COMPASS: The global pharmaceutical industry is facing many challenges. Can you give us an overview?
C. THURIEAU: The pharmaceutical industry is undergoing major transformations due to the current “innovation crisis.” R&D productivity is plummeting, as is the discovery of new molecules. A new external economic environment, pressure from paying institutions and regulatory bodies, and the growing market share of generic manufacturers are all taking a serious toll on the short- and long-term performance of pharmaceutical firms. This trend has intensified sharply over the past two years, driving industry players to make strategic changes to their R&D activities. As an example, this can be seen with a new model of collaboration, with external partners taking an increasingly important role all along the value chain.
How is Ipsen responding to these challenges?
C.T.: Over the past few years, Ipsen has been implementing a strategy to optimize its R&D, enabling it to grow its product portfolio in targeted therapeutic disciplines. Ipsen’s internal R&D efforts are also supported by the active pursuit of partnerships at every stage of the research cycle, from fundamental research to clinical development. Ipsen’s R&D staff, though top experts in their fields, represent just a small fraction of the expertise available globally in our specialty areas, making it imperative that we find synergies with other leaders at the cutting edge of medical and pharmaceutical R&D. The group has formed a number of major partnerships at the Research stage. We have been working with the prestigious Salk Institute (in La Jolla, California) on fundamental research since 2008. We have signed partnerships with innovative biotech companies including Syntaxin, Dicerna, Oncodesign and Active Biotech, gaining access to new, promising technologies for the discovery of new drug candidates. In the field of biomarkers and in vitro diagnostics, we have a framework agreement with bioMerieux, and in medical oncology Ipsen has partnered with the Institut de Cancérologie Gustave Roussy. Last but not least, we are interested in new approaches and disciplines, such as the BioIntelligence Consortium, to speed up the R&D process.
You mentioned the BioIntelligence Consortium. Can you tell us your vision of this program and how Ipsen is involved?
C.T.: The BioIntelligence Consortium and program developed from a strategic meeting between Dassault Systèmes (3DS) and Ipsen. The uses of virtual collaboration, modeling and simulation within the global PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) infrastructure developed by 3DS has enabled a deep transformation, which has been proven in dozens of other sectors, for handling complex subjects and shortening research, development and production timelines. 3DS considered the application of PLM to the life sciences industry to be a strategic priority, leveraging the assets and values developed for other sectors. The vision for this innovative program is that the power of the digital world can help to fundamentally transform the industry’s current practices. It quickly became apparent during our discussions, however, that applying these systems to the life sciences could only be achieved by collaborating with the leaders in public health and the healthcare industry. The idea of the program was born and the consortium began to take form. Ipsen is working on two projects as part of this program: first in oncology with the modeling and simulation of the complex biological phenomena known as “tumor migration and angiogenesis,” and in immunology with the modeling and prediction of immunogenicity of therapeutic proteins.
From your standpoint, is the program making progress?
C.T.: The BioIntelligence program brings together experts from very different fields: the life sciences’ biologists and scientists, bio-informaticians, and PLM leaders. These experts had to understand the diverse methodologies and constraints inherent in each discipline. This intimate, trans-disciplinary understanding was one of the consortium’s first successes. Once this step was complete, prototypes with a defined scope of functionality were developed and then tested by end users. These tests were an opportunity to get a glimpse of the potential for this type of modeling and simulation tool within an R&D framework. Live access to the digital experiment makes it possible to initiate a cultural change that is enabled by virtual solutions within drug discovery practices. In addition, working closely with the teams of modelers and developers at 3DS and SoBioS, another consortium partner, has taught Ipsen’s teams a new way to tackle knowledge management and the design of scientific experiments. It has been a very rich cross-fertilization experience. The next two years of the program will be focused on developing solutions with more and more features that are more integrated and interconnected within the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform from 3DS.
With these achievements, what are Ipsen’s expectations for the future?
C.T.: Given the explosion of data generation in the life sciences, and the extension of the industry’s end-to-end supply chains, including biotechs, CROs, etc., it is crucial that we employ solutions for global and social collaboration, intelligent information processing and analytics, experimentations and modeling, simulation and calibration. These technologies are necessary to holistically tackle today’s and tomorrow’s drug discovery and development challenges. The solutions we are working on for the BioIntelligence project are well aligned with these needs for new pipeline innovation and industrial performance. Finally, these solutions should allow the health industries to rethink their value chain, which ultimately will benefit patients.