Pfizer, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, has partnered with Orbit Startups for a 2-year program to seek transformative technologies impacting the healthcare industries. Startups selected for the program will have the opportunities to co-create real-world solutions with Pfizer and Orbit Startups, receive strategic guidance and funding for a pilot program, and be on the fast track to potential commercial collaboration with Pfizer.
Year 1: Vaccine challenge
Pfizer, a market leader in vaccines for infants, had been relying on offline engagement with doctors and hospitals to reach the patients for the past decades. One unique challenge faced by big pharmacies in China is that DTC advertisements for prescription-only drugs are illegal. Pfizer was seeking to explore novel ways to provide quality vaccination services to new parents while enhancing public awareness of immunization and disease prevention.
Doctopia, a company that specializes in telemedicine with demonstrated traction in the New Mother segment, was scouted to tackle the challenge. The pilot exceeded expectations by reaching over 2000 doctors and 40,000 new mothers. The technologies have been used at scale and deployed by other business units in Pfizer China to improve the capacity for disease prevention and control.
Bin (William) Xu, Pfizer Digital Innovation Lab Lead, China & APAC, was optimistic about the program: “Pfizer will continue to explore and practice open innovation and partner with Orbit Startups to identify strong use cases for emerging technologies. We look to co-design and develop more novel digital solutions across therapeutic areas including vaccines.”
Year 2: Rare-disease challenge
For Year 2, Pfizer has joined hands with Orbit Startups and the Illness Challenge Foundation to raise awareness of rare diseases in China. “In the past 30 years, Pfizer has actively worked in the field of rare diseases to bring critical treatment needed by patients and their families,” said Jean-Christophe Pointeau, President of Pfizer Biopharmaceutical Group China. Among these rare diseases is a condition known as ATTR-CM. For this program, Pfizer is focused on early diagnosis of ATTR-CM and helping at-risk patients gain timely treatment.
The challenge lies not only in raising awareness among the patients and the general public, but also in educating doctors about the disease’s diagnosis and treatment. Due to the relatively small number of patients, a wide variety of diseases and lack of diagnosis and treatment methods, there is still a long way to go for breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases.
Orbit Startups has designed a 4-stage program to tackle the challenge: application, shortlisting, pilot, and deployment. Oscar Ramos, Managing Director of Orbit Startups, said: “The program aims to take advantage of scientific innovation to improve the current diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases. Through exploring the future of rare disease diagnosis and treatment, we hope to bring higher-quality solutions to clinicians, better serve patients and prolong their lives, and help pharmaceutical companies achieve breakthroughs in the field of rare diseases.”
Orbit has connected Pfizer with companies pioneering various sectors including AI medical imaging and healthcare devices. Currently, Pfizer is in talks for potential pilots with two of them.