End-of-Summer 2023

On Friday 15th September, the groupH core team and local associates met in London for an end-of-summer social get together. At our dinner in Notting Hill, we celebrated togetherness, successfully completed projects, catching up on personal news and the fact that luck was on our side with glorious late-summer weather throughout the day.


Join groupH’s discussion on TPP Development and Indication Prioritization at the NPP Summit Boston

groupH will talk through 2 project case studies focusing on TPP Development and Indication Prioritization for Biotech companies at pre-clinical or early-stage clinical stage. The talk is aimed at individuals in commercial and non-commercial roles who have to manage uncertainty when aligning on overall scientific and commercial strategy. We will discuss a recent, real-world project process and the trade-offs between different, alternative project approaches. We will dissect the TPP development process and share client views on project timing and project learnings. Participants will leave with key insights from this real-world technology platform development project and there will be time for Q&A at the end.

About Erik Holzinger, groupH:

Erik Holzinger MBA is the founder of groupH a Consulting company dedicated to commercial decision making and analysis. In recent years Erik has been particularly interested in exploring the topics driving TPP development at the more delicate, early stages when commercial and scientific uncertainty is still quite high. Erik is also active as member of the ephmra Annual Conference Organising Committee and co-founder of the ephmra Forecasting Forum. Prior to 2005, he was a Principal Consultant in the Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology team of Wood Mackenzie and a Consultant at The Wilkerson Group. His mother tongue is German, and he is fluent in English and Spanish and lives in South-West London with his family. Outside of work Erik enjoys spending time with his family, yoga, cycling, windsurfing, skiing and the cultural landscape of London.

Find out more about the NPP Summit Boston, October 16, 2023:

Register for the event:  https://www.newproductplanning.com/newproductplanningcom/register

See full list of speakers: https://www.newproductplanning.com/newproductplanningcom/faculty

View full programme: https://www.newproductplanning.com/newproductplanningcom/schedule

Any questions just get in touch – erik.holzinger@grouph.com

The groupH Team

Event Summary “Using AI to Power Insights and the Business” Basel, September 2023




The one-day meeting in Basel on “Using AI to Power Insights and the Business” had been much anticipated.  It allowed us to deep-dive into the topic of AI in a more intimate setting following the discussions from the conference in June. AI in drug development seems almost like news from yesterday, but AI in business insight so far had less headline space. Can AI bring more than efficiencies? Can AI even help to find your killer insight?

Here is groupH’s pick of the key messages.

AI, for now, is “just another ‘person’ at the table”

To cut a long story short: there is much potential for AI as an assistant for specific uses but, generally, while it still has its flaws, the majority of presenters strike a somewhat cautionary note not to over rely on AI at this point.

The fact that AI (only) mimics human behaviour, is being trained for plausibility and not for truth, occasionally makes things up and is unable to explain exactly how it functions and where its information is coming from does not make a case for giving AI a senior role at the table. It would not for any human with the same traits.

AI is not yet ready – the audience is not yet ready

There is widespread experimentation with AI.  In the main, individuals are using their personal versus their company logins and industry can only count a small number of experts. Perhaps the phase of ‘shock’ has passed, but before AI is being accepted as the new normal there is a phase of ongoing reorientation.

In Social Media Listening (SML), for example, AI is being trained to be more subtle and nuanced.  However, it is not yet ready to frame a narrative within the context of research, opportunities and threats as Stephan Lebrat, Global MR Director at Takeda points out. And English language models currently dominate over other languages.

DALL-E 3 has just been made available by OpenAI as a generative visual art platform that integrates with ChatGPT and is meant to understand context better than its predecessor. https://openai.com/dall-e-3

A glimpse into the future of AI for agencies and industry?

Current AI language models make it possible to create artificial respondents whose responses to questions are difficult to keep apart from real respondents as Gemma McConnell from Day One Strategy explains. These AI respondents may be able to help with gaining an initial understanding of healthcare environments across therapy areas and indications at a much lower cost and much faster than undertaking PMR. This may be particularly helpful in conducting mock interviews preceding patient research; it may be particularly useful in rare diseases, where PMR is generally more challenging. At the moment, however, ChatGPT patient responses have a more generic feel to them and it is not known on which data they are based.

