Aparna Deshpande, Head of Insights & Analytics at Trinity Life Sciences — Driving Pharmaceutical Innovation through Insights and Analytics – AI Time Journal

Aparna Deshpande leads the design and execution of primary market research projects in support of Trinity’s consulting engagements. She specializes in shaping therapeutic area commercial strategy through insights and analytics across multiple disease areas. Aparna’s focus is on helping clients identify the “right” business questions, developing a hypothesis-based approach to address the question and leveraging her analytical capabilities to identify the most efficient approaches to testing the hypotheses.

With over a dozen years of domestic and international experience in pharmaceutical market research, Aparna holds a PhD with a concentration in Pharmaceutical Market Research from the University of Georgia and is a trained pharmacist. Winning praise for her health care policy research, she has been an invited speaker to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), and her quantitative research has been widely published in public policy, health communication, pharmacy education and pharmacoeconomic journals.

Outside the office, Aparna enjoys staying active with her husband and sons, particularly kickboxing and CrossFit training.

Your journey in pharmaceutical market research has been extensive. How has your academic background and training as a pharmacist influenced your approach to leading research projects at Trinity Life Sciences?

A deep understanding of pharmacology, drug development and therapy areas makes me uniquely positioned to analyze and interpret complex market data. My clinical knowledge allows me to accurately assess the potential impact of new treatments and my experience in patient care provides me valuable insights into patient needs and behaviors, enabling me to translate our findings with a practical end stakeholder perspective in mind. My clinical expertise and analytical skills equip me to deliver nuanced, actionable market research for our clients with a holistic perspective of all health care stakeholders.

Shaping therapeutic area commercial strategies requires deep insights across various disease areas. Can you share a recent example where these insights directly influenced a strategic decision for a client?

Trinity Life Sciences partners with life sciences industry executives on clinical and commercialization decision-making. Our best-in-the-business experience and expertise, cutting-edge analytics and technology allow us to advise on everything from launch strategy to whether to lease or buy a fleet of cars for a sales team. Today we work with 350 clients, including the top 100 pharma companies. In 2023, we supported 75% of drug launches.

At Trinity, we leverage data as the foundation upon which we develop insights using predictive analytics and Artificial Intelligence; then turn that insight into knowledge, which leads to actions that we recommend for our clients.

Recently, we partnered with a top 10 Pharma client to use longitudinal patient-level data to identify points along the patient journey in Oncology where the client could intervene and determine the customer segments that, if targeted, would yield the optimal ROI. Based on predictive modeling, we were able to use these insights to shape the Go-To-Market strategy for the client’s lead product across multiple indications and help them determine their optimal marketing approach.

The Trinity Real Insights solution integrates primary and secondary real-world data to form a “single source of truth.” What were the biggest challenges in developing this data-agnostic approach, and how did you and your team overcome them?

Developing a single source of truth is one of the biggest pain points for our clients. To address this problem, it is necessary to integrate different sources of data at the lowest common “grain.” Linking multiple secondary or “structured” data sources using a tokenization approach—and then overlaying it with data from sources like market research or chart audits—enables the creation of a foundational data fabric that combines the “what” with the “why” of customer behavior. Trinity Real Insights uses this approach and forms the basis on which clients can apply predictive analytics to determine HCPs’ propensity to prescribe under different scenarios. It is flexible in enabling the client to test the impact of pulling different promotional levers and assessing the impact of each of those levers on a key metric of competitiveness—brand market share. The integration of RWD and PMR improves the power of market share prediction 20x— and gives clients the ability to identify which segments drive this market share, how these segments can be precisely targeted and which specific messages resonate with these segments.  Clients are then enabled to monitor and track the evolution of these segments over time.

How do you identify the “right” business questions in pharmaceutical market research to ensure your hypotheses align with the client’s strategic goals?

Trinity’s ability to combine the power of deep therapeutic area expertise with knowledge of data triangulation enables us to prioritize hypotheses around the client’s business questions. Then, with our insights and analytic offerings, we are able to rapidly test these hypotheses so that we can differentiate the “known knowns” from the “unknown knowns” and the “unknown unknowns.” This speed to insight and decision-making is powered by our industry-leading suite of data, analytic and insight capabilities.

With your global experience in pharmaceutical market research, how do you balance the diverse regulatory landscapes and data availability challenges across different regions when developing commercial strategies?

