Janssen recently entered into an agreement with a company specialising in data analytics in the field of ophthalmology with the objective of advancing ocular treatments. Partnering with a company that specialises in data analytics is a definite win for Janssen in the long term.

By leveraging software technologies, Verana Health is able to draw insights that are useful to multiple stakeholders. These insights can be drawn rapidly and used across the breadth of product development from R&D to commercial positioning. While the ophthalmology indication of interest of this particular partnership focuses on diabetic macular edema, there is anticipation that a successful outcome from this collaboration can trigger expansion to other indications, particularly those of high unmet need. Verana Health’s strategy can be attributed to two key features. First, the company partners with medical associations, in this case, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), with the objective of supporting the former as data curating and analytics partner. Data in this case refer to real-world clinical evidence of patient care. To bring the company’s strategy into fruition, Verana Health utilises proprietary algorithms to clean and model data from electronic health records to derive clinical and business insights that can be critical for development of drugs and understanding current treatment paradigms.

Partnerships with digital healthcare companies have been on the rise in the ophthalmology space in the recent past. In 2020, Novartis entered into a number of agreements with stakeholders in the ophthalmology field who are engaged in the use of digital tools and technologies. These applications range from helping to remotely monitor patients with chronic eye diseases to utilising artificial tools to help assess disease activity in patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD).

Through the latest collaboration, Janssen will be hoping to further fortify its position in ophthalmology. In December 2020, the company bought a gene therapy for a severe form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from Hemera Biosciences. Besides providing pharmaceutical companies the advantage of pulling ahead of competitors in a broad spectrum of activities ranging from R&D to product positioning, use of digital technologies and tools can also be used to drive down costs and timelines associated with R&D in the pharmaceutical sector, as well as optimising patient selection for a particular treatment modality. Looking ahead, pharmaceutical companies are expected to increasingly look towards companies that specialise in digital tools and technologies, and while collaborations between such stakeholders are expected to rise in the pharmaceutical sector, it will also be crucial for these partners to ensure that the underlying patient data are treated with strict confidence and that these data are protected from possible threats of cyberattacks.