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Pharma R&D takes a sharp right turn to create IT platform to fuel growth

Pharmaceutical companies are looking at information management platforms to reduce R&D costs, shorten timelines, and improve quality and compliance.


The costs and complexities of managing and updating proprietary IT systems have driven some leading pharmaceutical companies to pursue an alternative model. By the end of this decade, many pharmaceutical companies’ R&D operations may no longer own or invest in their technology solutions.

The companies will turn to industry-wide services, similar to “utilities,” that provide transaction processing services and support the sharing of noncompetitive data across various corporate sponsors. This sharp change in direction is important for pharmaceutical companies if they expect to offset slowing growth rates to achieve bottom-line results.

This point of view provides insights into how automation can help streamline clinical data management when pharmaceutical companies team up for precompetitive collaborations.


Many companies consider their R&D activities to be proprietary and a source of competitive advantage. They have built significant internal R&D capabilities to handle clinical, regulatory and pharmacovigilance functions. Even those companies that have outsourced some functions to contract research organizations have found that managing those resources has added to the overall complexity.

These challenges are exacerbated by the substantial internal IT platforms that many pharmas have built to support their R&D capabilities. These proprietary systems, optimized for the operations of individual companies, hinder standardization and collaboration across the industry.

Key Findings

Leading pharmaceutical companies are starting to realize that many foundational or operational transactions and the supporting IT environments are not as effective competitive levers as they thought. With the maturation of new solutions like cloud computing, these organizations understand the benefits of a new flexible operating model—precompetitive collaboration.

Under this model, individual companies will no longer have to bear the entire drug development burden. They can work collaboratively with research partners to spread the risks of development, reduce costs and accelerate outcomes.

The cloud-based pay-as-you-go model gives pharmaceutical companies an opportunity to:

  • Accelerate realization of capabilities at a lower cost by leveraging an externally hosted model with prebuilt assets to host data management, patient data flow and analysis, and reporting technology.

  • Focus on the science, rather than the operations, of clinical trial execution.

  • Facilitate data exchange between external partners, while creating a playbook for future acquisitions or collaborations.

  • Team up with a single business process outsourcing and IT services provider to deliver better business outcomes and structure costs appropriately.

  • Participate in precompetitive collaboration opportunities with industry peers.

  • Establish foundational capabilities to facilitate future growth and efficiency.

  • Allow internal IT resources to focus on innovation and drive greater business value.


Many pharmaceutical companies need to modernize their drug development operations. By sticking to obsolete models of development—in particular, in-house technology solutions—they face overweight development cost structures, stunted innovation mechanisms and nonagile operations that are unable to keep pace with the demands placed on them.

Far-sighted pharma companies recognize they need to overhaul their drug development approach by utilizing available external resources to cut their R&D costs and approval cycles, and get products to market faster and boost the products’ time under patent.