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Transcript Blog- The Global Impact of COVID-19 on the Life Sciences Industry

In this episode of the Industry Insights by SAP podcast, Josephine Monberg interviews Mandar Paralkar, Global VP of the Life Sciences Industry at SAP. Listen now to hear Mandar discuss the short- and long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the life sciences industry and how technology has helped in the recovery process.

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Josie: (00:03) 
Welcome to the industry insights by SAP podcast series. My name is Josephine Monberg, and I am your host. You are now listening to the COVID-19 special edition of our show. Welcome come to our podcast. Hey, all listeners and welcome to this episode of our podcast. As you know, if you have been listening to other episodes, we are looking at different industries and examining how COVID-19 is impacting these industries, including what businesses should be doing and what the future holds. And today we are going to take a closer look at the life sciences industry and to do this, I’m so lucky that I’m joined by Mandar Paralkar, he’s the global VP of life sciences industry at SAP. So Mandar, first of all, thank you so much for being with us on the show.  
 
Mandar: (00:59) 
Thank you for inviting me. Hello everybody. It’ll be exciting to talk about life sciences today.  
 
Josie: (01:06) 
Exactly. I’m actually very excited to talk about it too, because I do know it’s an industry that of course is seeing massive impact just by nature of the industry. But before we get into the industry itself, can you tell me a little bit about what your role includes and maybe also where you are in the world?  
 
Mandar: (01:28) 
Certainly. So I lead the life sciences globally in SAP, our focuses pharmaceutical biotech and med devices companies. I’ve been with SAP for 20 years based out of Philadelphia or new town square headquarters for SAP America. In my role, I focus on primarily solution management. That means understanding what are the pain points and the challenges in the industry understand the regulations, the implications, and then help our customers with solutions that are relevant to our sub-segments. And we use our standard products that can help as building blocks to solve these pain points and the challenges. Sometimes we have unique business case to focus on some industry specific solutions. And we also participate in working with pre sales analysts as well as we work with our various industry organizations and forums to explain SAP is industry perspective that can help our customers.  
 
Josie: (02:40) 
All right, so you play a huge role in this. And I know we at SAP, we’re very focused on the different industries because it’s so important to understand what is happening and especially kind of where the industry is headed so that every company in whatever industry they’re in can prepare better. And just to start off talking about the life sciences industry. Now, first of all, can you just give us a little bit of an overview of the life sciences market? And again, talk about the impact of COVID-19 on the life sciences.  
 
Mandar: (03:17) 
Certainly. So the COVID-19 outbreak is a human tragedy that going, growing and having an impact on global economy. So in a recent report from IDC Michael Townsend, he’s quoting about how coronavirus slam medical supply chains as an example, how can technology help our customers and Michael mentions about these kinds of black Swan events, like the pandemic that illustrates shortcoming in traditional supply chain in the medical field. So technology can definitely help to work on these problems by directing that tension, nontraditional sources of data, whether you use social networks and IOT. So it’s important to look into tools from various it vendors around artificial intelligence and prescriptive analytics. So that’s the underlying theme we are seeing in the industry as to how SAP can help our customers in current situation. The impact is big in life sciences, from the patient perspective, the patient needs this life saving drugs and devices and the hospitals where the doctors are working round the clock to help these patients.  
 
Mandar: (04:37) 
The struggle we are having is challenges with the inventory, for the personal protective equipment like masks, gowns, gloves, disinfectants. And then pharma companies and medical device companies are looking into solving these challenges because they see clearly demand surging for these consumables and diagnostic kits. Today, the biologics and vaccines companies are working with the regulatory agencies to fast track approval processes to help deliver this medicine, to cure the patients. But there is still some time when we will see some of these clinical trial materializing that can help the patients. So as a result, the life sciences manufacturers are really in an, in a stage where they need to assess how best to collaborate with their researchers and suppliers all over the world. So there is clearly a need in the industry to look into various opportunities for collaboration. And that’s where SAP as a company can help our customers to monitor these kind of shifting demand patterns and, and supply chain disruption is not new for us. We had some natural calamities in the past. We had some small epidemics as well, but the scale and the size of this pandemic is huge. And nobody had anticipated how to really put the right measures in place, dealing with such a catastrophe. And as the customers in life sciences evaluate their production capacities or, or workforce constraints, they really need to prepare themselves for meeting this growing demand in the market. So on one hand, the governments are putting certain guidelines in place to monitor the distribution of this PPE rationalizing the right criteria to help the patients throughout the nation. But for the manufacturers, it’s important to have a better visibility of the inventory of these life, saving drugs and devices specifically, they need to have a strategy in place to adjust the plan so that they monitor the mortals, whether they’re using some forecasting inputs or they’re trying to balance the supply and demand across their supply chain. Hope this helps you put some background about what we are saying at a higher level, the situation with court today.  
 
