With every new breakthrough, and every patient success story, it becomes more and more clear that personalized healthcare is the future of health.
New digital technologies and tools have led to rapid advances in personalized healthcare — where interventions are specifically tailored to each patient. Shifting away from a one-size-fits-all approach to one where care is delivered based on each patient’s unique biology has the power to dramatically improve outcomes for individuals, clinicians, and societies.
But the enormous strains currently facing healthcare systems leave them ill equipped to fully leverage the potential of personalized healthcare. Challenges responding to Covid — in particular, the need for a concerted global effort behind research, testing, and treatment — illustrate the shortcomings and underlying weaknesses of today’s healthcare systems. They demonstrate an urgent need to rethink this infrastructure from the ground up in order to make these systems more resilient and sustainable.
Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, believes that much of this change will be driven by a new breed of partnerships that see stakeholders from a range of different sectors and disciplines collaborating, coordinating, and innovating together. James Musick, global head of Personalized Healthcare at Genentech, shares his perspectives on how the industry can build these partnerships, and the crucial role they will play in ensuring all people and societies can benefit from personalized healthcare.
The future is here, but the past persists
The last two decades have seen exciting new advances in personalized healthcare. A deeper understanding of molecular biology, new diagnostic techniques, and large data sets have created new opportunities to transform every aspect of patient care, from accelerating the pace of important medical research to improving the timely detection and treatment of diseases. “Today, there are many areas in life where you select the item or service that’s best for you,” says Musick. “Healthcare is heading that way, and that’s what personalized healthcare is about.”
Musick says that disruptions in a range of other markets, such as the rise of on-demand services in food and transportation, exemplify this shift. And he says that adapting to — and taking advantage of — these changes required companies to radically transform both their technologies and underlying infrastructures, including new business approaches and partnership models.
As healthcare embraces the technological advances driving personalized healthcare, a similar shift is urgently needed. It will require a concerted effort to build and reshape the underlying, complex ecosystems needed to deliver care today. These span pharma and biotech companies, NGOs, healthcare providers, governments, regulatory authorities, patient communities, academia, and technology companies. “When you’re talking about personalized healthcare there’s a reality that no one partner can do it all — you need many different groups working together in collaboration,” Musick says.
And while healthcare systems have long depended on some level of collaboration between different stakeholders (for example, general practitioners coordinating with specialists), uniting an extensive network of disparate partners can be a challenge. “Each (stakeholder) is trying to tackle one piece at a time,” he says. “So even if they’re aligned on the big goal, you rarely get to a comprehensive solution.”
Power in partnerships
Genentech believes getting to that comprehensive solution requires multi-sector collaborations that give voice to all the stakeholders who play a role in advancing personalized healthcare. “You have the clinicians themselves, but then you need the clinical system that enables them. There’s the health authority, and the government responsible for infrastructure and regulations,” Musick explains. “It won’t work with only one or two of those, so you really need to get all the parties working together in a coordinated manner.”
These types of multi-sector partnerships take many different forms and each is designed with specific objectives in mind. For example, in Taiwan, the company partnered with the country’s National Health Research Institutes to develop a database of patient outcomes that will help inform regulatory and reimbursement decisions.
And in Australia, the company has forged a multi-organizational partnership with the country’s Ministry of Health, the Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group, and the NHMRC Clinical Trials Center to power a clinical trial for patients with a specific type of advanced lung cancer. “(This partnership) allows us to reach large populations, and by doing this at scale, we’re finding the rare cases we need in order to understand the disease better,” Musick says. “And that is what will hopefully move the science forward.”
Benefits and opportunities
Partnerships like these support the shift toward personalized healthcare in multiple ways. For one, empowering a wide range of different stakeholders to work toward a common goal fosters innovation that can lead to faster progress in improving healthcare. “If you’re able to bring together the public and private partners, the countries, the health authorities, the clinics, the healthcare industry, you get something which is beyond one plus one equals two,” he says. “You’re able to actually do things that you couldn’t do separately.”
And he says that can help build understanding, trust, and mutual respect among partners that yields even deeper collaboration. “All of a sudden you have biologists exploring machine learning and technologists thinking about the rigor that’s been applied to healthcare development,” he says. “You start to get some interesting things going on, and each side begins to recognize what the other is bringing to the table.”
Musick believes that ultimately, these types of collaborations will bring much needed changes to health systems, and he says that the Covid pandemic illustrates why a coordinated, multi-sector approach is required. “The global pandemic clearly illustrates the complexity of our global healthcare systems — from developing new vaccines to getting them approved in each different healthcare system to manufacturing and distributing worldwide,” he says. “To urgently accomplish this, the collective industry forged new partnerships that allowed us to quickly find solutions to questions like: once the vaccine is developed, how do you get it to where it’s needed? How do governments know how much to buy? What are the ethical considerations around who gets it? And how do we use data to guide our decisions?”
“There is a realization now that we are capable of providing great care, but we also need to think about how we can be doing it efficiently.” he says. “We need to consider issues around data, purchasing, supply chain, privacy and so much more — and that will take a partnered effort to remove existing barriers so everyone can derive value from personalized healthcare”
Rapid progress. Amazing opportunity.
Musick, who sees himself as “someone who’s operated for many years at the intersection of many different healthcare disciplines,” says that he is excited about the future. “We’re in the middle of a remarkable shift in the personalized healthcare space — and we’re really only in the early stages,” he says. He believes that Genentech, a company long-recognized for fostering unique, groundbreaking collaborations, is ideally positioned to build the types of multi-sector partnerships that will continue pushing personalized medicine forward. “There’s an amazing culture of innovation here,” he says. I haven’t found any other place that can put together these diverse people and groups as effectively.”
Musick says that although it takes time to build the types of multi-sector partnerships being led by the company, each year brings more progress and more excitement. “The momentum is there — people are working together, and if you step back you see that we’re so much closer than we might think,” he says. “That’s what keeps me working on this. I keep seeing that the promise is there.
For more information, visit Genentech’s Personalized Healthcare hub.