Tag Archives: Pharma

From 60 Pharma companies to 10 Big Pharma companies in 20 Years

We’ve all heard about Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi and Roche. They’re some of the big guys in the pharma landscape, enjoying increased popularity, splitting the high budgets and revolutionizing the healthcare and pharma industry but what’s the road they took to get here? In order to answer that question, we’re going to analyze the 10 biggest pharma companies nowadays which used to be around 60 distinct companies 20 years ago. Here’s what they did to stand the test of time and grow.



It all dates back to 1970 when Ciba-Geigy was formed by the merger of J. R. Geigy Ltd and CIBA. In 1996, from the merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz Laboratories, Novartis was born. In 2005, Novartis acquired Hexal and Eon Labs, thus growing its generic division Sandoz. A year later, in 2006, Novartis acquired full control of Chiron Corp. for USD 5.1 billion. In 2010, Novartis acquired the world’s largest eye-care company Alcon for USD 39.3 billion. Three years later, in 2012, the company bought Fougera Pharmaceuticals for USD 1.5 billion. In 2016, Novartis acquired Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corporation and SelG1 antibody for reduction of pain crises in sickle cell disease (SCD).

AstraZeneca (AZ)

AstraZeneca  was created in 1999 following the merger of Astra and Zeneca Group. In 2004, AZ completed its first big acquisition of Cambridge Antibody Technology. Later on, in 2007, it acquired MedImmune for about USD 15.2 billion. In 2012, AstraZeneca acquired Ardea Biosciences for USD 1.3 billion. One year later, it acquired Amylin from BMS for USD 4.3 billion and in 2015 acquired ZS Pharma for USD 2.7 billion. In 2015, AstraZeneca bought 55% majority stake in Acerta for USD 4 billion.


In 2000, Pfizer acquired American pharmaceutical company Warner–Lambert for USD 111.8 billion to bring its drug, Lipitor, to market. In 2002, Pfizer aimed to acquire full rights to Pharmacia’s product Celebrex and thus agreed to buy Pharmacia for stock valued at USD 60.0 billion. In 2009, Pfizer bought pharmaceutical company Wyeth for USD 68.0 billion. In 2015, Pfizer acquired Hospira for USD 15.2 billion and announced the merger with Allergan. The latter is considered to be one of the biggest mergers in pharma history. In 2016, Pfizer announced the successful completion of its acquisition of Medivation.


Sanofi resulted from the merger between Sanofi-Synthélabo and Aventis in 2004. The former was created in 1999 when Sanofi merged with Synthélabo. Aventis was formed in 1999 following the merger of Rhône-Poulenc S.A. with Hoechst Marion Roussel (HMR). The latter itself was formed in 1995 from the merger of Hoechst AG with Cassella, Roussel Uclaf and Marion Merrell Dow.

In 2011, Sanofi-Aventis acquired Genzyme and changed its name to Sanofi.

Johnson & Johnson

J&J was founded in 1886 as a medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods company. The pharmaceutical division is made up of Janssen & Cilag. In 2006, Janssen acquired the consumer healthcare business of Pfizer for USD 16.6 billion in what is considered to be the company’s largest M&A deals. In 2013, the company acquired Aragon Pharma and in 2014 it bought Alios BioPharma, Inc. for USD 1.75 billion.

Merck & Co.

Merck was founded in 1668 and is the world’s oldest operating chemical and pharmaceutical company. Merck & Co. was established as a subsidiary of Merck in 1891, but became an independent company in 1917. It is known as MSD (Merck Sharp and Dohme) outside of North America. In 1993, Merck purchased Medco Containment Services Inc. for USD 6 billion. In 2009, Merck merged with Schering-Plough. The latter had acquired Organon from Akzo Nobel in 2007 while Organon resulted from a merger between Diosynth and Organon in 2004. Ten years later, Merck bought Cubist Pharmaceuticals for USD 8.4 billion.


Roche’s first acquisition took place in 1994 when the company bought Syntex Corporation for USD 5.3 billion. In 2002, Roche’s Japanese subsidiary Nippon Roche merged with Chugai. Following the deal, Roche got a majority stake in the Japanese company. In 2008, Roche acquired Ventana Medical Systems for USD 3.4 billion and in 2009, the company bought Genentech for USD 46.8 billion.


Teva resulted from the merger between Assia, Zori and Teva in 1976. In 2006, Teva completed its first big acquisition of IVAX Corporation for USD 7.4 billion. In 2011, it acquired Cephalon for USD 6.8 billion. After acquiring Auspex Pharma for USD 3.5 billion in 2015, Teva completed its acquisition of Allergan’s generics business (“Actavis Generics”) in 2016.

