Basel, Switzerland – Last year’s bet on Google’s passive glucose-sensing contact lens was an important one for the appetite for risk and innovation at Novartis. What started as simple license of a core technology quickly became a pipeline of product possibilities on the platform, including an autofocus feature for people living with presbyopia.

This year, Novartis is making a bolder, more entrepreneurial move by partnering up with the world’s biggest digital health investor, Qualcomm. Together, the two have created a $100 million investment fund to fuel new “beyond the pill” technologies, products and services that will benefit physicians and patients.

The partnership already has two intriguing projects in the works: next generation clinical trials (Trials of the Future) design and an observational pilot of mobile support for people with chronic lung disease. Both bring together in-home monitoring with interesting partnerships, like integration with Walgreen’s Balance Rewards.

These latest moves are building on an intriguing history of digital health trial and innovation at Novartis that’s included partnerships with the ingested-tracker Proteus, health accelerators and competitions, and apps and games.

Detractors might say that digital health is no where near a tipping point. But Novartis is positioned to use its insider knowledge of healthcare to focus on some clever niches who are more than open to innovations in digital health. For example, consider a few headlines from CES:

  • Parks Associates released findings that 41% of caregivers use a digital health device
  • Family Medicine for America’s Health did a short survey of members of the American Academy of Family Physicians and found that four in 10 use consumer health apps at the point of care

There’s potential for Novartis to reach its goal of “optimizing the value of innovative medicines” through digital support. It just may not be for every patient every time.

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.