Our Priorities > Innovating for the Future Robust Innovation Process
In India, an estimated 97 million people lack access to clean drinking water – making it difficult to create syrups from powder-based medicines. To address this challenge, Abbott created a novel dual-chambered bottle that contains dry medicine in one chamber and clean, safe drinking water in the other. Patients can simply turn the cap on the bottle to mix up the right dose.
Innovation and discovery are central to all of Abbott’s businesses. Throughout the company we try to focus our R&D resources where they will have the greatest impact on patients and consumers. Each Abbott business has its own processes and mechanisms for assessing and acting upon ideas. Many of these ideas are then shared across functions and disciplines.
As an example, in our diagnostics business, ideas for new tests to detect or monitor diseases come not only from our own scientists, but also from outside companies and research institutions. To more efficiently evaluate these ideas and decide which ones to pursue, Abbott Diagnostics in 2011 established a Novel Biomarker Committee.
The goal of this committee is to identify and prioritize potential biomarkers that can help doctors make decisions at an earlier point in the progression of disease than existing tests. Broadly defined, a biomarker is anything that can be measured relating to a disease state, such as a test of blood or urine, an X-ray or another physical finding. Abbott conducts substantial research to map the progression of various disease states – and to identify decision points where doctors could benefit from additional factual data to support potential changes in treatment.
After only a year of operation, Abbott Diagnostics’ Novel Biomarker Committee has already identified several promising areas of exploration, including hepatitis C, arteriosclerotic and chronic heart disease, diabetes, sepsis, traumatic brain injury and oncology. Additionally, the committee has helped to achieve substantial savings in time and resources. By focusing our R&D efforts on areas of greatest need and potential, we increase our chances of making a real difference for patients and health care providers.
Similarly, Abbott Vascular has a steering committee that solicits ideas and input and creates target topics in clearly triaged scope areas. This committee holds quarterly meetings and hosts technical exchanges for scientists, technologists and marketers to highlight ongoing innovation.
Abbott Nutrition generates innovative nutrition ideas by consulting experts around the world – in part through the Abbott Nutrition Health Institute, a global knowledge center focused on advancing nutrition education. To better focus on improving innovation, Abbott Nutrition recently formed an internal Global Innovation Office and launched an interactive online employee ideation tool. Abbott Nutrition also works closely with consumer advisory panels to gather insights from patients and families who use our products, and to design new products that best meet their needs. For example, our ZonePerfect brand recently gave consumers the opportunity to create their own nutrition bars during interactive “Build-a-Bar” workshops. The workshops gave teams of participants the opportunity to build their own bars by mixing and matching combinations of dozens of different ingredients. Given just a few basic instructions – including using at most 10 ingredients while packing at least 10 grams of protein into a bar that weighs no more than 45 grams – consumers defied conventional wisdom by picking newer "superfruits" like pomegranate seeds over traditional ingredients such as chocolate chips. The teams ultimately came up with several flavor profiles, including Cranberry Almond and Peanut Crunch, which resulted in our new line of Perfectly Simple by ZonePerfect bars.
This same desire to build products that meet consumer needs motivates all our R&D activities. When we decided to launch a SimplySmart baby bottle under our trusted Similac brand name, we wanted to be sure that this bottle gave consumers and their infants a superior experience. Accordingly, our Abbott Nutrition team followed a user-centric development process that gave more than 2,500 moms an opportunity to test and comment on the SimplySmart bottle. In some cases, moms were even given prototype bottles and invited to take the bottles home for a week of in-home usage testing. These extended tests gave Abbott engineers valuable information on the problems moms may face with any bottle. For example, we learned the importance of ensuring proper air flow through the nipple so that the baby could properly nurse without causing a vacuum in the bottle that would impede the flow of liquid. We also learned that moms were eagerly seeking a bottle that would make it easier for them to tell when the lid was properly locked and secured. As a result of all this user feedback, Abbott was able to design a bottle that matched customer needs with multiple innovative features – including a venting system designed to reduce fussiness by minimizing the baby’s air intake, a highly visual locking system, a built-in stirrer to reduce the bubbles and clumps that can give infants gas and even a special add-on cap that holds an extra dose of powder formula for the convenience of busy moms. Feedback has been positive since the SimplySmart launch, with the bottle ending up on several bloggers’ Top 10 bottle lists.
Addressing Local Needs
Around the world, Abbott is using innovative approaches to solve a range of health care challenges for patients, consumers and caregivers. We are working hard to better understand the unique needs of families in both developed and emerging markets, and to formulate both products and value-added services to address those local challenges.
For example, in India, an estimated 97 million people lack access to sources of contaminant-free drinking water. This lack of improved drinking water constitutes a health risk for patients who need to use water to create syrups from powder-based medicines. To make things easier for our patients, Abbott created a novel dual-chambered bottle that contains dry medicine in one chamber and clean, safe drinking water in the other chamber. Instead of boiling water and waiting for it to cool before mixing up a medicinal solution, patients can simply turn the cap on the bottle to add the pre-measured amount of purified water to the dry powder to mix up precisely the right amount of medicine. Having such a simple way to prepare medicine encourages patient compliance, improves patient safety and makes it easier for doctors to educate patients on the right way to take their medications. In March 2012, the Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council Europe, a not-for-profit trade association, recognized the virtues of the dual-chamber bottle by naming it one of the outstanding packaging solutions that help patients take their medication as prescribed.
Available for nearly 25 years in nearly 100 countries, Abbott’s Klaricid (clarithromycin) is one of the most widely used macrolide antibiotics in the world. Responding to customer preferences for more ecologically-friendly products, Abbott is now expanding the availability of Klaricid in a package that uses recycled materials. The environment-friendly packaging is already available in a dozen countries, and more countries in the near future. Klaricid was chosen as the first established pharmaceutical product to convert to this new recycled packaging because of how frequently it is prescribed and dispensed for several different bacterial infections. Along with information about the recycled packaging, healthcare providers will also be provided with information to help educate patients about the responsible use of antibiotics to prevent resistance to these medications.
In 2012, Abbott Diabetes Care marked 25 years since the launch of our first biosensor for measuring blood glucose. Biosensors test blood using electrical currents. Before Abbott introduced biosensors to the market, diabetic patients relied on photometric strips that changed colors when exposed to a drop of blood. The photometric strips were difficult for some patients to operate, sometimes produced errors and took more than two minutes to deliver results. The first biometric sensors that we introduced in 1987 largely eliminated user error, reduced the wait time to just 30 seconds and even reduced the amount of blood needed for the test by more than 50 percent (from 40 microliters to less than 20 microliters). Faster test results reduced the inherent anxiety patients felt waiting to discover their glucose levels. And since the biosensor test required less blood, patients could use a shallower and less painful finger stick. Since that initial biosensor was introduced, Abbott Diabetes Care has made great strides in making the testing process faster and easier for patients. Today, our blood glucose biosensors require less than one microliter of blood and can give patients results in just five seconds.
Note: All data in the Global Citizenship section reflects activities prior to the separation of Abbott and AbbVie on January 1, 2013.