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3 min read

The Strategy and Success Behind Astellas' Digital Transformation

Richard Marcil, Chief Customer Officer of conversationHEALTH speaks with Suda Shinya, Senior Vice President of Information Systems for Astellas Pharma on how to proactively meet the needs of a digital-first patient. 

Delivering Value for Patients

Richard Marcil (RM): How would you define the importance of digital transformation and what are Astellas’ initiatives?

Shinya Suda (SS): We create value for patients. Our vision is to be at the forefront of changes in healthcare, and patients are central to all of our initiatives, including digital transformation. There are four ways we maximize value from data, technology and analytics:

  1. Identify
  2. Analyze
  3. Automate
  4. Engage

These processes allow us to take an adaptable approach to organization-wide digitization.

While Astellas has leveraged digital technology and data analytics in multiple fields, areas and processes, I would like to highlight R&D, where we have combined chemical synthesis automation and pharmacological assays with data analytics, enabling minimal human intervention. We also use real world data to optimize clinical trial design.

In manufacturing, we have introduced data collection and analysis to ensure production is monitored in real time. In corporate, we are implementing a unified global business platform for procurement, finance, supply chain, and HR to better analyze transactional data and make more informed decisions.

With commercial, it's crucial that the correct drug information is property delivered to patients who need it at any time, which is why we are working on a global web platform with built-in conversational AI agents across countries and products.

Astellas’ Unique Global Strategy

RM: How do you capture local innovation globally?

SS: Astellas is focused on global digital transformation – we operate in more than 70 countries. Although conducting innovative initiatives locally would be easier, we wanted a single source of large volume data to inform decisions globally. Additionally, the portability of digital has been key for geographic expansion, allowing us to transport data assets and remain agile.

Astellas' global strategy allows each region to make collaborative decisions  —  it doesn’t matter where our employees work but that everyone around the world is on the same team. When we engage in global projects, members from multiple countries lead the initiative in their location, but this does not mean that we have one country leading a global project. Especially for customer-engagement deliverables, team members from each region have a role in enterprise decision-making. While each project may have a unique strategy, the balance of global standardization and flexibility leads to success.

cH: How have you conveyed the importance of a digital transformation to other units within Astellas?

SS: Sustainability and reliable operations are essential, and technology often disrupts existing processes. Of course, there are risks but it’s important to make strategic transformations and embrace change. It’s not easy for most people to envision what they will wind up with after the transformation, so we — with digital solution providers like conversationHEALTH — need to help them understand what the future looks like and what benefits they will gain.

The Future of Conversational AI

RM: What is the importance of conversational AI as you look to the future?

SS: As I mentioned previously, data is crucial for our business. We work in a field where data is required to prove efficacy and safety. With the use of a conversational AI agent, we can not only solve and answer questions from patients and HCPs, but also collect data that can be used to further improve our customer engagement – and this can be done 24/7. Additionally, if we have 100 human agents, there are 100 different ways of interacting  – but with a conversational AI agent, we can ensure accurate information is collected in standardized interactions and also collect even more accurate data with less human biases. This consistency can be maintained across multiple languages and regions. I would summarize the value of conversational AI as consistency, optimization, and availability 24/7.

RM: What are you looking for in a partner, as you transform your business?

SS: We strongly believe in conversationHEALTH’s expertise in the field of digital and healthcare, and foreseeing what will happen over the next 5 to 10 years. At Astellas, we fuse life science and digital insights to continuously improve user experiences and create solutions that will truly help patients.

Success in Digital Transformation

RM: What advice would you give to those in life sciences on digital transformation

SS: I believe digital is a source of value, but how each person uses and interacts with digital is different. Oftentimes, we get trapped by the word “innovation” and forget the motivation behind it.  

cH: Thank you for sharing your insights on your innovative path for successful digital transformation. We are excited to be working with you and Astellas on better meeting the needs of patients. 

About Astellas

Astellas Pharma Inc. is a pharmaceutical company conducting business in more than 70 countries around the world. Astellas is promoting the Focus Area Approach that is designed to identify opportunities for the continuous creation of new drugs to address diseases with high unmet medical needs by focusing on Biology and Modality. Furthermore, Astellas is also looking beyond their foundational Rx focus to create Rx+® healthcare solutions that combine their expertise and knowledge with cutting-edge technology in different fields of external partners. Through these efforts, Astellas stands on the forefront of healthcare change to turn innovative science into value for patients. For more information, please visit

Shinya Suda

Senior Vice President of Information Systems, Astellas Pharma Inc.

Shinya Suda joined Astellas Pharma in 1992 after receiving his master’s degree in Pharmacology from Chiba University. Since 2011, he has served as the Senior Vice President of Information Systems, managing the global IT team from the company's headquarters in Japan.

Richard Marcil

Chief Customer Officer, conversationHEALTH

Richard Marcil is a C-level executive with 20 years of building brands and businesses in start-up and multinational organizations in North America and globally. Previously, Richard led a North American strategy agency focused on brand innovation and digital transformation. He was a founding executive at Silicon Valley-based biotech companies and has held a number of leadership roles at a leading pharmaceutical company.

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