There are always data availability challenges at a global level. The way to address these challenges is through integration, aggregation and triangulation of data to form a foundation upon which descriptive, inferential and predictive analytics can be applied to identify common insight themes across markets while pinpointing unique nuances within each market. Then, with the strategic insights provided by our consultants—who have both deep therapeutic area expertise and multi-country experience—Trinity is able to discern the drivers of those country-level nuances to enable our clients’ understanding of the actions to take at a global level while retaining the intricacies of local markets. There is some truth to the catch phrase here, in that we think global and act local.

You’ve delivered insights at the FDA and published extensively in scientific journals. What emerging trends or innovative methodologies in health communication or pharmacoeconomics excite you most right now?

I am most excited about the ability to generate insights from a much larger and deeper set of patient-level data than ever before. This corpus of richer, more diverse data is the crux of superior health outcomes analytics which in turn can generate population level, account level and personalized health outcome insights. Being able to link different datasets through tokenization enables building a data fabric and is critical to analyzing health outcomes. We also now have significant advances in both classical AI and generative AI, which in concert offer the capability to predict and synthesize insights from this data fabric. The power of these trends—data harmonization, technology advances and analytic sophistication—is even greater when they are combined.

Ultimately, the incredible innovation we’re seeing is designed to help life sciences executives bring transformational new therapies to patients and communities who need them. It is with this in mind that Trinity Life Sciences authored ‘Picking Winners.’ This paper provides guidance on how companies can remove self-imposed barriers to true innovation that yields clinical and commercial value through three steps: establishing the right incentives, developing an objective and measurable definition of innovation and increasing early-stage commercial resourcing.

Your work requires a synthesis of rigorous analytical methods with strategic thinking. How do you foster this mindset in your team to maximize the impact of your research?

In this emerging world where the velocity, volume, veracity and variety of data (both secondary and primary) is expanding by the moment, there is an increasing availability of low- and no-code data science approaches—but still an intense desire to have a “human in the loop.” Having a “product” mindset enables my team to deliver a roadmap toward sophisticated analytics with explainable insights. As opposed to a “project” mindset, a “product” mindset—when applied to data, advanced analytics and insights—allows the Trinity team to rapidly prototype solutions that can be beta-tested, iterated and deployed in service of clients. Deep domain expertise and an advisory heritage supports our teams in providing strategic insights and recommendations to our clients based on rigorous analytics.

Given your experience, what advice would you offer to professionals and organizations aiming to stay ahead in pharmaceutical market research?

My advice to life sciences decision-makers and organizations is three-fold:

  1. Be curious: Ask multiple levels of “why” questions, to get to the true insight.
  2. Be use-case driven: Focus on the pain points to be addressed, and develop your data, analytic and insight “products” to address those use cases. If you can do this for specific user “personas”—that’s even better. This enables a user-driven, “last mile delivery”-focused mindset which will lead to your capability being adopted and a pain point being addressed.
  3. Be agile and measure what matters: Attack a problem with an agile approach. Bring an empowered team to the table to address any business problem, quickly iterate on hypotheses, rapidly prototype products/solutions, set specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for those products/solutions and measure the impact. I always remind my team and my clients of the quote, “What gets measured, gets done.”

What role do you see emerging technologies like AI and machine learning playing in enhancing pharmaceutical marketing and outcomes research?

Trinity has been using classical AI such as Machine Learning for several years. What is emerging is the ability to leverage Generative AI and Open Source Large Language Models to enable better, faster and scalable synthesis of insights. All of these feature enhancements have enabled Trinity to bring newer AI “products” to the market to address our clients’ key use cases and pain points. For example, we recently launched Brand Insights AI, which can either be used stand-alone or as an accelerator to enable client insight teams to easily access, visualize and synthesize insights with traceability. It increases client productivity, enhances trust in the underlying data (because of the traceability, thereby limiting hallucination potential) and accelerates both speed to insight and time to decision-making.

How do activities like kickboxing and CrossFit training contribute to maintaining your productivity and creativity in leading high-impact research at Trinity Life Sciences?

I’ve cut out kickboxing over the past few years due to some injuries, but the structured nature of weightlifting and gym time instills a sense of discipline that carries over into my productivity generally at work. It’s a physical break and mental reset that gives me clarity and focus to enable a fresh perspective to fuel creativity.

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