AI assisted desk research and first pass analysis of text, recordings and images helps agencies to become more efficient. An example of how AI is being used today for coding of data (e.g. for open ended questions) is the text analysis tool Caplena, https://caplena.com/en/. Researcher time spent with coding has been reduced by 46 – 67% according to Stephen Potts from Purdie Pascoe in a case study describing the adoption and implementation process.

Industry may be able to find a new purpose for existing data sets that support internal hypotheses generation but wants to make sure that its data is not training external models.

The personality profile of bots is typically highly agreeable and low in neuroticism as Paula Coyle from Blueprint Partnership explains. This may have an application in QC of demand forecast survey responses. In a self-funded study, the Mini-IPIP was used as a validated tool to segment physicians into under-, over- and accurate-estimators of their own prescribing. In the future it is thinkable that AI combined with behavioural science tools may allow to offer a more elegant and accurate calibration approach compared to traditional blanket calibration.

Fenna Gloggner from Idorsia Pharmaceuticals explained how Idorsia built its own internal ChatGPT model, an example also described by Ana Maria Aguirre Arteta, Global Governance Director at Novartis.

What we won’t forget from the conference

  • Can AI bring currently more than efficiencies to business insight? No. Not really. But in large, data-heavy studies AI may become routinely used in the mid- to long-term, under the watchful eye of human intelligence (HI).
  • Can AI help to find your killer insight? No. Not directly. But it may support making hypothesis and help analysis through consistent coding of transcripts.
  • Gemma McConnell’s synthetic patient animation – close to indistinguishable from the real patient. Offering the mining of existing data repositories to supplement research with real patients.
  • How will industry benefit from AI? Presented case studies describing efficiency gains far outweigh those hinting at insight quality gains from AI. Overall project value delivered by an agency remains driven mainly by HI for the foreseeable future.
  • It may be too early at this point to count on efficiencies offered by AI before the technology is fully trusted by all stakeholders, However, over time these efficiencies are likely to materialise and may spur some competition among agencies to pass on some of these efficiency gains.
  • The sigh of relief that ~80% of doctors were found being able to accurately estimate their own level of prescribing for a known product for the week after the question was asked (!) as Paula Coyle from Blueprint Partnership explained.

By Erik Holzinger, groupH, London


Event report 2023 ephmra Annual Conference

The three-day ephmra annual conference in London featured a line-up of 24 presentations, panel discussions and roundtables, with 200 delegates from industry and agencies. Compared to previous years, we observed an increase in industry delegate participation and an overall younger audience – both positive developments. After three years of online conferences, the joy of face-to-face interaction was very palpable. Here is groupH’s pick of 2023’s key messages.

37% time-saving through Artificial Intelligence

The discussion can be summed up by the phrase: “you’d better embrace AI before it embraces you!” While the jury is still out identifying where exactly AI will be able to play to its strengths, the majority of speakers and audiences anticipate that our jobs as we know them will be  ’consigned to Room 101’. The promise is that AI will help in a positive way to reduce time spent on more mundane tasks while freeing up more time for more creative and value-adding activities. However, even the most optimistic advocates did admit that there is still a large amount of uncertainty and that some scepticism and caution is warranted around potential AI drawbacks or pitfalls in this Brave New World.

We heard phrases such as “Revolution with Responsibility” and “Not walking away with fear” during the discussion on AI, which is understandable as topics such as “synthetic data” and “synthetic respondents” have been discussed. While ChatGPT attracts billions of hits, pharma companies protect their corporate network through firewalls. This shows that the question how private, public and corporate use of AI will be managed is still in the process of being answered. AI has a large carbon footprint, is said to be heavily subsidised at the moment (a platform costs $80-100m to be set up), consumes & generates a lot of electricity & heat, and ‘only’ has currently ~100m users. The example of AI, until recently at least, being biased towards giving a reasonable-sounding answer almost to any question, whether the question made sense or not, raises eyebrows.

But ask your AI the infamous question of the difference between cow eggs and chicken eggs and you will notice that it is now further up the learning curve.

As long as AI struggles with complex questions, remains a black-box and is unable to explain the ‘Why?’ behind an answer, and as long as the audience remains aware and critical about its shortcomings, we are not too worried that it could replace market researchers and industry consultants any time soon instead it is likely that it will change the way we all work.