Josie: (07:16) 
Hmm. No, for definitely the provided a lot of insight. And it’s interesting because it’s an industry that really has had to step up, right? Because we’re so reliant on this industry to overcome to two, to go through COVID, but also to find a vaccine, which you also touched on and you also touched on, um, you know, getting protective gear for, for healthcare workers. And I know I did an another interview with, um, an SAP partner called primacati and they essentially built on top of Reba a platform where they could help get protective equipment for, uh, via quest, which is a hospice. So it’s, it’s a critical time to really use technology, to be able to get the things that you’re looking for in, in a time like this to better to, to keep your healthcare workers safe. Right.  
 
Mandar: (08:09) 
Absolutely. I mean, unpredictable demand is one of the top challenges we are seeing, uh, how do manufacturers gear themselves with the right it tools? And as you rightly said, Ariba discovery is a great example where a new entrance in the market, whether it is for ventilator manufacturing, there is some good collaboration happening between life sciences and automotive industry, as example from the discreet side. And they’re looking at additional vendors and suppliers who can provide those parts that can fast track the manufacturing of ventilators needed for the patients. And there are supplier dependencies. You need to have an approved vendor list to really start identifying the source of suppliers, but based on this demand patterns for these diagnostic kits and ventilators, it’s important to discover the right supplier that can have the readiness can be audited from a safety perspective to really provide that extra help, to manage the disruptions a little better. On the other hand, the volatility of supply chain is such that the disruptions are leading to higher cost. And what we need to also monitor is any bottlenecks with respect to inbound and outbound logistics. So today that are clearly constrained labor challenges and resources, resource, and capacity challenges in production. On the other hand, we need to have a, a better it infrastructure in place could really monitor and have a clear transparency and visibility for entire end to end supply chain. So that is very important for current situation.  
 
Mandar: (10:01) 
And  
 
Josie: (10:03) 
what kind of services right now are customers demanding during this time of crisis? We already talked a little bit about how SAP, how we are supporting our customers, but can you talk a little bit more about the services that they are requiring right now?  
 
Mandar: (10:20) 
Certainly. So customers have never anticipated any of this situation, right? So they are looking for capturing data with respect to a situation from customer’s customer in the value chain. And that’s how they can determine the right input from surveys and other mechanism to really understand the pulse of the market and take the remedial actions. And our Qualtrics has a right portfolio of tools that can help through these kinds of surveys in terms of capturing the data, whether it is from the suppliers or customers, which can be hospitals, physicians, or even inpatients. So think about use case like today, those patients have been cured. Their antibodies are used when they donate the blood. And those antibodies are used as an example, during clinical trials to research and identify the right vaccines. That means it is important to target the right data collection surveys, to the right set of users that can help capture good insights to steer the strategy in the right direction.  
 
Mandar: (11:32) 
And we have different types of life sciences manufacturers from a vaccines perspective, as well as other drugs like cancer therapies and HIV. So some of those aspects can be also considered as important for thinking about putting the right research effort to help the COVID vaccine. So we are seeing that the customers are looking at some commonalities and some ingredients that can jumpstart this, this search for COVID vaccine. And it’s interesting that we are seeing some competitors in the pharma industry coming together to really collaborate on not just on the R and D front, but also look into available capacity that can help manufacture the drug at scale. And just like on the pharma side, we have similar collaboration happening on the medical device side, where the design collaboration for ventilator technology is being shared with other suppliers. And it’s more of an open collaboration where scientists and designers are also collaborating with bigger pharma and med devices to look into how they can help mankind. So definitely steps in the right direction. And we are seeing a lot of pig farmers having a, uh, reprioritize, their current, uh, focus, think about existing med device, med tech companies, having certain surgeries delayed for knees or hips and other things. And those companies are also looking as to how they can help with some of the covert challenges that their customers are facing. So it’s important to understand what is the demand coming from the hospitals and accordingly adjust your portfolio to help today’s changing world. Does that help her to understand the big picture?  
 
