During BIO2012 last week, Ernst & Young presented their annual Beyond Borders report on the state of the biotech industry. Several themes are covered in the report but the underlying trend is a much broader discussion and movement towards open sharing of data and collaboration across academia, industry, patient advocacy groups and payors. This "networked innovation" aligns biotech with high tech's much broader use of data and personalized targeting that we see at work in social networks and online advertsing every day and has enormous opportunity to increase timelines and success rates in drug development.

As Tony Coles, President & CEO of Onyx Pharmaecuticals puts it, "Our industry’s long-standing “go-it-alone” approach, in which companies attempt to single-handedly discover and develop new medicines, is being challenged for its scientific productivity and efficiency, and for the absence of scale in an age of rapid innovation. We have to — and are starting to — find new ways to accelerate the development of even better therapies for unmet medical needs. Underpinning this new approach is the opportunity to collaborate with key groups and stakeholders to, in effect,
“network” innovation. By partnering with networks of academicians, scientists, regulators, policy makers and patient communities, we can create more breakthroughs that patients desperately need."

Josh Berger, Founder of Vertex also had a great rallying cry for industry, "In a world of profound opportunity to change medicine, maybe we shouldn’t be working on those middling cases. Identify as fast as possible the drugs that don’t work (and learn from them), and identify as fast as possible the upside surprises. Get on with the breakthroughs and leave the rest behind."

While bringing together data from academic research, clinical trials, biotech R&D, patient registries and payor databases is no small challenge, the technologies and the expertise to do so exist and the benefit to all of us who are now or will be patients in need makes that challenge one we cannot fail to meet.