This article is part of a Technology and Innovation Insights series paid for by Samsung.
As the race to save the world from the COVID-19 pandemic barrels on, and teams around the globe work tirelessly to develop effective therapeutics and vaccines, we have all become acutely aware of the potential for new breakthroughs in the biosciences. What are we learning from this global effort and how can we accelerate the delivery of new drugs and vaccines to fight current and future diseases more effectively? The answer will likely come from advances initiated by biotech startups, aided by new data processing and artificial intelligence.
In this new episode of Samsung’s “The Next Wave” interview series, Young Sohn, Samsung’s President and Chief Strategy Officer, speaks with Rafaèle Tordjman, President and Founder of Jeito Capital — an investment fund dedicated to biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals — about how to boost research in healthcare by providing long-term support to startups and technology.
Accompanying entrepreneurs over the long term
Based on her long career as a practitioner, researcher, and managing partner at Sofinnova Partners, which earned her the Order of the Legion of Honor, Rafaèle Tordjman made three major observations. First, French biotech startups are chronically underfunded and cannot access the same financial resources as their American counterparts. Along with that, there are still few long-term investment decisions coming from venture capital funds in Europe. And finally, entrepreneurship must be encouraged, and entrepreneurs must be supported to facilitate their development.
“I founded Jeito Capital two years ago in response to these shortcomings,” notes Tordjman. “The development of a new drug, a new vaccine as we see with COVID-19, and more generally a new innovative therapy is a long and complex process which requires financing and support over several years. In France, we have a pool of researchers and entrepreneurs in biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals who need to be encouraged and monitored in order to bring about innovation and therapeutic advances.”
Information technology — an accelerator of therapeutic progress
New information technologies also play a key role in accelerating pharmaceutical research. However, the opposite is also true: biotechnological innovations facilitate progress in the area of data processing. So we observe a convergence between information technology and medicine. Thanks to digitization, clinical trials in particular can be greatly accelerated and conducted remotely. The processing of those results can also be done faster and more accurately, which is essential to accelerating the introduction of new drugs and/or vaccines.
Likewise, new applications on smartphones and other technologies make it possible to continuously monitor individuals’ body activity and thus make proactive rather than reactive diagnoses, giving doctors the means to cure or otherwise treat certain diseases faster. On the other side, therapeutic research also paves the way for further technological innovations, especially when it comes to AI.
Today’s therapeutics, which means the treatment of diseases, involves very large amounts of data, which only computer technology can sort and analyze quickly. “Artificial intelligence can have an immediate impact, particularly in dermatology, to accelerate diagnosis,” comments Tordjman.
Strengthening gender diversity — a real boost for innovation
But beyond investment and IT, it is the diversity of individuals and talents — and collaboration within teams — that fuels and advances innovation in healthcare.
The diversity of individuals means, first of all, strengthening the place of women in teams that are still overwhelmingly male. “Eighty percent of health decisions within families are made by women, who have historically always played an important role in this regard. However, only 5% of entrepreneurs in therapeutic research are women,” emphasizes Tordjman. “I want to change this. That’s the reason I founded the ‘Women Innovating Together in Healthcare’ (WITH) association over ten years ago. This association aims to help working women to boost their careers, but also to encourage younger women to become entrepreneurs, to promote their research and their projects in all health-related sectors,” says Rafaèle Tordjman.
Diversity plays a major role when it comes to accelerating innovation, be it in healthcare or in other industries. This is why men must be encouraged to integrate more women into their organizations, just as women must be supported and encouraged to value their differences, and have confidence in their abilities to move forward. But this diversity applies not only to gender, but also to races and cultures.
“For entrepreneurs, relying on men and women with different talents and cultures is a real asset. They shouldn’t be afraid of colleagues who think differently,” concludes Tordjman. “They should rather take this into account, and think and work within an ecosystem that integrates different disciplines.”
Catch up on all the episodes of The Next Wave including conversations with VMWare CEO Pat Gelsinger, the CRO & CMO of Factory Berlin, the CEO of Solarisbank, the CEO of Axel Springer, and the CEO of wefox.
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