Startup – Corporate collaboration to develop DTx

Startup & Pharma DTx
Startup & Pharma DTx


Digital Therapeutics (DTx) represent one of the most important topics in the Italian and international pharmaceutical sector. Our research focuses on how pharmaceutical and technological companies, both startups and established firms, may collaborate with the purpose of developing and commercializing Digital Therapeutics.

In this context, during our research emerged how a digital therapy needs to follow a precise process of research, development, clinical experimentations and commercialization. This requirement stems from a crucial characteristic of a DTx : it must guarantee an actual therapeutic effect on the patient. Besides, necessary competencies to obtain an effective and safe digital treatment have been defined. These competencies represent the basis to understand the importance of the collaboration among the different actors along the whole process and, more specifically, in each phase.

The entire process of research, development, validation and commercialization has been divided in two principal macro-phases, that, afterwards, have been analyzed considering costs and level of uncertainty. Later, these considerations have been used to define the most appropriate collaboration’s methods for the two macro-phases. In particular, provided the differences in costs and level of uncertainty, the collaboration approach among the different actors should change.

Finally, this part of the research also focused on the definition of few factors that may explain the choice of the collaboration method, such as transaction costs and bureaucratic costs.

In the second part of the empirical research, the previous hypotheses have been tested through a data collection. The approach used during this phase of the research has been a combination of an on-line questionnaire and a following face-to-face interview, with the objective of deepening the answers given to the questionnaire and other relevant themes.

The questionnaire, that includes 14 questions, refers to the model defined during the first phase of the research and it has been submitted to professionals in the pharmaceutical sector.

The first results obtained by the questionnaire and the interviews confirm the imperative need of collaboration with external partners to develop and commercialize a digital therapy. The main reason for this result is associated to a lack of internal competencies within single firms. Furthermore, the internal development of those capabilities would be economically inconvenient, even if it was possible under some circumstances.

Finally, few factors emerged which could justify a different approach of collaboration compared to the one defined by the initial model.

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