The future of health will look very different from today
Patricia Gee, Director in Life Sciences at Deloitte Switzerland, talks about Switzerland as a business location for health care and life sciences as well as Deloitte’s 'Future of Health' initiative
Patricia, as a Director in Life Sciences at Deloitte, why did you choose to focus on Switzerland?
Switzerland is an incredibly important market for pharma. For the life sciences industry, Switzerland is a global market leader that hits far above its weight. There is an ecosystem here that really drives innovation, higher productivity, and better use of resources. It extends across pharma, biotech, med-tech, health start-ups and world renowned academic centres.
In terms of size, Switzerland is the second largest exporter of packaged medicines in the world, with more than 10% of the global value. It is home to over 70 major pharma global or regional headquarters. The Basel pharma sector invests around 6 billion francs each year into research and development, and Switzerland is the 4th-highest ranked nation in terms of R&D investment.
Switzerland is also a great place for life sciences start-ups. It has all the right ingredients to foster innovation: a developed health system, active scientific research, patent activity, access to funding, and most importantly, access to top talent and networks. In a recent survey, Switzerland ranked first out of 16 countries as a place to foster start-ups. In the last 10 years, the number of companies in the biotech, medical devices and technology sectors have doubled.
When you look at it all together, the ecosystem, the companies, the research and development, and the innovation in the start-up space, Switzerland is right at the heart of life sciences and a natural place to focus.
You mentioned that there were over 70 major life sciences companies headquartered in Switzerland. What makes Switzerland such a good environment for these companies?
First and foremost, Switzerland is stable country – in terms of economic stability, political stability, and so on.
But what makes it attractive to life sciences companies, I think, is its long history of innovation. When you think of Switzerland, you think of precision engineering and quality. The Swiss invest heavily in research and development. There are renowned universities, excellent R&D infrastructure, and a robust funding environment, all supported by strong intellectual property protection. This all fosters an innovation environment that makes it a desirable destination for foreign companies.
There is a strong life sciences culture in Switzerland, and we have all of the parts of the value chain here, from R&D to manufacturing to commercialisation. There is a great infrastructure and ecosystem that makes it ideal for a life sciences company.
Switzerland is also a great place to live. Swiss cities consistently score the highest marks for quality of life. That means that it is an attractive place for qualified workers from abroad, many of whom come and stay for good. The Swiss workers are well-educated, multilingual, and there is a real international feel to the workforce. As an expat, it is easy to integrate into both professional and personal life.
You lead Deloitte’s 'Future of Health' initiative for Switzerland. Can you tell us a little more about this?
Future of Health is Deloitte’s perspective on health and wellness 20 years from today. It paints a picture of the future so that we can play out logical macro trends and their implications. It gives us, our clients and our partners a view on how this future could impact near-term investments and strategic decisions.
We believe that there is a strong shift from healthcare to health, health meaning overall wellbeing in terms of mental, social, emotional, and physical. Technology is really driving this, and so is increased consumerism within the health sector.
Care is going to become more predictive and less reactive. You are going to see healthcare move outside traditional care institutions and managed differently. Health consumers are increasingly going to have access to their own health data, helping them make more informed health decisions.
We are going to see a move towards measuring healthcare outcomes and individual and societal levels rather than looking at cost and volume.
The key to all of this in the interconnection of data, using open platforms that connect individual, population, and environmental datasets in real-time and helping us reach new, revolutionary insights.
Our vision of the Future of Health will look really different from today.
It is an incredible vision. What are the main forces that are likely to disrupt the pharma industry in the future?
We believe that there are five main developments that will disrupt the market.
The first is prevention and detection. Vaccines and improvements in wellness will help prevent disease, meaning that we no longer need to treat them. Advances in early detection will enable interventions that halt diseases earlier, before they progress to more serious conditions.
Second is the development of customised treatments. Better use of data is going to enable personalisation in medicine. It means that we can better match patients to the right treatments for them, with more certainty about the effectiveness of that treatment, even if that treatment would only work for a small group of people.
Third is the introduction of curative therapies. Curative therapies go beyond treating the disease to actually curing it. This reduces the demand for other prescriptions and interventions, bringing down the need for long-term care and reducing the burden on the patient and the health care system.
Next is digital therapeutics. These are digital devices or apps that can help with interventions, including those focused on behaviour modification, that can reduce or eliminate demand for medicines.
Finally, we will see customised treatments and precision medical interventions, using increasingly sophisticated medical technology such as robotics, nanotechnology, or tissue engineering that could reduce the need for pharmaceutical intervention.
Could you tell us more about customised treatments and the impact they would have?
We know that individuals’ response to treatment can be vastly different due to a variety of factors, such as physical, metabolic and genetic differences. If we can design therapies to adjust to variances, individual outcomes as well as overall outcomes would improve and give better value overall to the system. Getting to this level of customisation requires a vast amount of data, which we can get through clinical trials or through real world evidence.
There have been considerable advancements in biomarker and genetic marker research which allows us to segment and target sub-populations of the disease. The same data can help us with tailored dosing and personalised dosing and treatment plans that match an individual’s unique circumstances.
There are already companies producing personalised medicines, combining all of a patient’s required medicines in a single pill. It is easy to foresee that a shift to small-volume, custom treatments would have a huge impact on the supply chain and manufacturing capabilities.
What are digital therapeutics, and what role do they have to play in the future?
Digital therapeutics are technological interventions or solutions that have been demonstrated to produce better outcomes in prevention, management or treatment of an illness.
Digital therapeutics are already being used together with traditional medicines to manage conditions like diabetes, but looking ahead, we may see them being used as replacements for traditional medical treatments. These sorts of treatments have already been approved for neurological and sleep conditions, and the results are really promising. They are definitely going to have an impact on the usage of more traditional pharmaceutical treatments.
What do you think could make Switzerland an even more attractive as a business location for health and life sciences companies?
There are lots of reasons Switzerland tops the list of markets, but I believe that financing, diversity and mind-set can all evolve to create a more nurturing environment. While there is good funding available in Switzerland, there are other markets where the volume, breadth and variety of high-risk investors are more substantial.
It is been shown again and again that improving diversity within a system contributes to research that is more impactful, driving bolder innovations and better outcomes.
In terms of mind-set, I believe that the most successful markets are those that reward risk-taking and do not punish failure as defeat, but as a chance to improve.
All three of these are challenging and demanding areas to evolve, but I believe that by focusing on these, Switzerland will continue to grow as a major innovation hub in the health sector.