Andreas Persidis, CEO

Analogies can be very useful: they can help us understand difficult concepts but more importantly, by letting us frame a problem in a novel way, they can promote innovative thinking.

Enter Apple’s 2015 WWDC developer conference where the company just announced its new Apple Music streaming service. It’s not the first service of its kind and of course it is still early days to know whether it will be a success or not. But a Forbes commentary that discusses “The Hidden Strategy That Gives Apple Music The Edge Over Its Competitors” provides some interesting food for thought that could inform the discussion on rethinking the R&D process so that it is able to meet the challenges of our healthcare systems.

According to this commentary Apple sees it newly announced Music service as something much more than a streaming service. The intent is to “… grow, nurture and sustain careers, while more specifically shaping one shared conversation around music”. Furthermore, “… appreciating music as art requires seeing music through the lens of its intangible traits, such as the energy, passion and relatable storytelling that speaks the language of the human spirit. And so the goal is to go beyond “viewing individuals as simply fans” and to “empower them as creators and curators of culture”.

What is interesting about all this is how Apple is framing its strategy for a music streaming service in terms of “nurturing careers”, “one shared conversation around music”, “intangible traits” and consumers of music as “creators and curators of culture”. The frame is much much broader than the mechanics of storing an MP4 file, finding it, paying for it and enjoying it through your music player.

Could such ideas work in something as serious as drug development? It is of course early days to judge the success of Apple Music, but while we are waiting to see, here is a list of challenges that have been put forward to explain our innovation deficit, rising cost of healthcare and bad reputation of the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Inefficient research processes
  • Increasingly stringent regulation and cost pressures
  • Employee reward schemes, increased mobility and company silos
  • the need to bridge the gap between clinical research and clinical practice so as to achieve the goal of a “learning healthcare system”
  • Information overload

Many of these reflect specific and measurable parameters, yet many others have to do with intangibles like people’s roles, how they create and share knowledge, how they become more directly linked with the outcomes of their labor, how they become more engaged and ultimately how they and the organisations they work for produce better research. Which is where Apple’s strategy may prove a useful analogy for framing our thoughts:

  • How can we reformat the enterprise of generating, sharing and using knowledge currently served by commercial/academic labs, publications, conferences and trade fairs so that discovery becomes more efficient?
  • How can we design reward schemes that encourage scientists to become “creators and curators of therapies?” … or should it be “curators of health”?
  • How can we encourage pharmaceutical companies to collaborate more, yet serve their individual interests?
  • How do we make it easier to fail early and cheaply? Encourage the reporting of negative experimental outcomes?
  • How do we become less protective of potential IP without undermining IP opportunities?

Ideas are welcome!

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