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Cloud Takes a Leap in the Pharmaceutical Industry

By CIOReview | Monday, February 24, 2014

FREEMONT, CA: Pharmaceutical companies go through different levels of research and resource management before bringing their tested drugs to the chemist’s shelves, which could be tedious. But cloud computing seems to be moving at a much more rapid pace in the pharmaceutical world.

But unlike the typical drug lifecycle which can take ten years from discovery to approval, the pharmaceutical world has been embracing cloud computing at a much more rapid pace. Cloud computing has taken a lead from a captivating idea to core implementation helping life sciences companies to approach new system architecture with ‘cloud first’ outlook.
The report on the life sciences sector claims that the scalability, flexibility and responsiveness provided by cloud computing has made it a compelling choice for those companies moving into new markets or launching new products and services. With the help of cloud computing, life sciences companies can expand their cloud strategies to R&D, commercial, supply chain and enterprise functions.

According to the report, Accenture believes that most pharmaceutical companies had constrained their R&D cloud deployments due to rigid restriction and the need to protect their intellectual property. “R&D requirements for large data sets and associated computing capacity—as well as collaboration across entities—make R&D a prime candidate for cloud applications. Accenture highlights bioinformatics, next-generation gene sequencing, and molecular imaging and modeling as areas that could benefit from cloud computing’s scalable, cost-effective and high-performance computing environment.”

Pfizer a research-based Pharmaceutical company and Accenture have already extended a cloud-based platform for clinical data aggregation and reporting intended to improve collaboration with clinical research organizations like Parexel and ICON. The service cumulates the critical clinical trial information held by Parexel and ICON while Pfizer concentrates on analysis of the data, monitoring progress and managing relationships with regulators.

Life sciences companies are already making use of Amazon Web Services to create scalable and highly available IT infrastructures to store, compute and share data. Biotech companies and research centers use cloud computing in genome sequencing and data distribution, bioinformatics, drug discovery, scientific collaboration and centralized data management.

Patric Wiesmann, managing director for Healthcare and Life Sciences at DocuSign, believes that pharma companies are “more open to cloud-based solutions than previous years”, observing that cloud solutions are being used to improve quality and accessibility of data for sales forces and clinical trial site managers and to streamline communication across a wide geographic divide. Though the industry is still in the early stages of evaluating applications in these areas but the very thought about data mashups between public and private data sets and then companies using that information to deepen insights for their own portfolios could be disruptive”.

However some organizations have proceeded and adopted cloud. Kevin McNulty, director of product marketing for life sciences at Intralinks, says cloud is attractive to pharma because clinical development is a collaborative process that involves large numbers of partners across multiple geographies which collect highly sensitive patient data.“Considering the number of partners in disparate locations who need quick access to this data, cloud-based technology solutions offer the most efficient means for all the parties involved to communicate,” he argues.

Unavoidably, data security and integrity are areas pharma companies are worried about. McNulty says “they need to focus on cloud-based systems that are fully validated with the relevant international regulations so the data is protected and can be used in clinical trials. It’s important they are validated because the data collected through a system that isn’t “can potentially be rejected by regulatory agencies”.
Craig at PA Consulting says the benefits with cloud computing are “very clear” and claims the risks “are often over-stated. Misinformation is rife. Reality and the tabloid headlines are often polar opposites. People assume health data is confidential, it’s not, it’s confidential where you can identify the patient but that’s not really important to the research people. They don’t care about names and individuals”. To provide the necessary information for research the personal, confidential information can be deployed on a hybrid cloud.

McNulty thinks that big pharma has already thrown its weight into cloud computing. “Any industry or firm that is nervous about moving highly sensitive data can look towards the life sciences industry for guidance and confidence, there is no electronic data that is under greater scrutiny and regulatory oversight than personal health data, and this industry has fully embraced cloud technology.” he says.

CIO Review Client: Flagship


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