Our world is complex and globally connected – and as we’ve seen with the challenges presented by COVID-19, that interconnectedness can be both a benefit and a burden. As health professionals, researchers, and governments around the world struggle to keep up with the rapid spread of the virus, it has become more evident than ever that the lab will play a central role: from accelerating diagnostic testing, to development of a new vaccine or antiviral in research and development labs to large scale supply of approved vaccines/treatments securing approval through quality control and release labs.

In our report on Digital Transformation in the Lab, we surveyed 128 leaders in the life sciences industry to understand the extent to which pharmaceutical companies have undergone digital transformation, from the maturity of digital strategies to the level of implementation of digital technologies within labs. What we found is that many laboratories around the world are still lagging in digital adoption, creating bottlenecks in the development pipeline that increase the time it takes for important products to reach market. 

The good news? By investing in digital, companies can use data to streamline development and deliver better patient outcomes, getting critical therapies and drugs to market faster.

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Have adopted digital and are achieving or exceeding expected business value

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Have not embarked on applying digital to R&D or QC labs

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Are still in pilot mode

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Flattening silos

70% of respondents in our survey who have adopted digital report achieving or exceeding expected business value. However, the report also found that of 128 industry leaders surveyed, 40% had not embarked on applying digital to R&D or QC labs – and 37% more were still in pilot mode.

Breakthrough science that can transform the treatment of patients is powered by millions of scientists and analysts working in R&D and QC labs around the globe. But these days, most R&D and QC lab technology systems are isolated. Designed to address a specific need — whether it’s lab data collection, data storage, analytics or visualization — these systems largely remain disconnected. The reason? Most research scientists, who are valued for their independent and creative thinking, have been given the freedom to choose the instruments and technologies they need to conduct experiments and test hypotheses.

While this is effective in practice, it can create challenges in sharing of insights on a drug, as well as its manufacturing and testing processes from R&D, between manufacturing and QC. In addition, QC lab systems are also often disconnected from manufacturing IT systems which can slow down the process of bringing batches of drugs and vaccines through the supply chain.

While giving research scientists freedom to explore and work with tools of their own choosing seems like a wise idea, it has in fact led to complex caches of data that don’t correspond and aren’t easily accessed. As well, many companies have grown through acquisition, creating an intractable patchwork of information and data sets. 

To overcome these challenges, life sciences companies must adopt and end-to-end data strategy then execute against it. In doing so, they will be able to generate insights and drive discoveries that will have significant impact on accelerating development pipelines and assuring an efficient and reliable supply of increasingly complex and custom therapies.

Weaving a digital thread

A major component of the “lab of the future” is what we call the “digital thread” – the end-to-end ability to access data and knowledge silos in large and complex organizations across the entire development cycle. This systematic approach to how we produce and consume scientific, operational, clinical, and other patient-related data has been shown to have significant positive impacts—for both patients and biopharma companies.

Our research shows that New Science — therapies and medicines that combine the best in science and digital health technology — is expected to represent 54% of sales between 2017 and 2022, up from 47% between 2012 and 2017. Accenture’s position is that it is not enough to think about the “lab of the future” – which is often cited in commentary about the fourth industrial revolution – it is time to actively invest or risk being left behind.

New Science provides scientists the opportunity to control the data they generate, streamlining the development process and delivering meaningful insights in a far more efficient and applicable way. By using data to eliminate unnecessary repetitive tasks, researchers are able to apply their skill set to more prescient work, providing a more fulfilling experience that leads to better outcomes.

To be a leader in this new data-driven world, life sciences companies must fundamentally transform how they create, manage, and effectively use all the data that is generated in labs across their ecosystem. With the increasing pace of scientific and technological development, companies must create stronger end-to-end links between R&D and operations, and between supply chain, manufacturing and quality.  

Those that commit first to doing the basics brilliantly, and then to leveraging today’s digital technologies to transform and redefine their laboratories, will be in the best position to adapt and thrive. In my next post, I’ll explore in more detail the steps toward transformation and how innovative biopharmaceutical companies are using data to drive R&D and maintain Quality Control. For a more in-depth look at our research, please read our report, Digital Transformation in the Lab and stay tuned for part 2 of this blog “Clearing the Pipeline:  Setting Sail with Digital.


The opinions, statements, and assessments in this report are solely those of the individual author(s) and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they necessarily reflect the views of Accenture, its subsidiaries, or affiliates.

This document is intended for general informational purposes only and does not take into account the reader’s specific circumstances, and may not reflect the most current developments. Accenture disclaims, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, any and all liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information in this presentation and for any acts or omissions made based on such information. Accenture does not provide legal, regulatory, audit, or tax advice. Readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel or other licensed professionals.

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All rights reserved. Accenture and its logo are registered trademarks.

Barry Heavey

Managing Director – Life Sciences, Europe

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