Gilead Sciences

Gilead Sciences was founded in June 1987. Over the past 16 years, the company has made several acquisitions. The biggest ones include: CV Therapeutics for USD 1.4 billion in 2009 and USD 10.4 billion acquisition of Pharmasset in 2011.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)

GSK was founded in 2000 following the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham. In 2001, GSK acquired Block Drug for USD 1.2 billion. In 2009, GSK acquired Stiefel Laboratories for USD 3.6 bn. 4 years later, in 2013, GSK acquired Human Genome Sciences (HGS) for USD 3 billion. In 2015, GSK completed the acquisition of vaccine business of Novartis and sale of its oncology business to the Swiss drug major in a global deal. Under the agreement, GSK Pharma expanded its vaccine portfolio and took over 120 employees from Novartis to boost its sales in India.

There’s so much pharma history behind all of the big names out there and the evolution is far from reaching an end. We’re looking forward to seeing what these pharma giants have in store during the next couple of years and who’s going to lead the way in the M&A sector.

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Could Chatbots Be the Future of Healthcare?

Over the past few years we’ve seen more and more companies invest in mHealth sensors and applications in an attempt to boost medication adherence, enable self-reporting of symptoms and telemedicine consults, etc. While some studies show that there is promise in mHealth apps, others don’t see them as a disruptor for the healthcare industry, which would make the scalability of such technologies very slow.

Smart phones and medical icons

So what’s the underlying cause for the low to mediocre performance of mHealth apps?

Most probably, the answer lies in the lack of a truly engaging user experience. Imagine using an app for health purposes: you first need to install it, then remember to open it daily, fact that will definitely not be entertaining but rather sad given that it will remind you of your illness.

Since nowadays nearly everyone uses mobile messaging apps to communicate with friends and family, it’s becoming obvious that interacting with users directly inside of those messaging apps is much more effective as opposed to asking them to use standalone apps.

This is where chatbots enter the healthcare scene.


From Plain Robots to Doctors in Your Pocket

The doctor-patient relationship is more or less the same as it was 2000 years ago. The technology is much more advances but the process is the same. Patients feel sick, go to the hospital, explain how they’re feeling or where it hurts. Doctors check vitals, ask several questions, offer a diagnosis, and write a prescription.

The nasty part is when doctors are extremely busy and patients become impatient. They search on the internet, read forums, diagnose themselves and oftentimes end up taking the wrong medications. Of course, not all symptoms require an immediate visit to the doctor but it would be good to know when they do and when they don’t.

Using robots to diagnose patients is not as new an idea as you may think. ELIZA, was the world’s first chatbot and it was created 50 years ago with the purpose of being a Rogerian psychotherapist who can chat with patients by reflecting on what they said.

More recently, ProjectRED developed a robotic nurse called Louise, who can talk to patients to go over their medications and home care items when they get discharged from the hospital.

However, if it weren’t for the recent advances in AI, these chatbots would feel more like robots and would face the fate that standalone mHealth apps have had to face.

With artificial intelligence, almost unbelievable scenarios become possible. Imagine your smartphone rings and it’s a chatbot asking you if you still have that soar throat from yesterday and if you’d like to book a doctor’s appointment for the coming day.

Healthcare may see the greatest transformation of all the fields that artificial intelligence will disrupt in the coming years. Its influence on the industry will be broad and deep. Thanks to advanced image-recognition algorithms, diseases can be detected at an incredible speed and accuracy.


Chatbots that Have Already Prompted Big Healthcare Changes

Several companies have already begun using chatbots to redefine the role of the doctor and reposition the patient in relation to his/ her own health.

London-based digital health startups Your.MD and Babylon Health are fixing healthcare systems by cutting down on unnecessary doctor visits. Your.MD’s AI-powered chatbot engages patients just like a physician. The chatbot (your personal health assistant) uses machine-learning algorithms and natural-language processing to understand and engage its users.

MedWhat is another AI-powered medical assistant that can answer questions, such as drug side effects, in a chat format.

Chinese search engine Baidu launched “Melody”, a chatbot that uses artificial intelligence with the aim of helping patients determine whether or not they should see a doctor in person.

Melody integrates with the Baidu Doctor app, it asks the patient preliminary questions and pulls data from digitized textbooks, research papers, online forums and other healthcare sources.

With HealthTap’s bot, users can type a question into Facebook Messenger and receive replies from doctors. Users are also able to see responses from doctors to questions that are similar to their own.

