A shared solution… cloud information management and collaboration for accelerated R&D

By the end of this decade, many pharmaceutical companies’ R&D operations may no longer own or invest in proprietary technology solutions due to evident productivity challenges. To offset slowing growth rates, companies will turn to industry-wide services similar to utilities that provide transaction processing services and support the sharing of non-competitive data across various corporate sponsors, David Boath discusses.

Pharmaceutical companies are battling to boost R&D productivity as spending on drug development climbs. Over the last 15 years, global R&D spend has grown five percent annually while output has dropped 22 percent. In the past three years, 18 R&D locations have closed in the US; another 14 have closed in the EU.

Some R&D organizations have started to tackle the issue by investing in proprietary IT systems to make their operations more efficient. But it can be a burden. In our experience, just maintaining basic operations for a proprietary IT system consumes up to 80 percent of a pharma company’s IT resources.

“The venture shows the willingness of otherwise fierce rivals to tackle some of their biggest problems together and break down industry barriers.”

Given the cost – and complexity – of managing proprietary IT systems, some are now pursuing an alternative model: shared information management platforms that can reduce R&D costs and accelerate timelines while maintaining quality and compliance.

The shift toward pre-competitive collaboration

With the emergence of technologies like the cloud, R&D organizations now see real possibilities in pre-competitive collaboration.

This model means that individual companies no longer have to bear all the development burdens themselves. They can work collaboratively with research partners— CROs, software vendors or aggregators—to spread the risks of development, reduce costs, and accelerate outcomes. “There is no reason that we should have separate ways to activate investigator sites,” believes one senior R&D pharmaceutical executive.

Pre-competitive teamwork is already under way. TransCelerate Biopharma, a non-profit joint venture signed in 2012, brings together 10 Big Pharma companies to find ways to make the clinical trials process more efficient (GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, AbbVie (Abbott), AstraZeneca, Sanofi, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Genentech, a unit of The Roche Group). Each will contribute funding and staff from its R&D divisions. The venture shows the willingness of otherwise fierce rivals to tackle some of their biggest problems together and break down industry barriers.

“If pharmas are to get maximum benefit from such collaborative approaches, their IT organizations also need to evolve to align with pre-competitive collaboration.”

If pharmas are to get maximum benefit from such collaborative approaches, their IT organizations also need to evolve to align with pre-competitive collaboration. That’s what one multi-national pharmaceutical company did recently, when it launched an internal program to improve its R&D productivity. The company developed a clinical aggregation layer that integrates clinical trial data provided by its alliance partners while also giving it easy access and control over all of its data.

This technology platform, built using the cloud, establishes the framework for a utility (pay-as-you-go) model for aggregating clinical data. In time, this cloud-based solution will help the multi-national pharmaceutical company to retire its traditional clinical trial system infrastructure, reducing the need for capital expenditures and significantly lowering annual IT operating costs, without sacrificing quality or outcomes.

The benefits of a utility model

The multi-national pharmaceutical company can now securely exchange data with its alliance partners via an information exchange hub. Marketplace requirements and internal financial goals make it less and less economically feasible for pharmas to continue relying on their legacy and proprietary IT platforms to support drug development. This does not need to be an all or nothing decision for pharmas, i.e., abandoning these long-term investments overnight or immediately automating their clinical trials data management. But it does mean there is scope for breaking the pattern of investing in and maintaining proprietary IT systems.

“Many pharmas now recognize they need to overhaul their approach to development and focus on the aspects that truly drive competitive advantage.”

Many pharmas now recognize they need to overhaul their approach to development and focus on the aspects that truly drive competitive advantage. Innovative technologies like cloud solutions offer one tool to cut their R&D and approval cycles to get products to market more quickly and boost their products’ time under patent. Doing so is the sharp turn that can put them on the road to profitable growth.

Pharmaceutical companies looking to create high performance through cloud adoption should seek out:

• Clinical services that focus on the traditional ‘pain points’ of effectively identifying the right patients, helping efficient capture of clinical trial data and streamlining the process between data capture and reporting leveraging the latest CDISC criteria.

• Pharmacovigilance services leveraging mobile and web-based data capture to drive compliance with new regulations to increase productivity and improve quality in the pharmacovigilance processes.

• Integrated cloud based regulatory services leveraging CDISC standards and the industry’s integrated cloud based processing platform to improve regulatory quality, speed and operational efficiency.

References

1. Accenture Research based on CMR’s 2012 Pharmaceutical R&D Factbook, Thomas Reuters, and EvaluatePharma, 2013

2. “Workforce Reductions in Pharmaceuticals- Outsourcing, External Innovation and Collaboration Will Drive the Industry Forward”, GBI Research, June 12, 2012, http://www.marketresearch.com/GBI-Research-v3759/Workforce-Reductions-Pharmaceuticals-Outsourcing-External-7025797/

3. “Big Pharma R&D Deal Could Cut Development Costs,” Medpage Today, September 23, 2012, http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/GeneralProfessionalIssues/34914

 

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About the author:

David Boath is senior managing director, Life Sciences R&D Accelerated Services, Accenture.

Accenture’s Life Sciences group is dedicated to helping companies rethink, reshape or restructure their businesses to deliver better patient outcomes and drive shareholder returns. We provide end-to-end business services as well as individual consulting, outsourcing and technology projects around the globe in all strategic and functional areas—with a strong focus on R&D, Sales & Marketing and the Supply Chain. http://www.accenture.com/lifesciences

To learn more, download: Pharma’s Sharp Right Turn on R&D: Creating an IT Platform to Fuel Future Growth.

Click here to learn more about Accenture Accelerated R&D Services.

Can cloud solutions cut R&D approval cycles and get products to market more quickly?