’s healthcare environment.

Big dreams are built with small bricks

Deloitte recently published a framework for holistic transformation within digital which features a really useful case study centred on the innovation of a core business function.

The implementation of digital within pharma has been generally inconsistent. In many places, visions of apps, or fancy ecosystems and FAANG-like offerings (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) have taken precedence over using digital to build data into core business decision making, increasing flexibility and agility of the business as a whole.

This framework illustrates well that sometimes innovation means ignoring the shiny things in order to get the essentials in place.

Bonus Reading: This piece by a member of our Organisational Transformation team, explaining how to make a digital enabling function, in function as well as in name.

A broken value chain

This analysis from BCG on innovation reveals a fascinating view of the pharma sector’s unique challenges. The analysis sought to explore how leaders can drive innovation in a range of industries and the biggest barriers they felt they had to overcome. Within this, they found that a striking 42% of pharma companies cited a lack of collaboration between R&D and Marketing as a leading barrier to innovation.

42% of pharmaceutical companies who cite a lack of collaboration between R&D and Marketing as a leading barrier to innovation.

The pharmaceutical sector by far held the greatest share of companies struggling with cross-functional collaboration, significantly exceeding the average across all sectors of 31%. Sectors with notably lower scores were Software and Entertainment – perhaps there are lessons to be taken from those industries?

But, before you start calling up Bob Iger, let’s remember that we’re not comparing two equivalent industries here. The length of the pharmaceutical value chain is measured in decades, not months, and this brings with it significant barriers.

Does that make this is an acceptable loss? Of course not. Principles around patient-centric planning show that having full transparency and alignment throughout the value chain is critical to success – and can unlock much more ambitious, and innovative, value propositions.


If you have any feedback, or want to hear more about anything mentioned in this article, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!