Interview: Thermo Fisher Scientific's Sarah Englert on opening the doors to its new innovation hub

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Innovation Research Technology Data management Thermo fisher scientific

Yesterday, Thermo Fisher Scientific opened its first Innovation Lab in Center Valley, Pennsylvania., as a space where partners can come together to collaborate, innovate, and ideate on solutions to the biggest clinical supply chain pain points.

The state-of-the-art facility will be an innovation and co-creation/working lab that supports the creation, testing, and validation of new services and products that help advance clinical trial research.

OSP interviewed Sarah Englert, the senior director of innovation and program management (pictured) about what the lab means to the company and what it hopes to achieve.

OSP:  What specific challenges within the clinical supply chain is Thermo Fisher Scientific addressing through its innovation lab?

SE:​ We are focusing on several challenges within the clinical supply chain. These include issues such as low patient data collection quality, patient non-adherence leading to dropout rates, and recruitment and retention difficulties. Additionally, the company recognizes the evolving digital landscape and the need to leverage technology to optimize clinical trials for faster and higher-quality outcomes.

OSP: How will the innovation lab promote collaboration and co-creation among industry partners to find solutions?

SE:​ The innovation lab is designed to foster a culture of collaboration and co-creation. It provides a dedicated space for industry partners to come together, share ideas, and work collaboratively on solutions. Thermo Fisher aims to encourage open communication and knowledge sharing among participants to maximize the impact of innovation.

OSP:What distinguishes this lab in terms of capabilities and resources compared to others in the industry?

SE:​ The key distinction of this lab lies in its fast-paced environment and emphasis on rapid innovation. It operates on the principle of a ‘funnel’ rather than a ‘tube’, encouraging a fail-fast mentality to quickly identify successful ideas. The lab continuously evolves, with new prototypes and innovations regularly introduced for experimentation and feedback. Additionally, it integrates both digital technologies, such as AI and ML, and hands-on solutions like trial-in-box offerings, providing a unique hybrid approach to innovation.

OSP: How do next-generation technologies and smart solutions transform the clinical trial landscape, particularly in terms of accessibility and patient-centricity?

SE:​  Next-generation technologies and smart solutions play a pivotal role in transforming the clinical trial landscape. By incorporating sensors and digital twins into the supply chain, real-time data becomes available, enabling proactive decision-making and faster response to disruptions. This not only enhances accessibility but also improves patient-centricity by optimizing the trial experience and potentially leading to better outcomes.

OSP: How does Thermo Fisher plan to foster an environment of open collaboration and knowledge sharing within the lab to maximize impact?

SE:​  We promote open collaboration and knowledge sharing through various initiatives. These include events like ‘shark tank’ sessions where ideas are pitched and funded, as well as an innovation funnel for idea submissions. The company emphasizes that innovation is everyone's responsibility and encourages employees to contribute ideas for continuous improvement. By creating a culture that values innovation and strategic thinking, Thermo Fisher aims to harness the collective talent within the organization and prioritize solutions based on customer goals and challenges.

OSP: How do you anticipate the outcomes from the lab influencing the broader landscape of clinical trial research and development?

Sarah Englert Thermo Fisher

SE:​ The outcomes generated from the lab are expected to have a significant impact on the clinical trial landscape. By focusing on areas such as adherence measurement and smart packaging, we aim to gather valuable data that can enhance patient experiences and improve trial outcomes. With access to real-time adherence data, proactive interventions can be made to address patient concerns and mitigate potential issues, ultimately leading to more successful trials. Additionally, innovations aimed at optimizing patient experiences, such as direct patient trial-in-a-box services, are poised to make clinical trials more accessible and efficient.

OSP: Can you share any specific success stories or milestones achieved through collaboration within the ecosystem that exemplify the potential for the new lab?

SE:​  Absolutely! One notable collaboration involved a strategic partner in the biopharma industry. By closely listening to their goals and challenges, we identified an opportunity to streamline the order distribution process, which was previously manual and time-consuming. Through innovative solutions utilizing AI and ML, we were able to automate this process, reducing order intake time from four days to just 15 minutes. This significant improvement not only benefited the partner directly but also has the potential to scale across all our customers, demonstrating the transformative impact of collaborative innovation.

OSP:How do you envision the future trajectory of the clinical trial industry evolving as a result of initiatives like the innovation lab, and what role will Thermo Fisher Scientific play in shaping that future?

SE:​ The future of the clinical trial industry is incredibly exciting, with rapid advancements in technology and biology paving the way for innovative solutions. Initiatives like the innovation lab are instrumental in driving this evolution by fostering collaboration and pushing the boundaries of what's possible. Thermo Fisher Scientific is committed to playing a leading role in shaping this future by leveraging our integration strength, such as with the recent acquisition of PPD, to deliver end-to-end solutions that enhance the customer and patient experience. By continuously innovating and collaborating across our teams and with our customers, we aim to drive positive change and accelerate progress in the clinical trial industry.

OSP: Could you tell us about the upcoming grand opening of the Innovation Centre?

SE:​ The grand opening of the Innovation Centre is set to be a momentous occasion. We're excited to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony with a select group of customers, providing them with a firsthand look at the facility and the latest prototypes and technologies. This intimate setting allows for valuable feedback and collaboration, as we engage in roundtable discussions to gain insights into their challenges and priorities. The event serves as an opportunity to strengthen our partnerships and chart the course for future innovation efforts, guided by the diverse perspectives and needs of our customers. We're eagerly anticipating the exchange of ideas and the potential for transformative outcomes that will emerge from this collaborative event.

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