Skip to main content

Select your location

Doctor holding a tablet device

Roches Penelope Wood: Embracing Change

I’m Dr Pamela Walker, Global Head of Healthcare at Kin + Carta. My career has focused on consulting within the healthcare sector and my areas of expertise include commercialisation of assets, digital transformations, strategy, acquisition advisory and market insight. I am passionately committed to inspiring success and opening new avenues of possibility in the world of health.

And this is what our Luminaries series is all about: Empowerment.

Our next Luminary, Penelope Wood, is the Global Head for Personalised Healthcare Diagnostics Strategy at Roche's Pharmaceutical Division. Roche is a multinational healthcare company that operates worldwide.

During our conversation, Penny highlighted the new opportunities being unlocked by technology and the changing ways of working required to realise them. Here’s what she had to say…

In your role, what are your objectives and goals?

I am the Global Head for Personalised Healthcare Diagnostics Strategy within Roche’s Pharmaceutical Division and am accountable for a team which sets & drives the execution of the commercial diagnostic strategy for our portfolio of personalised medicines.
My team has the important responsibility of ensuring that quality diagnostic testing is made broadly available so that each and every patient can receive the best treatment possible.

What will it look and feel like to be your customer in five years? What will be the same? What will be different?

New technologies and data are providing opportunities we didn’t have before to ensure that we can more accurately identify more patients for the right treatment at the right time. We are at a point now where next-generation diagnostics and digital tools are already starting to make their mark but challenges remain, particularly when it comes to access to testing.

For patients, in five years, I hope we are able to remove more barriers to diagnostic testing to enable patients to receive personalized care that leads to better outcomes for them and their families. And I believe their experience will be different — there is a lot of power in being able to provide patients with more rapid insights into their disease, treatment options and how they are doing on treatment over time. For healthcare professionals, the complexity and sheer amount of data and information they are expected to absorb and utilize is only increasing

I see the use of clinical decision support tools becoming more entrenched in clinical practice to help physicians make sense of how the data they have can impact the individual patient sitting in front of them in the office. 

Investing in new technologies requires a willingness to take more risk than the industry is used to

Penelope Wood - Global Head for Personalised Healthcare Diagnostics Strategy, Roche

How do you tell the difference between a technology fad and the beginning of a long term shift? In other words, how do you separate the signals from the noise

It’s an interesting question, particularly in healthcare as the industry as a whole is still trying to understand how best to utilize, and adopt, technologies like digital and AI. Investing in new technologies requires a willingness to take more risk than the industry is used to. I think you have to evaluate technologies through the lens of ‘can this make a difference to patients and can we play a role in helping it get to a point where that impact is a reality’.

I believe the challenge ahead of us is not necessarily in separating the signal from the noise but figuring out how to meaningfully apply these technologies to improve how we develop and deliver medicines to patients. That takes technical expertise but also a deep understanding of the biology of disease, healthcare systems and how healthcare professionals and patients interact throughout a patient’s disease — and a willingness to invest in generating the evidence needed to move novel technologies over the line.

What technologies do you believe will have the greatest impact on healthcare in the next three years?

In the space where I operate, I’m excited about the potential that digital pathology and new imaging technologies have to optimize the diagnostic & treatment journey for patients. These technologies are already generating promising evidence but are still relatively nascent, and the opportunity that remains to shape and support the impact that these tools can have on patients is really compelling.

We talk a lot about the amount of change industries and companies are going through. How have all of these changes affected the cultures of the organizations you’ve recently been a part of?

We are embracing change in a way that I never would have expected to see in a large global Pharma organization. I’ve seen a real, tangible shift to embracing new ways of working, including encouraging teams to think and act differently when approaching business challenges, and by partnering with our many external stakeholders in healthcare.

What, if anything, keeps you up at night as it pertains to your role?

I come to work every day to make a difference for patients. What keeps me up at night is a sense of urgency to advance the new technology and tools we have available so that we can deliver on that promise for patients.

Connect with Penelope on Linkedin.