Francesca Wuttke, Chief Digital Officer of Almirall, shares her long experience in drug development and digital transformation of health companies
Good morning, I’m delighted to interview you as one of our Sponsors for our upcoming event the Barcelona Health Hub Summit 2019. Firstly, could you briefly explain what Almirall does? What is your role within Almirall?
We are a global pharmaceutical company focused on medical dermatology. Within the complex current context of R&D and innovation in health, the development of partnership networks is critical but possible thanks to the huge power of technologies that facilitate communication and collaboration. We are embracing this cultural change, which is also why we consider ourselves a scientific partner with the aim of becoming a global leader in the fight against skin diseases and skin conditions.
We provide health professionals and their patients with medical solutions for disease prevention, skin care and skin improvement that lead to a better future. And if the future will come through collaborative innovation in digital health, Barcelona Health Hub Summit is the place to be.
As for my role in Almirall, as Chief Digital Officer, I am leading our end-to-end digital strategy, defining our new digital governance model, developing and prioritizing our Digital Project Portfolio and working closely with all our business stakeholders. Addressing a digital transformation is not only necessary, but also a huge opportunity for a biopharmaceutical company like Almirall.
How do you expect digital health to impact your sector? Almirall has a strong focus on medical dermatology, how do you think technology can transform dermatology?
I think we are not yet able to imagine how far digital health will go. We are living in a time when there are more questions than answers. In that sense, digital health is a good way to find answers faster or to answer more questions in less time. Having said that, the industry has made tremendous strides with the advent of health authority approved and reimbursed digital therapeutics that rely on clinically validated evidence to prescribe software as a drug.
Digital health has a lot to offer in medical dermatology, as most skin diseases and skin conditions are quite visible. Let’s think, for example, in the diagnosis of cancer-causing or precancerous skin lesions, such as actinic keratosis, which can potentially be diagnosed faster and perhaps even more efficiently thanks to digital health. What a dermatologist had to do before can now be done by a family doctor with certain specific training and an app.
To this end, Almirall has promoted the development of the AKASI Calculator, an app based on numerical indicators to evaluate the main parameters of actinic keratosis: erythema, thickness and distribution. Together with the eHealth Researchers Association (AIEs, by its Spanish acronym), we also have developed an eLearning platform, Digital Derma, which aims to provide digital skills to dermatologists. The development of digital tools that facilitate the work of health professionals is part of an unstoppable and much broader trend that a pharmaceutical company with a vision towards leadership in dermatology like ours must keep in mind.
In addition, the democratization of healthcare is allowing patients to take more control over the management of their care. Digital services and solutions can offer patients the tools to empower and support them during their patient journey. Almirall intends to be there along their journey and provide solutions to improve their lives.
I heard there will be big announcements from Almirall that will be of interest for startups, can you tell us more about this?
We are so pleased to announce the launch of the Almirall Innovation Factory, a start-up accelerator focused on digital services and solutions in the field of digital health. The Almirall Innovation Factory will be based in the Barcelona Health Hub, where we will house the start-ups selected by the call for innovation we will be launching.
In Almirall we have extensively catalogued our digital activities and also ascertained what problems could be solved by digital solutions and services. We intend to use the outputs of this exhaustive analysis to implement Almirall Innovation Factory’s open call for innovation, where we hope we will be able to find start-ups with whom we can co-create creative digital solutions to solve for some of our bottlenecks.
You have been in Barcelona for many years now. Why do you believe it is an attractive place for the digital health sector?
Barcelona has a rich history in innovative bioscientific and healthcare technologies. Much of the research that has been done here through the years has evolved and has been transformed into a number of digital health start-ups. Today, Barcelona is one of the most important digital health ecosystems and tech hubs. I think this city has an innovative spirit that will only continue to innovate over time.
In your opinion, what are the main benefits of Barcelona Health Hub? What are your interests in collaborating with Barcelona Health Hub in the aim of promoting innovation in digital health?
Barcelona Health Hub is leveraging this burgeoning innovative spirit and the relevant digital health ecosystem that has been created across the city, and it is consolidating and focusing its efforts on providing support to this growing landscape. In less than a year, the BHH has attracted over 101 companies to its list of supporters and sponsors and I think that speaks volumes to the caliber of the project and the vision with which its team is managing to expand the network and increase the visibility of Barcelona as a hub of digital health excellence.
What are you looking forward to regarding the Barcelona Health Hub Summit 2019?
I think the Summit will be an excellent opportunity to highlight the impressive cadre of companies that are already associated with the BHH, and perhaps encourage others to join. In addition, we will be meeting with media and partners, and discussing collaboration opportunities with start-ups and investors in Almirall’s dedicated space. Our expectation is to continue using the BHH and, in particular, the Summit, as a key piece of Almirall’s innovation agenda. We are looking forward to being part of this exciting event!