5:15 PM
Dec 21, 2018
 |  BioCentury  |  Product Development

A year of digital progress at Novartis

How Novartis AG chief digital officer is integrating tech into drug development

Novartis AG Chief Digital Officer Bertrand Bodson is capping off his inaugural year with the pharma’s first approval of a digital therapeutic and 10 deals under his belt to integrate new technologies throughout the company.

Having assembled a lineup of pilot programs and tools, his task now is to build scale to maintain the pharma’s pole position in the digital space.

Novartis has been an early adopter of digital health technologies. In 2010, it licensed ingestible sensor technologies from Proteus Digital Health Inc., and in 2014 it partnered with Google Inc. (now Alphabet Inc.) to develop a smart lens technology. It has also expanded its use of mobile technologies and social media to improve how it incorporates patient input (see “Social Service”).

It was the second pharma to appoint a chief digital officer to the C-suite, behind GlaxoSmithKline plc which named Karenann Terrell to the position in July 2017. Bodson took up the Novartis role in January.

Digital health is becoming a core element of pharma strategies as a means to improve the performance and uptake of medicines, and develop competitive, first-in-class or best-in-class molecules.

Novartis defines digital health as the application of digital technology to any aspect of the pharma’s business model. This encompasses data science tools to mine clinical trial results, sensors that can track patient outcomes in clinical trials or the real world, and digital tools to enhance manufacturing quality and speed. Bodson’s remit is to use these technologies to deliver better treatments to the right patients faster.

“It’s a fairly broad role with sort of a blank canvas to ask the question of ‘How do we reimagine medicine?’”

Bertrand Bodson, Novartis

Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan has made digital health a major pillar of Novartis’ growth strategy, giving Bodson a companywide mandate to integrate digital technologies throughout the business and improve the pharma’s efficiency while delivering best-in-class drugs to patients (see “Passing the Baton”).

“It’s a fairly broad role with sort of a blank canvas to ask the question of ‘How do we re-imagine medicine?’” Bodson told BioCentury.

During his first year, Bodson brought in partnerships, pilot programs and new talent. His early wins include the approval of the pharma’s first digital therapeutic, reSET, a cognitive behavioral therapy for substance use disorder that has a dashboard for patient reporting of use, cravings and triggers.

On Dec. 11, Novartis announced its tenth digital health deal for the year. The partnership with TrialSpark Inc. will allow patients to enroll in clinical trials from their doctor’s office, rather than having to travel to select research centers, shortening enrollment timelines and improving the diversity of patients in the trials (see “Table: Novartis’ Digital Deals”).

Table: Novartis’ digital deals

Since Bertrand Bodson took on the role of chief digital officer at Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN) in January, the...

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