Impact Stories

Biogen: managing healthcare challenges between complexity and innovation

The impact

From the development of innovative therapies for diseases such as multiple sclerosis to the approval of the first treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, Biogen has been at the forefront of many revolutions in biotechnology and neurology. Today, more than 40 years after its founding, Biogen is one of the world’s leading biotechnology companies and remains steadfast in its mission to serve humankind through science and to promote a healthier, more sustainable and equitable world.

Thanks to the collaboration between Biogen and the SDA Bocconi School of Management and the support of the Italian Society of Neurology (SIN), the NeuroMLab was born in the year 2020. The center, which brings together more than 150 professionals, including neurologists, pharmacists, nurses, and healthcare managers, inherits the experience and wealth of knowledge of the MSMLab, with the aim of understanding the transformations taking place in the healthcare system and reorienting management approaches.

The numbers of the story

Company: Biogen

Industry: biotechnology

Foundation: 1978

Investments in R&D: $4 billion

Countries: 80+

Employees: about 8700, of which 140 in Italy

Mission: «We are pioneers in neuroscience»

The story

Neurology is a constantly evolving field that captures the innovations and challenges at the heart of the entire healthcare system. Several transformations characterize this field:


  • Advanced diagnostic and therapeutic technologies: Neurology is benefiting from increasingly accurate diagnostic capabilities and innovative therapies that are improving treatment options, even for still incurable diseases such as Alzheimer’s.


  • Growing neurological patient population: The aging population and innovation itself have led to increased demand for neurological care.


  • Expanding neuroscience: The field of neuroscience is constantly expanding, requiring judicious case management to preserve and maintain accumulated knowledge.


  • Need for an extensive service network: A well-structured network, including logistics, is necessary to ensure equitable access to patients and proper adherence to diagnostic and treatment pathways.


The NeuroMLab attracts a community of more than 150 professionals, who meet annually in 6 workshops for 10 days of training to discuss the results of research carried out by SDA Bocconi faculty and researchers and to contribute to biannual dissemination publications, crossing the different perspectives of healthcare stakeholders: SIN Referrers, General and Health Directors of ASLs, Hospital Companies and IRCCSs, neurologists, nurses and pharmacists.


As stated by Cristina Negrini, Market Access Director at Biogen, “The NeuroMLab has been an incubator of ideas and solutions for patient management. This possibility arises only when all the stakeholders begin to discuss a problem, and thus create an incubator of ideas and solutions that can allow medicine to deal with the new challenges it faces.”


The research projects address different aspects. The first aspect concerns the role of neurology in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) and aims to identify which neurological patients and pathological conditions can be managed at the territorial level within the new articulations envisaged by the PNRR, highlighting opportunities and critical issues.


A second strand of study addresses the increasing complexity of neurology and explores tools for managing clinical complexity and intensity of care to promote the establishment of a system for collecting and sharing information that includes all settings involved in the neurological patient journey.


The strategic positioning of neurology in relation to complex chronic diseases is another area of research. In a context characterized by transformations in care processes that affect not only caretaking but also disciplinary knowledge, we investigate how to maintain health outcomes in different organizational contexts, such as those of complex chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, which require specific strategies and orientations.


The aspect of service chain integration is addressed through the analysis of a business case that provides insights on how to build multi-professional teams of practitioners from different health care companies to foster the integration of inter-agency services, also with the support of Population Health Management algorithms.


Another avenue of study within the NeuroMLab concerns the assessment of gender apicality in neurology, studying the organizational responsibilities of neurologists of different genders and analyzing gender demographics in the field.


With an aging population and the advent of innovative therapies, the healthcare system faces the challenge of managing a growing population of Alzheimer’s patients, as noted above: creating new service and collaboration formulas to manage increasing volumes is another challenge to be faced in the near future.


Lastly, a final aspect that concerns the field of neurology is that of the provision of digital services for multiple sclerosis: in fact, partly as a result of the pandemic, there has been a proliferation of services in digital format that have emerged to meet the needs, not only in terms of health care, of multiple sclerosis patients, who are often young and have different needs.


All these research projects contribute to advancing neurological knowledge, adapting the system of care to new challenges in neurology, and enabling an overall improvement in the quality of life of patients with neurological diseases.


“The collaboration with SDA Bocconi is essential for trying to understand what the role of neurology must be locally, and in large hospitals, to increasingly improve healthcare and to make the neurological patient the focus of all this,” says Alfredo Berardelli, president of the Italian Society of Neurology.

What now?

  • The National Health System is facing complex challenges due to an aging population and dwindling resources. In particular, the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases requires consideration of how care pathways will be managed and organized in the near future.
  • Neurology is particularly involved in this transformation and offers useful insights to guide the entire care system. The experience of the NeuroMLab shows how new perspectives can emerge from public-private partnerships and from the collaboration between different stakeholders.
  • The challenges facing neurology, in particular, are those posed by the increasing number and complexity of diseases. This calls for better continuity of care and the strengthening of territorial health care, also in the light of the investments envisaged in the PNRR. Collaboration between hospitals and territories, the analysis of needs and a patient-centered approach will be the key to improving the care pathways for complex neurological diseases.

Biogen: managing healthcare challenges between complexity and innovation