How cloud computing can transform the pharmaceutical industry

As you know, a number of significant trends have shaped the pharmaceutical ecosystem over the last few years.

The increasing need to develop personalised medicines has added to the complexity of care. A flurry of mergers and acquisitions have created huge, competing conglomerates. And stringent regulation and tighter price controls have forced many firms to find cost-saving measures while also paying close attention to evolving compliance needs.

It is little wonder then that many pharma(ceutical) companies have found it necessary to change their business models and leverage new technologies in order to cope with demands.

Indeed, many are turning to cloud technology. Primarily because it gives pharma companies the on-demand scalability and timely agility they need to balance the varying needs of the market.

Making the most of investment

Nowhere is this more applicable than in R&D.

The process is often a complex one, involving intensive use of time, labour and resources. With only 1 in every 5,000 drugs ever making its way into the market, the investment risk is tremendous.

For the drug that does reach consumers, it often takes at least 10 years to develop it to the standard of quality and safety necessary, where costs can total up to £1.15 billion before the drug is even licensed for use.

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With such hefty timeframes and budgets, cloud technology can be the ideal solution moving forward. It can help pharma companies process the huge amounts of data they deal with as a part of R&D, and replace the information silos that have been formed as a result of legacy infrastructure.

The boundless cloud

Wherever your role in the industry, you understand that the globalisation of healthcare has made it essential to be able to work with a range of partners, including biotech firms, research laboratories and academic institutions located anywhere in the world.

In fact, your own organisation might include offices, sites and facilities scattered across the country and overseas. With cloud technology, there is scope to integrate and standardise these information flows to create a truly efficient, streamlined collaboration platform.

The cloud also grants pharma companies greater control over their scalability potential. SaaS (software-as-service) computing allows for a ‘plug-in and play’ solution, where companies can use the services they require at any location and on any device.

As a result, teams can quickly be scaled up or down depending on the project, and be comprised of individual workers located anywhere in the world.

Most importantly, it allows companies to quickly and efficiently deliver the value of clinical research.

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According to a forecast by MarketsandMarkets, the clinical trial market is expected to grow at a CAPGR of 11.5% from 2016 to 2021.

Data, including lab, imagery and statistical analysis data, can all be delivered at speed thanks to cloud-based infrastructure. These productivity savings, coupled with the operational savings gained from obsolete hardware maintenance, can all be put back into R&D efforts.

Next steps

The reality is that the industry is still in early days of cloud adoption. For many, the key barrier remains security fears.

Pharma companies hold vast amounts of sensitive data, including intellectual property and patient information. As a result, the need to protect this information is paramount to business survival.

This is why the hybrid cloud is ideal for the sector. It gives companies the option to store their core confidential data and applications on a private cloud, and to leverage the power of the public cloud when necessary.

Partnering with the right security expert can also help. They can help pharma companies decide what types of data are most appropriate for public or private cloud storage, and ensure the integrity of the data remains intact.

According to Insights Pharma Reports, nearly half of all pharma manufacturers are currently using a form of cloud-based infrastructure, or are at least considering it.

Indeed, many large pharma companies have already embraced cloud computing. GlaxoSmithKline are currently using Accenture’s cloud platform to speed up its drug development processes. And, in June this year, Pfizer announced it would be partnering with Oracle to simplify how it manages its data for in-house and outsourced clinical trials.

>See also: Why cloud is changing the tech landscape for CFOs

Yet the cloud is just as suited to small and mid-sized pharma companies as it is to larger players, because it allows data to be managed offsite and at a much cheaper cost, smaller companies have the chance to free up their operating expenses and compete with their larger counterparts.

Note, it’s not just R&D that can benefit from the cloud. It can give businesses the data insights necessary to improve sales, and simplifies collaboration processes between partnering companies without the issues that often come from disparate IT systems.

In the upcoming years, the market for cloud computing is expected to experience record growth as regulation issues are ironed out and security fears settle down. The future will see a further explosion of data, and a marketplace that is increasingly intertwined and globalised.

As such, pharma companies must ensure their technological infrastructure can cope today and withstand the demands of tomorrow.

What life sciences customers need is an innovative way to handle the new business paradigm. The approach should be one that is seamless across the new domains – from on-premise and cloud, to mobile-device and more – with greater agility, reduced costs and further security and compliance than ever before.


Sourced by Christopher Rudolf, global life sciences industry executive at Unisys

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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