Looking for the killer insight for your launch

Geoff Birkett’s keynote talk on successful launches and a Novartis case study on generating patient insights brought home once more the importance of understanding one’s market and the needs of its patients as a key ingredient for remaining competitive. Market research and business intelligence remain indispensable in generating these killer insights that will differentiate your product. But we also learned that it is not just about the data and its analysis. There are some more intangible factors at play that make the difference between an average, a good and a great product launch. These factors rely on how the launch team is made up, its ethos and, above all, Human and not Artificial Intelligence. Geoff Birkett’s launches worked well in teams who put the Team first, the Organisation second and the Individual third.

No return to pre-pandemic travel

Despite the post-pandemic joy of being able to meet in-person again and general agreement that this offers a much higher quality of interaction and communication, no-one saw a return to pre-pandemic levels of inter-company travel, face-to-face interviews or central location primary research. Whether we like it or not, Zoom, Teams and hybrid-working are here to stay because it maintains or increases productivity and offers more flexibility, while at the same time saves on time and budget.

On the other hand, excellence seems to happen in the form of sharp and insightful outputs and team-building takes place when individuals come together in person and cross functionally in a fun setting. That’s why the 3-days-in-the-office rule that seems popular now won’t go away too soon.

No one suggested though that embracing Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse in the same way as AI is necessary at this point. It seems that this question, for now at least, does not yet pose itself.

Behavioural Science

Measuring attitudes and understanding behaviours and anticipating the impact of new  treatments on all stakeholders involved in delivering healthcare remains crucial. Hence the discipline of Behavioural Science continues to evolve. As millennial doctors become the majority of the workforce, their needs, attitudes and beliefs will shape future communications. Communication strategies will need to adapt and change from a Push to a Pull philosophy in the process.

Behavioural Science in Forecasting

The ephmra Forecasting Roundtable discussed the potential benefit Behavioural Science can offer in future forecasting projects. Can the COM-B model help to better anticipate physician prescribing behaviour and calibrate preference shares? The audience thought that the COM-B model such as information on the drivers of behaviour change (capability, motivation and opportunity) could be included in questionnaires and help to offer qualitative insights on the potential barriers to or enablers of prescribing and the speed of uptake. Over time, enough data may be collected to also allow the quantitative calibration of a model but this is not anticipated for the very short term.

Target Product Profiles for Primary Market Research

This topic was discussed as part of the Forecasting and Data Analytics Roundtable and distilled the experiences of presenters and audience members into a few, easy-to-remember steps and useful tips on how to avoid common pitfalls. The key elements include:

  • Alignment on data and edits with all stakeholders inside agency and client organisations
  • An easy-to-read visual format
  • Appropriateness of the amount of information presented
  • (Perhaps the most important criteria) The imperative to understand and refer to the existing [and perhaps future] clinical and commercial standard-of-care/comparator when drafting the TPP and talking to doctors and payers.

Most tips apply to both qualitative and quantitative PMR, with quantitative assessments requiring additional alignment on the structure and number of attributes listed.

What we won’t forget from the conference

  • Rachel Lawes’ talk on semiotics in menopause was one of the most entertaining and educational [there will be a video made available by ephmra soon, we understand]
  • Narrow staircases and smaller rooms in old buildings may be just what is needed for a good conference as they prevent anyone getting lost!
  • Last, not least, even a fire drill on the third day could not dent the good spirit of presenters and attendees

By Erik Holzinger, groupH, London


Happy Holidays from the groupH team

Dear clients and colleagues,

As before this year’s budget that used to be for physical Christmas mailings to three selected organisations who do incredible work throughout the year in different areas. They were not chosen for their size but for how close we feel to their cause, how they are run, how well we know the people who run them and the difference they make for the people they support locally.

We would like to help raising their profile. So please check them out and help supporting them if you can: AZAHAR FoundationLisa’s GiftSporting Star. We thank you for your trust in us and look forward to hopefully supporting you again during 2023.

The groupH Team

2022 : groupH remains carbon neutral

Since its inception in 2005 the virtual working model of groupH has meant our impact on the planet, due to emissions, has always been minimal. Employees only travel for essential business and home-office working erases the need for a daily commute or a separate building infrastructure with its inherent energy needs.

