People are talking about the acquisition of Flatiron Health by Roche. Here is an article from Forbes that discusses the possible rationale for the purchase (see: The Flatiron Health Acquisition Is A Shot In The Arm For Roche's Oncology Real-World Evidence Needs) and below is an excerpt from the article:
...Roche, a global pharmaceutical giant, [has] acquired Flatiron Health, an oncology-focused electronic health records (EHR) company, for $1.9 billion....[Flatiron] has a partnership with a large network of oncology clinics and a few major research facilities to gather patient data. While it was not entirely unexpected for Roche to acquire Flatiron Health, this high-cost deal has surprised many people, as the value proposition of this deal is unclear....But one thing is clear—Roche’s decision was not driven by Flatiron’s healthcare provider-client lists. There are enough regulatory barriers that prohibit a pharmaceutical company from directly collaborating with a provider in the US.....The Flatiron platform captures and normalizes both structured and unstructured oncology data from diverse source systems. It also captures unstructured data from sources such as laboratories, research repositories, payer networks, among others, and its analytics engine pulls out relevant insights from the unstructured data, which, when combined with electronic medical records (EMR) data, generate the real-world evidence. Through its innovative approach, Flatiron addresses a few important issues: how to improve clinical trial results, how to optimize the process of clinical trial eligibility assessment, and how to enable pharmaceutical companies to innovate with groundbreaking research that progresses the human race and pushes the boundary of human capability.
....For Roche, the regulator-worthy, clinical research-grade data, which is being extracted by the Flatiron Health oncology practice network in almost real time, is of immense value and can be used for readout of drug efficacy and utility. In a nutshell, Roche will save money on clinical trials, make quicker decisions, and have a faster time-to-market. A blockbuster drug takes approximately 12 years and $4 billion-$11 billion of investment. Flatiron may help Roche expedite market launch and save R&D cost for its upcoming oncology drugs. Further, Flatiron oncology practice network and patient data can be used by Roche in its digital marketing initiatives, patient assistance programs, and other commercial applications. Considering that this network is highly specialized and focused on oncology, the acquisition provides Roche even greater competitive advantage in the oncology drugs market.
This Forbes article is so good that I really don't have much to add. A key point to understand in terms of the allure of Flatiron Health for Roch is that attention is finally being paid to the value of unstructured EHR data. EHRs were not designed for research purposes but It's very much in vogue these days to discuss the advantages of real-world evidence such as that gathered by EHRs (see: Assessing Drugs Using "Real World Evidence" in Addition to Clinical Trials). This new interest is largely the result of improved computer analytics including natural language processing (NLP). As the article above highlights, companies like Roche are eager to learn how to use such data to improve clinical trial results, drug efficacy, and utility. The value and future of clinical trials are also being discussed with reliance on web applications and real-world data (see: The Future of Clinical Trial Modernization: What’s to Come in 2018; The site-less model allows patients to accomplish study visits from the comfort of their own home).