In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have began to embrace a more collaborative way of working to help overcome some of the challenges the industry is facing.

Expiring patents and a tight regulatory environment are just some of the reasons why they are forming all manner of partnerships, even with competitors.

We believe collaborative working is likely to play an important role in the pharmaceutical industry for years to come because of the following trends.

Technology is opening up new opportunities

Technology is only just beginning to have an effect on healthcare and this is only likely to increase.

Technology has the potential to change several aspects of healthcare from helping discover new treatments to managing how we deliver patient care. For example, technology like the internet of things and sensors is already showing potential for remotely monitoring patients. There is also scope for more tech partnerships to develop products to help realise the vision of delivering personalised medicine.

Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer are already embracing technology to help predict potential new drug targets. They have partnered with IBM to use their computer, Watson, to keep up with the latest literature and identify promising research that may lead to new therapies. Earlier this year they announced that Watson had recommended a cancer therapy which Pfizer’s research team also identified independently.

Partnering with technology companies like this is just one way the pharmaceutical sector can avoid wasting money on pursuing research into treatments that later turn out not to be viable.

Tackling complex diseases is a priority

The rise of conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s is putting a huge amount of pressure on the UK health system, so tackling them is a priority.

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than half a million people in the UK. Globally, the number of people living with dementia is expected to increase from 50m this year to 152m in 2050.

The Prime Minister’s 2020 Challenge on Dementia laid out a series of plans to help tackle the crisis. They set out the ambitious aim to find a cure by 2025 but finding treatments for brain diseases is incredibly complex and can’t be done without collaboration.

The Dementia Discovery Fund was set up to pool funding from the private, public and philanthropic sectors. Such collaborations are also important for sharing knowledge between experts. The UK has already won major Innovative Medicine Initiative grants to support multinational academic-pharma partnerships.

In the US, the Accelerating Medicines Partnership was launched in 2014 to foster collaboration between industry and non-profit organisations to tackle complex diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Last month they made datasets on these illnesses available to the research community. Such information could lead to research targets which may produce new treatments.

Patients are becoming more empowered

Patients are no longer content to be passive receivers of healthcare but instead want to help shape it around their needs.

This development is something that is being recognised by healthcare providers like the NHS, and pharmaceutical companies are taking note too. They are putting more of a focus on the outcomes that matter to patients. According to research by the drug development company Covance, 84% of senior decision makers in the field of clinical development agree that pharmaceutical companies must incorporate the patient voice in drug development more effectively.

By engaging with patients they also stand to benefit from the insights they have into the diseases they are trying to treat. A recent paper from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations said collaborating with patients is leading to “better trials, better engagement, better communication throughout the entire life cycle of medicines—and ultimately better patient outcomes.”


Traditionally, pharmaceutical companies may not have embraced collaborative working, but now it has become a necessity we are likely to see it become more common.