In 2022 we are continuing to offset our 40t of annual carbon output. This year we are supporting the DelAgua Public Health Program in Eastern Africa. This project has been running since 2012, in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, providing free, innovative, high performance stoves. Over 3 billion people still cook over polluting fires, a major contributor to carbon emissions. Household air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death and disability, ahead of unsafe water and lack of sanitation, causing more deaths than Malaria, HIV and TB combined. Clean cookstoves are vital to tackle both global challenges.

The groupH effect on the global climate will thus remain neutral moving forward. View our certificate here.

Through this initiative groupH continue to send a clear message that we have a desire to work together to build a more sustainable and better world for our colleagues, clients and the global community.


2021 : groupH becomes carbon neutral

Since its inception in 2005 the virtual working model of groupH has meant our impact on the planet, due to emissions, has always been minimal.  Employees only travel for essential business and home-office working erases the need for a daily commute or a separate building infrastructure with its inherent energy needs.

We have now quantified our collective carbon output and negated all unavoidable emissions with investment in a carbon offset project.  Our 40t of annual carbon output are offset by supporting the Nuetech Solar Water Heater Program, which promotes the distribution of solar water heaters and technology throughout India.  The groupH effect on the global climate will thus remain neutral moving forward. View our certificate here.

Through this initiative groupH are sending a clear message that we have a desire to work together to build a more sustainable and better world for our colleagues, clients and the global community.



Seasons Greetings 2020

Much has been said about the extraordinary year that we have all experienced since March. Despite all the difficulties many have experienced, hardship in our industry has been relatively minimal but sadly, suffering due to Covid-19, is ongoing in particular in Low to Middle Income Countries with weak Healthcare systems.

As all communication has shifted online this year, and Zoom has become the place where everything happens, our Christmas card should not look any different. However, it is not that we would miss for a second having fewer Zoom meetings, so that we could have more personal interaction again with each other. A reason to look forward to the New Year, and to hopefully working with you again.

We would like to say thank you for your business, and your support, and hope that the days will turn quieter and more relaxing for everyone. We hope you and your family stay safe this holiday.

Finally, we would like to point to a little side project. We set up a groupH choir and put together a video recording of Silent Night, entirely virtually. This was less about winning the Christmas #1 spot but about anyone’s courage who participated. Please click here to listen to this 1 minute recording. We leave you with our best wishes for 2021.

A message from the directors – Covid 19 / groupH operating normally

Dear clients, friends and colleagues,

No doubt, everyone has been impacted by Covid-19 in more than one way and every week we learn more about the clinical impact of the virus and its impact on communities, the economy and livelihoods.

We anticipate that the situation of social distancing measures is here to stay until at least 2021 and that restrictions generally may be eased or tightened again depending on infection rates and potential second or third waves at a regional and local level. As most healthcare systems in the Western world are probably past the peak of the outbreak we now continue to engage in commercial strategy and primary research work. We observe that expert doctors and payers make themselves available again, with their insights and experience, without necessarily impacting on Healthcare system frontline staff.

However, delays are still possible as doctors transition to eliminate a backlog of patients and scheduled surgeries, depending on the indication. We have adapted our methodologies and approaches to the constraints of not being able to meet in person through effective online alternatives.

For further details please contact any of groupH’s directors and senior consultants.

We hope you stay safe and keep productive.

Best wishes,

Erik Holzinger, London

Iain Clark, Edinburgh

Morris Paterson, San Francisco

Seasons Greetings 2019

This year we looked to use the simplicity of a Japanese ensō drawing to describe what we do on a daily basis.

London-based artist, Yamuna Devi, created a circle from an improvised single brush stroke and placed different stages of our work anti-clockwise on this circle, describing our stages of work, including: market research, analysis, using different methods and approaches, developing insights, assessing and creating value in the process. The idea was to keep it simple but, at the same time, to convey a strong message with the use of the ensō technique and the translation into Japanese writing and calligraphy. It represents maximum focus at a distinct moment in time. Our [learning] circle is joined but not fully which leaves an opening for future seeds to be planted.

Wishing you a restful and peaceful end-of-the-year and positive, new beginnings for 2020.