Josie: (13:30) 
Yes, it really does. And you’re spot on, I’ve heard this across all industries, that collaboration is something that’s really accelerated along with digital transformation under COVID-19. And I also heard on the news this morning, a scientist who said, speaking about vaccines, that he thought it was amazing seeing how people and research like researchers or scientists are coming together across the world to collaborate on this vaccine, because it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what company you represent. It’s about coming together and helping mankind, like you said, as well, and to look beyond what’s going on right now and looking more ahead and maybe even past the crisis, what do you think the topics that the life science companies will be focusing on in, uh, what’s been often called the new normal.  
 
Mandar: (14:26) 
So let me take a step back and explain that we are looking at this whole process from three stages. So we are already past the responding stage with the right IT tools from SAP, whether it is related to the workforce and everybody working remotely that can use these tools to really ensure that employees are healthy. And so are the sales rep, we’re meeting the doctors, the hospitals, or any people who are traveling for business related stuff. The second step we are in currently now, I would say is more of a recovery stage where most of the countries have a little better control over the first phase. And now they are looking at protective measures, putting in place for this recovery stage. And I’ll give you a simple example. Like when some of the people coming back to offices that are it tools in the office to look into temperature, to heat, sports, and maps, and we are seeing similar technology currently being discussed, whether it is with environmental health and safety topics, to look into the temperature of the workers, whether there is some kind of a detection pattern, because typically these workers also wear gloves and masks for doing dust free manufacturing process steps as an example.  
 
Mandar: (15:46) 
So it’s important to ensure that during the recovery, the IT tools are really helping the manufacturing process for these drugs and diagnostic kits. And when you look at the diagnostic kit, as an example, we see a lot of false positives and negatives as well in the marketplace. So it’s important that the real reading gives a clear indication, how is the effectiveness of that device itself? And that’s where some of the analytics and real world data will come in handy because real world data is basically a demand signal that you capture from an it tool about what patient patient has recorded. And it can transfer through simple iPhone or a mobile device through network, back to manufacturer. So it’s important that you have the right mobile apps on a cloud platform in place to help foster like this delivery process for giving the right data back to the hospitals that can monitor the patient’s health effectively.  
 
Mandar: (16:56) 
So we had some examples from SAP in the healthcare area, trying to collaborate for the recovery phase and in life sciences, the way I look at this recovery phases, how are we going to help in terms of putting the right tools, whether it is on cloud based platform, using the right network to help build a capacity to manufacture for volumes and scales, because the nature of thousands of patients being involved today, it’s important to, to ramp up the capacity quickly in order to meet the future demand that is growing for the industry. And for that, we definitely want to work with more contract manufacturing organizations, not just from life sciences, but also from discreet industry and process industry that can be ready to really address this human risk of balancing the short term with ensuring the health and safety of not just employees, but also our patients and physicians. And we call it healthcare professionals in general. Yeah. 
 
Josie: (18:03) 
Yeah. It’s all about right now using technology to essentially protect human beings and to ensure that we can thrive moving forward, because like you said, data in this case is going to play a critical role because you don’t have that insight. You may not be able to act, um, you may be acting more in blind versus actually knowing what’s going on with an in this case, we’re talking about human lives, which of course is the most important thing that we could ever be discussing. So on those words, Mandar, thank you so much for coming on the show and making us so, especially me so much smarter about life sciences. It’s such a fascinating industry in this time that we’re living in right now is such an important industry as well. So I’m so glad that, that there is optimism in terms of what we can do to better recover and that maybe more longterm also reimagine or use technology to better come out of this crisis and in a more sustainable and healthy way. So thank you for coming on the show.  
 
Mandar: (19:14) 
Thank you very much for inviting me. And then I would definitely like to thank all of our SAP customers. We’re working so hard to help this good cause and the effort we are in together to help all the people in the world make. SAP is always there to help with the right tools and looking forward to the collaboration with our life science customers.  
 
Josie: (19:38) 
Yeah. Good point. That big things go goes out to our customers. This is all about collaboration. You talked about this earlier, so thank you for all of our customers, for collaborating with us and to those who listened to this episode. Thank you so much for listening in and as always stay healthy, everyone by everyone. Please subscribe to our channel industry insights by SAP at open SAP, Apple, Spotify, or podcast, to learn more about what SAP is doing to help you cope in COVID-19. You can go to sap.com about global health safety and find free access to select SAP software tools, support your business in much more. Stay safe, everyone. 

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