For Matt Higgins, researching the pharmaceutical industry turned from a professional interest to a deeply personal one when his four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a progressive, non-curable mitochondrial disease soon after birth.
Some of his current research examines whether the Federal Drug Administration should extend the window of exclusivity before drugs go generic so that pharmaceutical companies have an incentive to treat a wider range of diseases. "When you talk to scientists, there are a lot of potentially great drugs that are not being developed because of regulatory and patent issues," says Higgins, assistant professor of strategic management.
He and other professors in the College of Management will be able to more deeply pursue their varied research interests related to the pharmaceutical industry now that they have unparalleled access among academics to a treasure trove of pharmaceutical databases.
This access is the result of a recently formalized relationship between the College and IMS Health, whose databases are widely considered the gold standard in pharmaceutical and healthcare market intelligence. This data is relied upon by leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies, government agencies, policymakers, researchers, and financial analysts around the globe.
Higgins says the depth and breadth of data that the College can now freely access would otherwise be prohibitively expensive for a public business school. The value of the data could run well into the millions as the relationship with IMS evolves.
The relationship came out through the school's connection with former IMS board member John Imlay, who graduated from the College in 1959 and is a member of its Alumni Hall of Fame. "John Imlay really helped open the door," says Higgins, holder of the Imlay professorship. "He asked if there was anything he could do to help, and he came through in a really big way."
IMS will benefit from the relationship because they can use executive summaries of Georgia Tech research findings in their marketing to demonstrate the wide range of possible uses for their data. The company's databases cover the entire life cycle of drugs from how doctors and patients used them to how they fared in the marketplace.
Students will benefit from the relationship when Higgins and strategic management associate professor Frank Rothaermel begin co-teaching the new course Competing in the Life Sciences in spring 2010. "IMS can help us provide cutting-edge industry questions so that students aren't working on stale, old cases," Higgins says.