Since we’re pretty sure that this is only the beginning, we expect to see a lot more activity from companies in the healthcare space and not only in the following months. Chatbots won’t replace doctors but they can improve the system, boost medication adherence and contribute to a better health.

Interested in finding out more about pharma, healthcare and tech? Book your accommodation in time for the following events in 2017:

3 Tech Trends that Will Shape the Pharma Industry

There are many things happening in the pharma and healthcare industry. As we’ve discussed in a previous article, chatbots, mHealth sensor, 3D printing and artificial intelligence are impacting every sector of our lives and every industry, pharma making no exception to the rule.

So what is the next gamechanger for the pharmaceutical industry in terms of technology or better yet, what are the technologies that are set to change the industry and shake its core?


Big Data

Big data gives pharma and healthcare organizations the opportunity to use advanced analytics to create patient centricity in their operations and deliver measurable improvements in outcomes. Nowadays, electronic medical record (EMR) data is combined with genomic and genetic data, as well as with financial data and patient-reported data to ensure that the best therapies are delivered to patients.

Apart from healthcare organizations, pharma companies could also leverage Big data to improve areas related to drug development through the provision of compelling evidence of a drug’s benefits.

Big data and the analytics that go with it have the power to revolutionize pharmaceutical R&D, as McKinsey&Company explain in one of their articles. With Big data, the following could be possible (some of them even are!): patients could enroll in clinical trials based on their online activity and not only on their visits to the doctor, trials are monitored in real time, data flows seamlessly between discovery and clinical development, to external partners (physicians and contract research organizations), etc.

Although there are still many challenges ahead in what concerns the use of Big data by pharma companies (organizational silos is only one of them), the benefits are real, especially in the area of R&D.


Cloud Computing

Pharma companies are in the process of changing their business models and leveraging new technologies to cope with demand but also to differentiate themselves. In this context,

many are turning to cloud technology. The latter not only gives them on-demand scalability but also enhanced agility so that they can meet the market demands in a timely manner.

When it comes to R&D, the process is a lengthy one: only about 1 in every 5,000 drugs ever reaches the market and it often takes at least 10 years to develop it. As you can imagine, the costs are tremendous! Given this, cloud technology helps pharma companies process huge amounts of data they deal with as a part of R&D, and replace the information silos that have been formed as a result of legacy infrastructure.

In terms of scalability, given that SaaS computing enables companies to use the services they need regardless of location or device, teams can quickly be scaled up or down depending on the project/ research.

According to a forecast by MarketsandMarkets, the clinical trial market is expected to grow at a CAPGR of 11.5% from 2016 to 2021. Thanks to cloud-based infrastructure, data, including lab, imagery and statistical analysis data, can be delivered quickly and efficiently.


Tech giants have set their eyes on pharma

Apple, Google and IBM have become major players in the healthcare game by closing deals with biopharma companies over the past years.

In August 2015, Google announced a restructure into a holding company dubbed Alphabet that hosts several separate firms, including Google Ventures, Google X and Calico. All three of them are focusing on drug development. Calico tackles aging-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and Google Ventures increased its funding of healthcare-related ventures. Not to be left out is Google’s partnership with Novartis to develop “smart contacts” for age-related degeneration in eyesight.

Meanwhile, IBM and Apple have teamed up with Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson to carefully leverage clinical trial data to create better targeted therapies for patients, while ensuring the latter’s compliance with their drugs. Apple’s HealthKit and ResearchKit technologies are complementing such partnerships, as is IBM’s supercomputer Watson.

These are only 3 of the technologies that promise to shape the pharma industry in the upcoming years. Of course, as technology advances, so do security breaches. Therefore, while investing in doing more with the right technology, pharma companies should keep in mind to also make processes safer from a security standpoint so that neither them nor patients face any risks.

Interested in finding out more about pharma and tech? Book your accommodation in time for the following BIG events  in 2017:

  1. EASL 2017 Amsterdam, 19.- 23. April, 2017 -> http://bit.ly/2dXPoBA
  2. EULAR 2017 Madrid, 14.- 17. June, 2017 -> http://bit.ly/2dhJ1rq
  3. EHA 2017 Madrid, 22.- 25. June, 2017 -> http://bit.ly/2e8TX7y


4 Emerging Trends and Innovations in Pharma & Healthcare

As Steve Jobs said, “the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology.” As these two become closely intertwined, innovative digital technologies emerge.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the greatest trends and innovations that are shaping and pushing forward pharma endeavours and digital health.


