At a Glance

  • Biotech companies are now more dependent on the latest technologies for innovation and pace. Mid-size and larger life sciences companies are looking to invest in tools that offer precision and efficiency in R&D.
  • 2020 brought a spotlight to pharmaceutical and biotechnology R&D as the world sought ways to curb the Covid-19 pandemic. Pharma companies adapted and implemented high-end technologies for faster results.
  • Cost-efficiency is also a major concern for pharma companies’ R&D. Newer tools enhance efficiency while reducing costs.

The year 2020 was unprecedented in many ways. It engulfed the world in an unheard of disease, locking everyone inside and putting a serious strain on the global healthcare system.

The entire world is now hoping for an effective vaccine to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus. A vaccine or an effective treatment is at the top of every nation’s agenda. This focus puts tremendous pressure on pharmaceutical and biotech companies to fortify and speed their R&D. The ability to produce these products has direct impacts on our lives and businesses.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, pharma companies were struggling to keep up with the demands for newer drugs, expiring patents, developing innovative formulations, etc. Compared to many other industries, the biotech and pharma sector was slow in terms of updating technology in business operations and labs. Times are changing and bringing R&D along.

The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development states the average cost to produce a new medicine is $868 million. -PwC

Updating R&D

Pharma and biotech companies want to make more efficient R&D choices. One goal is to ensure that more molecules from the initial phases become the part of the final product. New tools and tech are helping achieve these goals by:

1.Leveraging Data Analytics for Effective Insight Generation in the Lab: Scientists deal with numerous molecules, formulations and data-points while developing a drug. Manually keeping tab of all these data-points is cumbersome and time-consuming. It can lead to missing crucial data and other human errors, unintentional or not. Using “Big Data” and the latest data analytics tools, pharma companies are enabling their scientists to automatically collect, collate and manage large volumes of data.

2.Digitizing Labs with IoT: Labs become faster and more efficient by connecting every machine, enabling real-time information flow. This method generates quicker insights and results in faster decisions. Using internet of things (IoT) connected devices, the lab lets machines communicate with each other. The system becomes agile and proactive as compared to traditional responsive operations of the past. Digitizing labs helps predict and then eliminate bottlenecks. It removes ineffective molecules and formulations, strengthening the entire R&D workflow.

3.Digital Pathology with Virtual Staining: Virtual staining lets scientists highlight and study non-labeled sections of a single tissue for enhanced microscopic clarity. With the help of artificial intelligence-based tools, scientists can effectively digitize the entire process. These tools help automatically analyze radio images, pathological images and related medical data. Not only does this speed the entire process, it saves time and increases overall accuracy.

4.Creating a Shared Ecosystem between R&D Functions: R&D in pharma includes labs plus pre-clinical and clinical trials. Each function generates data points and massive amounts of information. With the help of digitally-enabled platforms, pharma companies can create a shared ecosystem that collects, classifies and provides centralized access to this data.

Example: Pfizer’s Precision Medicine Analytics Ecosystem provides shared access to information about genomics, formulations, clinical trials and other recorded data. Pfizer’s system allows scientists and researchers to simultaneously study possible outcomes and narrow down the best possible treatments.

Figure: 1Biotechnology R&D: Conventional vs. Digitally-enabled Processes

Biotech R&D: Conventional vs. Digitally-enabled Processes

The Covid-19 pandemic taught the world that leveraging technology for biotech and pharma R&D is not a choice but a necessity. Using the latest digital advancements, pharma companies are making a seemingly impossible feat possible by getting several vaccines approved for emergency use. Developing a vaccine for a novel pathogen in a year is truly a victory for science and technology. It also shows that the biotech and pharma sectors can create many new products by embracing the latest tools and technologies.

Key Takeaways:

  • Pharma/ biotech labs can be simplified and streamlined using newer tools powered by the latest technologies.
  • Pharma companies need to look into technologies to enhance efficiency and manage the financial aspects of R&D.
  • Adapting and implementing the latest technologies requires major changes and investments. In the long term, these investments will pay for themselves.
  • Digital trends are making R&D faster and more efficient, helping scientists narrow treatments and speeding clinical trials.

For more information on implementing digital technologies in your life sciences R&D, book a consultation with our expert.

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