Digital transformation in pharma: Improving R&D through digital solutions

Jennifer Sexton , Director/CAS Custom Services

Futuristic Technology Background. Outer Space, Alien Technology And Spaceship Concept

Maximizing digitalization ROI: A challenge for pharmaceutical businesses

On average, drug companies spend 10 to 15 years developing, validating, and marketing a new product. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic and successful, lightning-fast mRNA vaccine development shed light on the potential of digital tools to accelerate processes. This major event deepened the pharmaceutical industry's interest in undergoing digital transformation and implementing cognitive tools into their processes. However, digitalization can be complicated and difficult to achieve.

About 55% of pharmaceutical firms report using digital technologies to some degree. However, a lack of expertise in knowledge management and experience with digital tools often transforms this smart initiative into a debatable investment. With roughly 70% of digitalization programs failing, pharma companies need to reevaluate where to invest their digitalization dollars and optimize their deployment strategies to unlock competitive advantages and generate life-changing pharmaceuticals.

With a deep understanding of robust knowledge management, cognitive tools, and how they intertwine, pharma companies can revolutionize their processes at all levels and breed better global healthcare.

Digitization and knowledge management: Facilitating company-wide data access to accelerate innovation

Pharmaceutical companies generate massive volumes of information, from ingredient information, formulation, and clinical trial data to processing time, production, and quality control reports. These new documents quickly pile up when using existing legacy information sources and siloed databases, making search and retrieval challenging. Unstructured and unharmonized, past experiment results get lost in the “dark data” realm, accounting for an estimated 55% of all organization knowledge.

Without easy access to historical data across departments, pharmaceutical companies are likely to repeat previous mistakes or investigate questions that already have answers. To accelerate innovation and significantly shorten product time to market, digitalization is key.

Pharma companies are transforming historical documents, such as lab journals, datasets, and reports, into searchable assets in a connected knowledge management platform. This allows individuals throughout the organization to access ingredient-level information, supplier details, regulatory guidelines, and other scientific and business intelligence. These companies are taking this a step further by introducing an online user interface to connect teams in different departments and regions.

Through thoughtful digitalization, pharma companies can further facilitate, streamline, and expand R&D, manufacturing, and commercialization while promoting interdisciplinary work and international collaboration.

Streamlining drug development: Accelerating therapeutics innovation with cognitive tools

The age of digitalization is transforming the pharmaceutical industry, providing researchers with revolutionary tools to improve time to market and safety.

The development of COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year propelled Pfizer into the center of the pharmaceutical scene. While Pfizer’s workforce efficiency is indisputable, the company’s unprecedented response time and competitive advantage are rooted in well-established pipelines implemented long before the pandemic. A pioneer in digital strategies, Pfizer understood the transformative potential of knowledge management, data analytics, and AI initiatives for the pharmaceutical sector and incorporated them into its daily operations.

With decades of expertise and research data available, pharma giants can narrow lead candidates to the best, safest options. For instance, AI-driven algorithms combined with previous clinical data allowed researchers to design and supervise extensive clinical trials with real-time predictive models of COVID-19 attack rates. Pushing the boundaries beyond the laboratory’s doors, knowledge management strategies and AI models enabled inventory prediction and supply chain monitoring, streamlining vaccine development, distribution, and accessibility.

Robust data foundations and cognitive tools deployed throughout their value chain gave Pfizer a definite head-start in the COVID-19 vaccine race. From initial drug candidate selection to treatment monitoring, the power of cognitive tools in accelerating drug development has been proven. However, AI predictions only reach their full capabilities if properly trained with clean, curated, and protected datasets. To launch or optimize AI in pharma R&D workflows, you must first evaluate the quality of your data and knowledge management infrastructure.

Digitalization and data security: Protecting proprietary information, patient privacy, and research integrity

Through extensive drug discovery phases and clinical trials, the pharma industry has access to critical manufacturing processes and patient health information. This is precious data for competitors and malevolent individuals. With the growth of cyberattacks (nearly 1 every 39 seconds) and medical identity theft (35% in 2019), implementing robust security strategies in the pharma industry is now an urgent matter.

Reports define pharma companies as prime targets of cyber attackers, with 53% of privacy breaches resulting from malicious activity. Confidential information spread across different departments, platforms, and software makes it challenging for companies to guarantee data protection and a secure environment. Implementing an organization-wide knowledge management interface can enforce strict user access control while eliminating data breaches. Cloud-based collaborative platforms with secure channels where researchers and clinicians can safely share sensitive information and avoid risks of device corruption are becoming more common in the pharmaceutical industry. However, transitioning from siloed on-premises legacy solutions to cloud-based platforms or custom hybrid versions is complex and slow to adopt. To streamline the transition to updated knowledge management ecosystems while safeguarding data, pharma companies should look to digital transformation partners with knowledge in their field.

Digital transformation in pharma

Digitalization has the potential to drastically transform the pharmaceutical industry, allowing for better knowledge management, accelerated innovation, and improved data security while reducing drug time to market. However, an ill-conceived digital transformation strategy can result in wasted resources and increased risk.

As pharma’s digital transformation continues to evolve, digital technologies and cognitive tools are finding their way into all aspects of the industry, allowing for faster drug development and expanded treatment options for a growing number of conditions. Digital transformation strives to bring innovative healthcare solutions in a sustainable, responsible, and accessible way.

To learn more about digital transformation and data management, check out our case studies with CAS Custom ServicesSM.