“IQVIA offers a custom-built delivery model for biotech industry”

This edition of Chat with BioVoice features Suneela Thatte, Vice President & Head, R & D Solutions, IQVIA India who believes that the demand for faster and better drug development brought on by the pandemic is only going to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies

Leading data, technology and advanced analytics company, IQVIA (formerly Quintiles and IMS Health) serves the combined industries of health information technology and clinical research. Recently, it has announced the Japan and Asia Pacific (JAPAC) expansion of  IQVIA Biotech, a tailored approach to delivering integrated clinical and commercial solutions for biotech and emerging biopharma companies.
In an exclusive interview with Rahul Koul, Chief Editor, BioVoice, the Vice President and Head, R&D Solutions, IQVIA India, Suneela Thatte shared insights on market trends and future growth prospects of India’s biotech industry. She also provided a peek into her company’s offerings for biopharma segment, its current operations in India, and future outlook. Read the excerpts below:

BV LogoWhy did IQVIA decide to create a division specially for the biotechnology sector? How big is the market (size) you are catering globally and in Asia Pacific?
The clinical development needs of emerging biotech and biopharma companies with focused pipelines in India, as across Japan and the rest of Asia-Pacific, are different to those that make up the more established pharmaceutical industry. We know that emerging biotech and biopharma companies need high flexibility, rapid turnaround timelines for faster and smarter decisions, competitive pricing, predictable cash flows and a research organisation that provides a transparent partnership in clinical development. The IQVIA Biotech offering is a custom-built delivery model that mirrors biotech organisations to offer simplified operating procedures, reduced complexity and specialised teams with deep local expertise to provide a more agile way for emerging biotech and biopharma companies to reach their clinical and commercial milestones.
With the launch of IQVIA Biotech we can now provide a bespoke, fit-for-purpose clinical and commercial solution specifically tailored to fit the unique needs of dynamic and fast-moving emerging biotech and biopharma companies across Asia Pacific and in India.
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How many biotech companies have been served globally by IQVIA Biotech since its launch in 2019? Any key examples in terms of solutions provided and outcomes/benefits to clients?
Since its launch in Europe and North America in 2019, IQVIA Biotech has initiated hundreds of new trials for biotech companies, including COVID-19 trials. We have several examples of how IQVIA Biotech has delivered incremental value to customers. Below are just a few examples :
A leading global pharmaceutical company with a focus on dermatology selected IQVIA Biotech to conduct a large Phase III psoriasis study involving over 1,100 patients at 60 sites. The dermatology team was challenged to achieve the sponsor’s goal of randomizing 1,152 patients in a nine-month period. Our patient recruitment process and predictive enrollment expertise dramatically reduced enrollment timelines by 44% and budget was maintained.
IQVIA Biotech was selected to conduct multiple large Phase III actinic keratosis studies, which involved from 60-960 patients in various sites in the United States. Our patient recruitment services fulfilled enrollment goals up to 75% faster than sponsor-projected timelines and significantly reduced overall study spending. As a result, IQVIA Biotech was instrumental in assisting these sponsors with moving forward efficiently with their overall clinical development plans.
IQVIA Biotech was asked to conduct a Phase III safety and efficacy study of a treatment for hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) at sites in the U.S. and Germany. The study required a large patient population in order to meet all the inclusion criteria. Our past experience with hyperhidrosis studies led to improved collection techniques and site selection in order to shorten the study start-up time. As a result of IQVIA Biotech’s strategic training approach, dramatically reduced screen failure rates were achieved.
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Is there any role being played by IQVIA specifically in the context of COVID-19 vaccine and drug development? Please elaborate with a few examples.
IQVIA is proud to be part of the global effort against COVID-19. We have mobilized our people, capabilities and resources to understand the disease, accelerate treatments, and help communities and stakeholders address the impact of the virus. Our teams in India, as elsewhere in the globe, are actively involved with customers in their vaccine and drug development efforts for COVID-19. We cannot comment on specifics due to confidentiality agreements but are extremely proud to play a role in contributing to the ongoing expedited drug and vaccine development efforts to diagnose, prevent and treat COVID-19.
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What regions in Asia Pacific are currently being served from your headquarters in Singapore? What are the services being offered to them?
With our regional headquarters in Singapore and offices in 15 countries, IQVIA Biotech provides technology-enabled services and solutions to accelerate clinical and commercial success for local and multinational emerging biopharma clients operating in JAPAC.
IQVIA Biotech’s comprehensive solutions suite has been developed in consultation with our emerging biotech and biopharma customer partners, to be highly customised for their distinct needs. We focus on providing tailored clinical development expertise and solutions. Additionally, we seamlessly support across other areas of the development lifecycle, specifically providing asset valuation and due diligence, drug development strategy and analytics, launch strategy and planning, as well as commercialisation and lifecycle management.
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How big is your team in India? Any major companies you serve currently in the country? What are the opportunity areas that you foresee in the future?
In India, IQVIA (previously Quintiles) has been a pioneer in the field of clinical research, contributing extensively in the creation of an ecosystem that is conducive to clinical research. We work with customers across the entire spectrum of the healthcare value chain and across all sectors and categories.
IQVIA’s employee strength in India exceeds 17,000. We work with more than 1,200 sites in multiple therapy areas and across various phases of clinical research. With  the inherent advantages that India offers in terms of  access to patients, medical expertise and infrastructure, coupled with a balanced regulatory environment, we strongly believe that we are poised for growth. With the IQVIA Biotech solution now launched,  we are confident that our growth plans will be further accelerated.
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How do you look at the integration of digital technologies and big data such as AI and Machine Learning in R&D processes? How does it help in ensuring better outcomes?
Machine learning is transforming every facet of healthcare. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data have been creating a buzz in the pharma and life sciences industry for quite some time now and AI tools are highly attractive to the industry. The demand for faster and better drug development brought on by the pandemic is only going to accelerate the adoption of such technologies.
IQVIA uses advances in AI and cutting-edge data analytics to help customers from clinical to commercial  enhance precision, increase speed, and scale to meet evolving challenges, such as finding correlations that enable early disease detection, predict positive therapy outcomes with greater precision and improve design and execution of clinical trials.
The way forward remains a combination of automation and innovation to uncover deeper insights, meet growing demands, and make better decisions to bring competitive advantage to clinical and commercial teams.
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What is your prediction on the growth of the biotech sector in the current decade? What would drive it? Any major challenges?
Today, biotech and emerging biopharma (EBP) companies are proving to be a disruptive force, representing a significant portion of innovation and development in life sciences with 84% of early-stage and 73% of late-stage research globally.
Many new EBPs are being founded in Japan-Asia Pacific (JAPAC) with just under 7000 studies launched by mid- and small-size emerging biopharma (EBP) companies between 2016-2020. The steady growth of EBP innovation and pipeline, with 24% of global R&D companies headquartered in Asia-Pacific and Japan, reflects a greater level of strategic interest in global clinical trials.
One challenge that we are cognizant of is the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its likely aftermath in various parts of the region. We are constantly monitoring these developments and tweaking our execution plans to meet the requirements of customers in the light of these challenges.
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What is your future business outlook for IQVIA Biotech in Asia Pacific and especially in India?
We are extremely excited by the opportunity to deliver a solution that is tailored to meet the unique needs of the emerging biopharma industry.
We believe that IQVIA is well positioned to leverage this opportunity and potential given the extensive patient footprint in India and the rest of JAPAC, the high quality of medical expertise, and our network of highly trained and efficient prime and partner sites.  With our execution expertise and bespoke approach to creating solutions that meet the needs of customers across the drug development spectrum, we are confident of growing from strength to strength.