Healthcare Chatbots

Given that there’s over one billion people using Facebook Messenger, chatbots built on this platform are an ideal solution that could significantly improve patients’ health as well as the communication with their doctors.

Medication adherence

According to a World Health Organization report,“adherence to long-term therapy for chronic illnesses in developed countries averages 50%” and “removing barriers to adherence must become a central component of efforts to improve population health worldwide.”

While apps may be one answer, they require installation and a change of context every time a user needs them. On the other hand, chatbots are extremely easy to use. Patients could scan a profile code from Messenger and immediately start talking to an adherence bot, without the need to reveal their identity or set up a separate account. Consequently, the bot would help the patient add their first medication, give details about the amounts he needs to take and the times. Then, the bot will send friendly reminders at the times they specified. All of this process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Patient information

Bots could also collect patient information – symptoms, pain level, mood information, blood sugar levels- that could be discussed with the healthcare provider. The latter could request a full report from the bot prior to the patient’s appointment so that nothing is forgotten or overlooked.

As an example, there is Stuzo’s Labs Adherence Bot. Although it’s merely a prototype, the bot already has high chances of being successful.

Recently, Chinese search engine Baidu has launched a medical chatbot dubbed Melody designed to make diagnosing illnesses easier.

mHealth Sensors

Also knows as “beyond the pill” services, apps and wearables allow patients to monitor their health and symptoms outside of clinical environments, fact that will prove important when it comes to freeing hospital beds and increasing doctors’ availability.

In September 2015, the FDA accepted the first New Drug Application for a ‘digital’ medicine – the anti-psychotic drug Abilify had an ingestible sensor attached to monitor patient adherence. Such collaborations between pharma and tech are expected to boom within the next years.

Furthermore, pharma research institutes are leveraging mHealth technology to carry out clinical research. In that sense, smartphones with advanced sensors that can track movement, take measurements and record information are used to conduct studies that engage large numbers of people from wide geographical areas. Apple has several mHealth apps for clinical research, some are targeting Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, while others focus on asthma and breast cancer.

Other devices such a smartwatches like Apple Watch or Samsung Gear and fitness bands (FitBit, Jawbone, Garmin) also have sensors capable of taking biometric readings. As they become more advanced, wearable devices will become a key asset in gathering clinical trial data remotely in real-time.

The fact that these devices are connected to the internet means that the information they gather can be synced with other devices or shared with doctors and researchers. This could mean that in the future, fewer patients will need to personally go to medical research centres or hospitals when participating in clinical trials, which could prompt a shift for pharma companies and CROs towards remote monitoring, as opposed to in-person meetings.

3D Printing

In March 2016, epilepsy drug Spritam became the first 3D printed drug to be approved by the FDA. The pill is manufactured by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals by spreading layers of the drug and building the pill through a three-dimensional printing process. The latter enables the use of a higher dose of medicine while keeping the pill porous enough to dissolve quickly.

Researchers at the School of Pharmacy of University College London are using a technique called “hot melt extrusion” to 3D-print pills in various shapes, spanning from pyramids to doughnuts. The form of the pill influences the rate of drug release. For example, a pyramid-shaped pill releases the drug slower than a cube or sphere and this enables absorption to be controlled.

3D printed drugs are not only set to change the way in which drugs are being manufactured, but also how they are administered. Hospitals could easily adjust doses depending on individual patients and their treatment.

Artificial Intelligence

Cognitive computing platforms such as IBM Watson have the capabilities to interact in natural language, process vast amounts of Big Data and understand patterns and insights while learning from each interaction. The Watson Health Cloud was launched in April 2015 as an open development platform for physicians, researchers, insurers, and companies.

By digesting and interpreting millions of pages of scientific literature, IBM Watson can assist pharma companies in the development of new drugs while repurposing existing ones. Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor team to use Watson to develop and evaluate medications and other treatments, while Sanofi is looking into the discovery of alternative use cases for existing drugs (drug re-purposing).

These are only a few of the amazing trends and innovations that promise to influence not only the ways in which pharma companies and healthcare providers conduct their daily research and clinical trials but also the ways in which patients from all over the world cope with illnesses and follow treatment schemes. The future promises much more!

If you’re passionate about emerging trends and innovations in pharma and healthcare, these congresses should be on your list in 2017:

  1. ESMO 2017 Madrid, 8.- 12. September, 2017 -> http://bit.ly/2eIoDxQ
  2. ERS 2017 Milano, 9.- 13. September, 2017 -> http://bit.ly/2dh3f40
  3. EASD 2017 Lisbon, 11. – 15. September, 2017 -> http://bit.ly/2dZ4sgI