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November 26, 2018
A new informatics research platform from Accenture, Merck & Co., Inc. and AWS
By: Joe Donahue

In September 2018 we announced that Accenture, along with pharma Merck & Co., Inc. and cloud provider Amazon Web Services (AWS), are launching a cloud-based informatics research platform designed to help organizations in the life sciences industry improve productivity, efficiency and innovation in drug discovery.

The platform enables life sciences researchers and informatics professionals to quickly aggregate, access and analyze research data from multiple applications. Data is accessible from a single interface, with integrated workflows, reporting and analytics capabilities. Incorporating a modern user interface and a secure, multi-tenant environment, the platform enables easier collaboration across the R&D enterprise, including with external partners.

Critical mass

Some of the early concerns that caused organizations to hesitate moving research to cloud platforms have been overcome. The ability to easily scale-up infrastructure, informatics and analytics capabilities on-demand, as well as achieve cost savings and better security compared with on-premise systems, has been proven. That left the question as to who had the resources and experience to successfully deliver an open, life sciences research industry platform at scale, and that’s where Accenture and AWS have joined forces with Merck & Co., Inc.

Working together with the use cases and guidance of Merck & Co., Inc. as our first user, the three parties are focused on addressing common pharma research informatics challenges. This is the first time that AWS has gotten directly involved in co-creating a solution for a specific industry segment, which allows our collective team to access programming expertise from AWS, tailor their product development plans to specific pharma research challenges, and build something unique for the industry that will make it easier for researchers to work more effectively.

Accenture, @awscloud & @Merck & Co., Inc. launched a #cloud-based platform to help #LifeSciences improve drug discovery:

 

 
 

Benefits of the research platform

Our research platform is differentiated in several ways:

  • Greater efficiency. Compare the current research situation with the smart consumer devices that we all use today. With a smart phone, your data moves seamlessly from one app to another. In pharma, by contrast, it's often a very manual, labor-intensive process to move data around and make it available.

    With our new platform, we’re enabling that data connectivity and the workflows between applications as part of the core infrastructure that Accenture is co-creating with AWS. So just in terms of data flow and access, being able to search and perform analytics, all that data will already be connected which makes it easier for researchers to find it.

  • Timelier innovation. Consider the increasing amounts of data being generated by pharma organizations to fuel their research. Companies are now beginning to leverage more automated ways to derive insights from all the data. However, you can only use things like artificial intelligence and machine learning if your data is organized in a way that's accessible.

    That’s a big issue because data is often in disparate silos and difficult to access, especially in an integrated way. With the new research platform, data will be organized to quickly take advantage of technology innovations.

  • Better collaboration. The process of pharma research has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. When I was a medicinal chemist in the laboratory, the compounds I designed and synthesized were sent down the hall to be tested for physical and biological properties. Today, that process often involves teams that are in another part of the country or halfway around the world. A modern research platform needs to be able to accommodate and support researchers working as part of virtual teams as if they were in the same company, just “down the hall.”

A coalition of clients and suppliers

Accenture is forming a coalition of clients to govern and further advance the capabilities of the research platform, offering an opportunity for pre-competitive industry collaboration on common informatics challenges. The platform is available to pharmaceutical, biotech and scientific research organizations looking for unique approaches to solve their research IT and informatics challenges.

Equally important is the coalition of technology companies, content providers, services organizations and medical research institutes that have joined our Life Sciences Partner Ecosystem to support the research platform. Through the new ecosystem, these partners will be able to leverage the research platform’s use of open, industry-standard application programming interfaces (APIs) to easily integrate technology components, applications and content into the research platform.

This will help life sciences companies give researchers access to innovative, best-of-breed capabilities, such as small-molecule and biological-entity registration, biological assay data capture, genomics data analysis, image storage and analysis, and artificial intelligence.

At AWS re:Invent 2018 I’ll co-present with Merck & Co., Inc.’s Carol Rohl and Hal Stern on “Drug Discovery Innovation in a Precompetitive Cloud Platform” on November 27 at 8:30 a.m. PT. I hope you’ll join us for the presentation if you’re attending re:Invent. Otherwise, please connect with me here.

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