I was visiting the headquarters of one of our large partners last week on the East Coast. As well as meeting with key sponsors and contacts, I was there for a forum attended by representatives from large pharma, small biotech, academia, Government, politics and Venture Capital. It was an eclectic collection of passionate people and I felt privileged to have been invited.
My colleagues and I chose seats near the microphones. I listened, learned, thought and considered…and as I inevitably moved more to wondering and imagining…I kept finding myself standing up and asking questions.
I am never sure how helpful any of my questions or thoughts may be at these events, but I ask them anyway. And one added benefit is that asking questions provides a great way of meeting lots of other attendees…colleagues who remember my accent more than any insight I offer.
As with a lot of meetings like this, I frequently found myself being asked about our data. Everyone knows we have big data – labs data, clinical data, diagnostics data…colleagues are always interested in how we – or they – could use these data. I listen and think…I wonder and imagine.
On my journey home Thursday night, I read a news article about recent efforts in a major UK city to combat violent incidents and injuries associated with excess alcohol. The headline that caught my eye? Greater that 40% decrease in hospital admissions in the last six months. More than enough to grab my attention – what was going on?
Well it turns out that the answer was data. Not necessarily ‘big data’, but more precisely, data that were complete and accurate enough to enable successful preventative measures.
An A&E surgeon in one of the major hospitals in the city, found himself so frustrated by the number of facial injuries he ended up treating each week that he felt personally compelled to do something to drive change. His starting point was to study the available data for his city and he quickly realised – to his surprise – that only one in five cases involving A&E hospital treatment were listed in police records. There were literally no data reported or recorded on the remaining 80%. In effect, local police didn’t know these other incidents had even happened.
Our inquisitive and frustrated surgeon found himself wondering what would happen if hospitals reported all data on all violent incidents they were involved in treating. And his idea to overcome confidentiality – or reticence to report – was for the data to be anonymous – where, when and what but not who.
This simple suggestion gave local police real and complete data that enabled accurate analysis of trends and incidents. Police quickly found themselves able to predict where problems would occur and even what sort of incidents. And sure enough, accurate prediction led to successful prevention.
This story is aligned with what we know in our industry – accurate and complete data are priceless and predictive; inaccurate or incomplete data are next to useless.
And like the hospital surgeon, we care much more about prevention (of failure or delays, or problems) than we do treatment. Learning is only valuable if it leads to improved performance.
We want more successes not just fewer failures. Our industry wants to deliver more drugs with better profiles more rapidly…projects that advance…portfolios that deliver. We want better decisions and performance at each stage of clinical and pre-clinical development. We need more complete and more accurate data.
And we need more opportunities for eclectic, innovative and passionate people to work together on how we use data to make decisions and to advance compounds, projects and portfolios.