Cloud Levels Playing Field for Emerging Life Sciences Companies

May 23, 2018

Pharmaceutical Executive

A discussion of the benefits that a cloud-based strategy has to offer.

The drug development process for a first-in-class therapeutic can take as long as 14 years and cost more than $1 billion. Considering that life sciences companies are only able to bring one in about 10,000 treatments to market, the odds of achieving commercial success are low.

These challenges are magnified for smaller life sciences companies. Not only are they dealing with the same industry-wide changes due to digital disruption, a more complex stakeholder network, and increasing demand for outcomes-based evidence, but they also have to do it with fewer resources.

For emerging companies, this has traditionally translated into an IT environment pieced together around the immediate needs of a product launch rather than a long-term focus on enabling organizational growth. As a result, they often rely on ad hoc and disparate systems that make it more difficult to compete against incumbents. Cloud technology is changing this paradigm and emerging companies are at the forefront of the industry shift to the cloud.

Leading with a cloud-first strategy allows companies to be more responsive to changes across their commercial environment. It gives emerging companies access to the same technologies that were once primarily the domain of large enterprises. As technologies, customers, and markets develop, a cloud-first strategy allows these nimble organizations to evolve alongside them.

“We adopted a ‘cloud first’ strategy so that our commercial infrastructure could easily scale to support long-term growth and enable us to leverage the latest innovations,” said Ingo Elfering, Indivior CIO. “We have no physical data centers, and prefer cloud-based solutions to remain agile and poised for change, and ensure that technology never gets in the way of progress.”

A new era of commercial challenges

Commercial operations seek to enable effective customer engagement, despite increasing regulatory requirements and more ‘low-see’ or ‘no-see’ doctors. Health care professionals (HCPs), meanwhile, demand fundamentally more in-depth scientific conversations, including proof of patient outcomes and economic value. HCPs also expect to use their preferred device at any time, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or desktop. There is now a consumer-like expectation and the commercial model must be responsive to these new stakeholder requirements.

Life sciences companies have traditionally used a host of different vendors and systems to handle processes like CRM, rep email, and interactive and remote detailing. This has resulted in a complicated IT ecosystem with high maintenance costs and low utilization. Data often flows through a siloed information lifecycle. Many different teams own different parts of it, leading to a complex and disjointed flow of data through the commercial environment.

An integrated cloud ecosystem addresses these challenges and leads many emerging life sciences companies to launch their first medicines using a cloud-only or cloud-first commercial strategy.  

What a cloud-first strategy has to offer

For emerging life sciences companies, the benefit of the cloud extends beyond just managing IT infrastructure. The real business value of cloud vendors is that they offer easily configurable solutions with low overhead that do not require customization or capital investment. This helps level the playing field against larger incumbents, enabling smaller organizations to implement best practices-based business processes that would otherwise not be available to them.

“One benefit of partnering with an industry-specific cloud vendor is that they know the life sciences domain and should enable you to minimize any software customization,” says Agios Information Technology Vice President, Ian Rosenblum.

In addition, vendors who focus on the life sciences industry have already invested in determining standard processes and practices. These are built into their solutions, giving emerging companies the best of both worlds: the processes needed to operate and the technology to support them. It can initially start with basic workflows until the company has the bandwidth to make adjustments.

“Since we spend less time on traditional IT activities, it allows us to be better partners with our business,” explains Medac Information Technology Vice President, Glenn Tate. “Our internal skill enhancement is now targeted towards learning cloud technologies so that our team can be near the front of the technology curve.”

Naturally, as a company matures, the processes necessary for its success multiply. A cloud-first strategy means smaller organizations can increase their ability to establish relationships with customers via more channels without having to build in long lead times or large capital investments. In addition, cloud vendors address security issues and development costs.

A complete commercial cloud solution helps move data more efficiently through the information lifecycle. These can substantially reduce the time required for data change requests or territory re-alignment times. The result is a nimble commercial IT environment that can allow the business team to adjust more quickly to changing market environments.

Finally, because cloud vendors have to build compliance directly into their solution, they often understand them better than life sciences companies with more limited resources. “Why should we spend any money internally to develop these applications when we can just adopt them,” says the CIO of one Boston-based biopharma.

 

Doug Caldwell is Vice President of Customer Architecture at Veeva Systems.