AstraZeneca outsources drug trial analysis to Cognizant

Drug giant AstraZeneca has extended its outsourcing contract with Cognizant, in a deal that mean the India-based IT services provide will statistically analyse its clinical trial data.

AstraZeneca first outsourced some IT and business processes to Cognizant in 2004. In 2008, it extended the partnership to cover application maintenance and “centralised data management services”.

Under the new deal, Cognizant will provide “centralised statistical programming, statistical analysis, medical writing, and document publishing services, spanning the entire chain of clinical data reporting from case report forms to clinical study reports”.

In May last year, AstraZeneca announced the closure of its UK research and development facility near Loughborough, leading to 1,200 job cuts.

In the past, the pharmaceuticals sector has relied on a few, so-called ‘blockbuster’ drugs to generate most of its revenues. But the patents for many of these drugs are due to expire in the coming years, so the likes of AstraZeneca are under increasing pressure to develop new alternatives.

However, the sector is struggling to make sense of the vast quantities of scientific data that it collects. Last year, Swiss drugmaker Roche’s CFO told a conference that the company’s data is doubling every 15 months.

“I don’t think we are increasing our know-how every 15 months, far from it,” he said. “I’m scared that a lot of this data is just spam. We don’t know how to filter it.”

But while the IT industry is proposing so-called ‘big data’, or highly scalable, analytics technology as the solution, there is some evidence that this might not be a silver bullet.

Last year, the CEO of a collaborative decision-making software vendor called Decision Lens said that AstraZeneca had tried, and failed, to use a data-driven approach in drug discovery.

““We met with Astra Zeneca’s head of global portfolio,” John Saaty told Information Age “They had tried to drive decision-making off data. They had a whole project last summer where they were looking into various possible products, and they thought by evaluating all this data and plotting it on a graph that it would soon emerge what the correct direction would be for the products. But what happened was that all the products ended up landing right on top of each other – there was really no differentiation.”

“His [view] was that looking for your strategy to emerge out of the data is not really that effective,” Saaty explained.

AstraZeneca vs IBM

AstraZeneca is currently embroiled in a legal dispute with IBM, having terminated a $1.4 billion IT outsourcing deal with the company after just three of the planned seven years.

Part of the dispute relates to IBM’s obligation to continue to provide services to AstraZeneca as it wound down the contract. A court ruling made last week revealed that the dispute revolves around the definitions of various terms used in the Master Services Agreement between the two companies, including what was meant by the term “shared services”.

IT contract lawyer Richard Thomas told Information Age that the ruling reveals how long and complex contracts can lead to protracted legal battles when things go wrong.

“Agreements are getting longer and longer by the day, with parties insisting on drafting dozens of schedules,” he said. “But the more complex the contract, the greater the chance that some of the terms will be contradictory,”

This, he says, is a recipe for long and expensive court proceeedings when an agreement falls apart.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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