“Collaborations within the pharmaceutical industry, such as the one announced between Sanofi and BioNtech, should be encouraged and developed”. This is the message from Ursula Von der Leyen to a pharmaceutical industry currently struggling to meet global demand for COVID-19 vaccines.
This call for collaboration between the different players is far from insignificant, and the production and distribution challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry are unparalleled. The globalization of drug production has caused a system which was already subject to many constraints (packaging, perishability, etc.) to become even more complex. More than 80% of the world’s production of active ingredients now takes place on a small number of sites outside Europe, mainly in India and China.
As a result, there are many supply problems. In France, the number of shortages and risks of shortages reported to the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM, in French initials) has increased 30-fold since 2008.
Change in the number of reports to the ANSM of supply disruptions or risks of medication shortages
While the economic stakes are high, the public health stakes are critical. Today, no single laboratory can meet the demand for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments on its own, and all industry players will have a role to play in the current pandemic. Success will come through collaboration, as shown by the example of Sanofi: the French company, which has not yet succeeded in developing its own vaccine, has announced that it will make its production facilities available to BioNTech for the production of 125 million doses.
What collaborations exist today? How can we go further?
Sanofi and BioNTech is not the first collaboration of this kind in the sector. COVID-19 has already acted as a catalyst for other adventurous collaborations in the pharmaceutical industry. For example, many players in the blood plasma market joined forces as early as April to pool their resources and work towards the development of a treatment based on plasma from cured and immunized people. More recently, AstraZeneca and Janssen jointly launched the INNO’Vaccins program, with the aim of accelerating the implementation of innovative digital and logistical solutions in French vaccination campaigns.
Having been selected as one of the program’s winners, Flowlity is part of this extended collaboration between the various players in the supply chain. Its positioning as a trusted third party allows it to integrate data from the different links in the chain into its models with no direct data transfer between the different parties. From the raw material supplier to the vaccination center to the wholesale distributors, all parties can be integrated into the process. Artificial intelligence makes it possible to process all these different data sources and provide personalized recommendations and consumption forecasts, thus providing detailed visibility and making it possible to anticipate needs.
While the pharmaceutical industry has not escaped the intense pressure caused by the health crisis, some players have been able to work together in the general interest. However, it is essential to continue cooperation efforts beyond the holy union against COVID-19. In France, the shortage of medications of major therapeutic interest, such as treatments for Parkinson’s disease, has been a threat to the health of the most vulnerable for several years.
By using innovation as leverage, the pharmaceutical industry has the opportunity to make the general interest converge with economic interests. This convergence will be achieved through increased collaboration, which players like Flowlity are helping to make possible.