Pharmaceutical company UCB, headquartered in Brussels, has over 8,500 employees operating in over 40 countries. Collaboration is in its DNA, both for projects involving several strategic partners as well as when interacting with end-customers.
UCB’s innovation motto is “We aspire to be the leading customer-focused pharmaceutical company.” Thus, the company has launched several initiatives to communicate directly with groups of patients with specific diseases. These groups not only receive marketing messages, but also information about the disease and its treatment. In turn, the patients collaborate with UCB, helping the company design new strategies for treating diverse maladies, and consequently, helping the company to innovate in its products.
Patients participate just like the company’s strategists and R&D managers, in multi-disciplinary working groups aimed at developing new products.
UCB has even created an online R&D collaboration platform, based on the structure of Wikipedia, in which patients track every development for which they can provide relevant input. Many chronic diseases such as Crohn’s disease, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease are considered “silent diseases”, as patients often faces social stigmatization. As such, these individuals have traditionally been reluctant to share their experience and needs. Thus, UCB envisioned that the new online tools would offer these patients an opportunity to communicate and report on their progress in privacy, while guaranteeing that it would obtain the knowledge that it sought. The Belgian company now invests a significant portion of its budget to these “conversations” with the individuals that are ultimately the end-users of their products (despite the fact that the company’s actual commercial dealings are with healthcare systems and pharmacies).
To raise awareness of the platform, UCB has sponsored events to support these patients, as well as online communities for patients suffering from specific diseases, such as PatientsLikeMe.com or CrohnsandMe.com.