Irma Veberič, General Manager Roche Polska
COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for all of us, bringing into focus the importance of healthcare and the limitations and failings of our current approach. We need to use this opportunity – to see COVID-19 as a catalyst for change. We have come together and want to collaborate for a better future.
To create truly groundbreaking solutions that will significantly improve the quality of patient care and treatment, we need to seek pioneering solutions. The Warsaw Health Innovation Hub (WHIH) is just such an initiative. This biotechnology hub, created with the Medical Research Agency and private entities, is a space for incubating much needed innovations. I believe that the initiative will unleash the potential of company researchers, thus accelerating the implementation of many vital solutions in the healthcare sector, as well as improving the quality of existing services.
We are actively involved in the creation of the WHIH and the development of solutions within this initiative. Public-private partnerships enable us to achieve our ambitions. Thanks to them, we see a change in our role from a provider of diagnostic and therapeutic solutions to a partner in co-creating solutions that strengthen the healthcare system in Poland.
Within the WHIH, we are implementing the Similar Case DataBase (SCD) project. It responds to an urgent need in the area of lung cancer. Mortality currently exceeds the number of new cases of this cancer and the lung cancer patient pathway is far too long and needs to be optimised. Similar Case DataBase (SCD) is a modern approach made possible by leveraging Roche’s resources in Poland, including expert IT knowledge in the area of personalised medicine (PHC) and diagnostics. This would be impossible without cooperation between different stakeholders and companies, thus this project unites AstraZeneca and IQVIA with all their experience and knowledge. The application of precision oncology, which posits that each cancer is characterised by a unique nuclear profile, will be crucial in implementing the project. Consultations are currently underway with the involvement of the public at clinical and oncology centres, which will enable work on the project.

Cooperation with different stakeholders
We appreciate the contribution of Polish scientists to the development of medicine, which is why cooperation with scientific centres, especially universities, is so important for us. We co-develop educational and development programmes for students, an excellent example of which is the BioTech Leaders Academy programme created in collaboration with Warsaw University. Its goal is to accelerate ideas and projects in the interdisciplinary fields of biotechnology, pharmacy, medicine, and bioinformatics. In today’s world, medical innovations are created at the junction of these areas. Without them, we would not be able to talk about innovation, nor enjoy medical progress.
Together with the Maria Skłodowska Curie Oncology Centre-Institute in Warsaw, we have established a Scientific and Industrial Centre. Within the CNP, Poland’s first centre for early clinical oncological research was established. Initiatives carried out in cooperation with the Oncology Centre and the University of Warsaw show that there is a need to create platforms for an exchange of experience between public and private institutions.
Access to data in the healthcare system
As was already mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of creating a shared data space in the health sector. It is also one of the priorities of the European Commission (for 2019-2025). The European Common Health Data Space will support more efficient exchange of different types of health data. Sharing data and expertise is now more important than ever and will underpin innovation, R&D and system performance.
The challenge for the healthcare system is first to acquire data, and then to digitise and continuously update it. If this challenge could be met by automating information acquired during the first medical visit, it would lead us to the use of Real World Data for Real World Evidence (RWE). The Open Data Institute’s report “Secondary Use of Health Data in Europe” assesses the policies of 29 countries in the European region and the European Commission, both in terms of policy and legislation quality and the speed of change implementation. The leader of the ranking is the UK; Poland ranks somewhere in the middle, defined as a country with limited vision in using data infrastructure beyond interoperable electronic health records. The results of the analysis highlight the urgent need to develop common data standards and models to enable more effective data sharing to effectively meet the needs of growing and ageing populations.
There is no future of medicine and healthcare without IT and new technologies. The development of digital health means modern support for doctors and patients in diagnostics, medical care and decision-making processes. Digital health solutions make it possible to shorten treatment time, increase its effectiveness, and as a result – reduce costs. We are well aware of this fact. For more than 10 years, within the Roche Global IT Solution Centre, over 3,500 people have been implementing a wide range of international IT projects that patients, doctors and scientists around the world benefit from every day.
Healthcare systems are currently facing many challenges and we need to address these issues. In the past, our understanding of disease and the patient’s journey was not as clear as it could have been. The data available to us in the past for determining personalised care was largely derived from controlled clinical trials and as such was based on limited populations. While advances in our understanding of disease have enabled us to develop biomarker targeted medicines in treatment areas such as cancer, we were a long way from providing a care package tailored to address the unique needs and root causes of disease in every individual. Electronic health records, advanced diagnostics platforms and digital tools, such as wearables and apps – these platforms support the generation of data that is both deep and rich. Starting from this strong foundation, advanced analytics is then applied to derive meaningful insights into health, disease and treatment pathways at the population and patient level. The public sector, government, industry – we all have a role to play. And we need to understand that the responsibility for solving this challenge rests on our shoulders, both individually and jointly. I know there are many people who don’t want to sit down and engage with Big Pharma. I understand that. But if we don’t solve this problem together, who will?