Focus on patients

Which products and services can Boehringer Ingelheim in future offer beyond medicines? This idea is being addressed by Dr Oliver Reuß and his team of doctors, biologists and business managers.

Dr Reuß, why is Boehringer Ingelheim even considering technologies outside the conventional medicine business?

DR REUSS Our aim is to provide patients with more comprehensive care than before. Until now, we’ve primarily provided medicines, that’s to say ways to treat illness. For several years now, however, increasing focus has been on services and technologies that go beyond that, putting patients at the centre of things and offering them additional benefit.

How do you work in practice?

DR REUSS On the one hand, we work together closely with the human pharmaceuticals therapeutic areas and define solutions when we identify new needs. On the other hand, we also establish contacts outside Boehringer Ingelheim, as innovative ideas often come from start-ups. Special partners, known as accelerators, put us in contact with these start-ups so that we can gauge the potential of a partnership very early on. This way we’re able to incorporate their entrepreneurial spirit into our company. In this context, it’s exciting that the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund recently received additional funding for digital healthcare concepts.

What kinds of projects are these specifically?

DR REUSS Let me give you an example. We’re currently working on a smart add-on for the classic stethoscope: a small digital microphone fitted inside the stethoscope can be linked to a smartphone. Algorithms analyse the patient’s lung sounds and help the doctor to identify respiratory disorders. One example of this is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – a rather rare and not always so easily diagnosed disease, but one which requires early treatment.

DR OLIVER REUSS


studied molecular biology and worked in management consultancy after completing his postdoc. He joined Boehringer Ingelheim in 2008, where he initially worked in corporate business analysis before driving strategy development forwards in core business from 2012. In 2014, he became Head of Business Model & Health Care Innovation.

Aren’t the major technology companies the pioneers in the digital environment? What opportunities does Boehringer Ingelheim expect here?

DR REUSS Of course, there’s mega-hype in this field and lots of digital concepts centred on the patient. There’s a huge selection of sensor technologies enabling the patient to measure, for instance, their own blood pressure or blood sugar levels simply, and sometimes on an ongoing basis. Other approaches involve Blockchain in order to enable the secure handling of patient data. Until now, this technology has primarily been used in the financial sector in the context of bitcoin. And, of course, artificial intelligence is a huge topic.

But across all these fields, we as a pharmaceutical company primarily consider the overall challenges for patients, doctors and the healthcare system when it comes to the development of new medicines. As such, we are in a position to identify potential solutions and to develop them ourselves or with partners. Additionally, our knowledge of regulatory affairs and our global presence are absolutely necessary for marketing a new product. This is our core competence and we utilise this competitive advantage.