Paul Bidez, Vice President of Regulatory and Clinical Solutions for PAREXEL, explains to Information Age why the life sciences industry needs to move to the cloud if these companies ever want to utilise other emerging technologies for drug development.
The pharmaceutical industry has a long history of leveraging cutting-edge technologies to improve human health, yet unlike other industries, only recently has life sciences begun to realise the benefits of the cloud. Today, companies focused on drug development are harnessing the cloud to create a central location for all data spanning the entirety of the drug development continuum, allowing researchers and patients to access data no matter where they are geographically located and sharing information faster than ever before.
However, the industry can do much more once it learns to harness the power of the cloud. There are many potential benefits for both patients and researchers, and the industry is within reaching the distance of realising them.
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Why pharma needs the cloud
One of the greatest challenges facing the life sciences industry is the cost and length of time it takes to bring a therapy from discovery to commercialisation, currently estimated at 12 years and £1.15 billion. Unlike other industries where the gains from the cloud are simply efficiencies, in healthcare, the cloud could have a life-changing impact on the speed at which patients can get the medicines they need.
The pharmaceutical industry still relies on the use of ageing, disparate systems that have largely only digitised manual processes. Had it not been for big data, the industry could have sustained this level of innovation. However, there has been an explosion of data along the drug discovery and development continuum, necessitating information systems that can assist in turning data into insight.
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However, life sciences companies also must balance the resource demands of drug discovery and development with manufacturing, marketing, selling and distribution. For a life sciences company, the need to manage and build internal technology infrastructure, an important but non-differentiating capability, can be considered a distraction from the mission of developing therapies that improve human health.
That’s where the cloud comes in.
Driving efficiencies and harnessing AI
The industry can harness the agility and extensive global infrastructure of the cloud, enabling access to significant untapped opportunities, not just storing information but improving processes and driving efficiencies.
With a shared data platform built on a cloud computing model, companies could achieve efficiencies while also overcoming the significant privacy, security and compliance challenges that the pharmaceutical industry faces globally.
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One of the most significant opportunities to improve drug development efficiency lies in automation. Artificial intelligence can help researchers reach across disparate systems, geographies, and across siloed organisations or departments within and between collaborating companies to integrate information and engage with the right experts, adapt and refine approaches, analyse findings and facilitate appropriate reporting of results.
The industry will also soon be able to leverage the cloud to aggregate clinical and real-world data so researchers can analyse across datasets and identify new insights. Operational algorithms will be able to process vast amounts of data to help biopharmaceutical companies not only identify bottlenecks but also improve product profiles by identifying the attributes that provide the most value for patients and payers.
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Accelerating drug delivery timelines and improving patient engagement
Technology is disrupting the established model of research and development in healthcare. Drug development is becoming more complex, while innovations including social media, mobile technology, analytics and the Internet of Things are enabling a more patient-centric approach. With a firm commitment to security and regulatory compliance, along with industry expertise, companies can leverage the cloud’s real potential to accelerate drug delivery timelines.
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It’s time to unlock the opportunities of digital transformation for the life sciences industry, with the cloud at the centre of this approach. Key stakeholders across the drug development continuum need to understand the benefits and be willing to commit to moving to the cloud. This is especially critical for companies that wish to implement other emerging technologies, like AI, for continued success in the industry. We are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the benefits we can expect from the cloud in healthcare.