May 15, 2018
Cloud and platform technologies help accelerate pharma research and drive collaboration
By: Joe Donahue

Most people who work in biopharma R&D have experienced the challenges, disappointments and excitement of working to discover a new drug that has the potential to improve patient lives and lead to better health outcomes. Many of us have also wondered what we could do differently to help improve the chances of a drug’s success, all while our understanding of human biology continues to increase—generating more and more data to decipher.

In recent years there’s been progress in the pharmaceutical industry in identifying areas for pre-competitive collaboration to reduce duplication of effort and cost, and to help accelerate R&D. We’ve seen successful pre-competitive data sharing initiatives around toxicological data, biological targets and patient data. Collaborating and sharing non-proprietary data can help organizations spend more time on innovation and ultimately accelerate time to market for life-saving drugs and therapeutics.

In pharma research, additional opportunities for collaboration have been limited by legacy technologies and infrastructures, some of which have been in place for more than a decade, and updating them has been prohibitively expensive. As a result, companies have struggled to provide access to on-premise informatics applications and easily share data securely with external research partners.

The evolution of cloud technologies—from providing additional storage capacity, to infrastructure and service platforms, to a true data platform—combined with the success of platform economies in other industries and markets, indicates a significant opportunity to change that. Enabling a precompetitive environment that supports the informatics and collaboration needs of research intensive organizations can be a much simpler and more affordable proposition. Even in life sciences R&D.

The cloud
Moving to the cloud offers companies a wealth of benefits, including:

  • Increased flexibility. The cloud gives companies the ability to provision new systems more efficiently and quickly, and switch to best-of-breed new applications at a much lower cost.

  • Greater security. Our research indicates that improving security is one of the top drivers for companies moving to cloud deployments. Close to three-quarters of respondents in a recent Accenture survey reported that they thought cloud providers could offer a better level of security than is provided by their own in-house systems.

  • Improved innovation. While cost savings are the most common measure of success with cloud deployments, a third of our respondents reported that moving to the cloud increased their innovation, improved process standardization and led to better collaboration within the company.

Platform technologies
Platforms too, can offer great potential for life sciences companies, including:

  • Access to enterprise wide R&D data

  • End-to-end data management

  • A secure environment to enable collaboration agility

  • Faster implementation of advanced decision support technologies, such as machine learning and AI

  • The ability to leverage best of breed technologies through a modular, service-based architecture

  • Modern user interfaces

In the research conducted for our Accenture Technology Vision 2017 report, nearly 90 percent of industry executives said that adopting platform-based business models and engaging in ecosystems of partners to define, develop, supply and commercialize innovative products and solutions is critical to their success.

Merging the benefits of the cloud and platforms
By merging the best capabilities of the cloud and platforms in an open, precompetitive research computing platform, I see a unique opportunity for life sciences companies to establish a robust ecosystem—one that brings “providers” (independent software vendors, content providers, consulting organizations and contract research organizations) together with “consumers” (pharma companies, biotechs and other research-intensive organizations).

Such a platform would reduce dependence on on-premises resources and infrastructure, provide a shared cost structure, improve time to implement new technologies, drive innovation and offer more rigorous data security. It would also enable members to:

  • Aggregate core data, including real-time testing data

  • Share data with contract research organizations

  • Split large applications into discrete capabilities and integrate independent software vendor applications through publicly accessible APIs to support rapid innovation

  • Develop better collaboration with external research centers

  • Implement an interface with a modern, consistent look and feel across the IT application landscape, including mobile-enabled scientific applications for use within the lab

The technology is available now for companies that recognize the significant opportunities precompetitive research collaboration could bring for their own bottom line, but also for the potential impact it could have on patient outcomes.

If you’d like to learn more about how an open, precompetitive research computing platform could help you drive research innovation, faster and at a lower cost, feel free to reach out to me directly.

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