Conventionally, the pharmaceutical industry was highly dependent on small molecules to treat diseases. With the introduction of biotechnology (e.g., sequenced genome), the pharmaceutical industry witnessed the rise of a new set of tools to treat diseases. During the past few years, biotechnology has immensely impacted health care, science, law, and business. Moreover, there has been an upsurge in both biotech products and sales globally.
In recent years, the pharmaceutical industry has been grasping to fill revenue gaps created by major therapies in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases that have gone generic. The industry increasingly is focused on niche areas (e.g., oncology, rare diseases) and on targeted biologic therapies. This results in fewer potential patients per therapy and consequently higher product prices. As a result, the industry has been facing political pressure for its pricing and experiencing M&A driven consolidation. In response to the current situation, Orbytel Group—a small company serving the industry, has been developing an end-to-end scientific intelligence solution that helps companies make therapies faster and at a lower cost.
The Core Foundation for the Products
Established in 2013, Orbytel Group is the technology arm of Abuwala & Company (which was established in 2009) and began operating independently in 2016. It provides artificial intelligence (AI) -enabled, technology-driven solutions to help teams manage and act on scientific intelligence. It gathers scientific insights, identifies and engages scientific expertise, performs comparative analyses of trial data, and translates this intelligence into investor-grade financial forecasts and narratives. The company works with R&D, Medical Affairs, Business Development, Commercial Development, and Marketing teams.
Orbytel Group has several integrated products that support teams with different aspects of scientific intelligence. The products revolve around a common core—a comprehensive ontology (data structure) that organizes and standardizes scientific information so that it can be easily comparatively analyzed. The company employs advanced analytics, natural language processing, and machine learning that it has been refining for the past 5 years. This core forms the foundation for the products: Insights, Meetings, Trials, and Forecasts.
Insights help teams identify, review, and summarize relevant scientific content from scientific abstracts and publications. Meetings help teams collect scientific input from scientists. Trials help compare and contrast clinical trial data across trial-arms and/or trials. And Forecasts help translate scientific intelligence and understanding into financial considerations and scenarios.
Providing Comprehensive Solutions
Orbytel Group has a single data structure and a single code-base that supports all of its products. This enables the company to have a comprehensive, end-to-end solution for scientific intelligence—beginning with a scientific abstract and ending with a financial projection. Each of its products has a full set of features that were developed through close partnerships with the biggest global pharma companies. The products tend to be intuitive for teams and address most pain points right out-of-the-box.
Currently, Orbytel Group has been focused on furthering its AI technologies particularly in the area of natural language processing of scientific abstracts and papers. The company is working towards exposing an API (application programming interface) that would enable customers to use the AI to “read” scientific papers and return key insights.
Focusing On the Comprehensive Solutions
The pandemic has been devastating, cases are rising globally—in the US, the economic effect has been particularly serious for small businesses. Murt Abuwala, Founder of Orbytel Group believes that while the pharmaceutical industry won’t be significantly impacted by the pandemic, there will likely be a broader sustained economic contraction The biopharma industry is tasked with finding a long-term solution to the virus—so for many, it is a very busy time. However, for other therapeutic areas, there have been some setbacks due to clinical trial enrollment declines due to the lockdown. From an organizational perspective, Murt believes that the biopharma industry was largely prepared for remote work for its knowledge workers.
Presently, it is difficult to make predictions about the long-term effects of the pandemic especially in the United States where cases are still rising and there is uncertainty when a therapeutic will be available. For the business—the current situation poses uncertainties with revenue. To help manage through the current crisis, Orbytel Group focused on reducing operating expenses and building additional AI capabilities. The AI features will enable the company to offer more capabilities to customers at a lower price, which will be important if a sustained economic recession ensues.
Approaching the Crisis with Positivity
As a founder and a responsible leader at the company, Murt is responsible for steering the team in a direction that aligns the company mission with its products/services and future customer needs. Orbytel Group started with a mission to make a positive and meaningful impact on health. He coaches the team in a manner that develops and aligns their skills with their goals and the company’s needs and ensures the company is adequately capitalized with appropriate resource allocation to achieve its goals. Thriving towards the betterment in the healthcare industry, Orbytel Group encourages the team members to adhere to these four core values: Clarity (learn and understand), Insight (synthesize and consider), Craftsmanship (build to stand the test of time), and Impact (create meaningful change).
Throughout the pandemic, the biopharma industry is one of the industries that is at the forefront in dealing with the crisis. Thus, motivation and production are not the primary concerns for the company at the moment. As a technology company, the team is accustomed to working remotely. But to observe the current norms of social distancing, the team used video conferencing much more during the pandemic. To lighten up the mood and share positivity, team members share something fun on each call—joke of the day, or sharing a funny story—really anything to solicit a smile. Since most vacation plans have been affected, the company has implemented a more relaxed work schedule this summer—with half-day Fridays and late-start Mondays.