Online games are not an area that would normally be associated with the pharmaceutical industry but in March, leading international drug company Boehringer Ingelheim will launch a new interactive game on Facebook.
The trading card style game, known as ‘Syrum’, will see players work from their laboratories as they bid to develop medicines that will save the world from the threat of all kinds of disease epidemics. Players will begin with seed compounds which they must test to develop a drug which will progress through clinical trials before it is finally taken to market. The drugs can then be marketed on the game’s Facebook page which introduces an interesting interactive element.
All good fun, but why is such a big international company concerning itself with an internet game? According to John Pugh, Boehringer’s head of communications, the purpose of the game is to ‘to build a new communications channel and to enter into a dialogue with stakeholders’. The company is hoping to develop a relationship with the online community that raises awareness of what pharmaceutical companies do and why they do it. Ingenious digital marketing some would say.
Players of Syrum will frequently hit obstacles in their quest to produce an effective drug, even at a fairly late stage in the process, mirroring the real life frustrations of companies who have to scrap potential medicines after years of development. The game will also cover other elements of the pharmaceutical business, such as the poaching of research scientists by rival companies and the impact of patent expiry.
Boehringer is hoping to attract players from the pharmaceutical and medical industries but also hopes to attract a wider audience and has had consultations with patient groups to acquire their input.