Recently, I spoke to R. Arun Kumar about the wider applications of cloud computing. Arun Kumar is Vice President and Head of the Global Life Sciences Business Unit at Infosys, an IT, business consulting and outsourcing services provider.
How is technology helping to tackle the current challenges facing the European pharmaceutical industry?
Technology is helping in a big way. Companies are renewing their focus on improving R&D productivity by investing in better collaboration and analytical tools. Research departments are using next generation sequencing tools and also increasing their collaborating with external partners for research in order to tap new areas of exploration.
In addition, clinical trials are becoming more adaptive by incorporating signal detection technologies, and being more efficient in terms of global supply chain and forecasting. There is an increased focus on digital technology with sales and marketing teams embracing the web and social networking tools to develop better relationships with physicians and patients.
What part is cloud computing playing in this?
The impact of cloud computing is just beginning to be felt in the areas of research, development and healthcare information exchange. The explosion of data from next generation sequencing, growing importance of biologics in the research process, and importance of public–private partnerships (PPPs) to come up with new discoveries is making cloud based computing an increasingly important aspect of R&D.
We are already seeing complex genetic sequences and biomarker data being hosted in the cloud by a few open source bodies, which are then accessed in a secure fashion by individual companies for their research needs. However, there is still a need for more integrated data sharing across research, development, manufacturing, and sales functions to improve trials, increase time to market for drugs, and utilize feedback faster. We’ve seen an increasing trend of pharmaceutical customers exploring use of both public and private clouds for data storage, hosting and access needs.
The main impact to pharmaceutical companies of increased usage of cloud computing is a reduced dependence on their own IT infrastructure. This will provide the ability to move away from CAPEX intensive deployments to an OPEX/pay-as-you-go business model. The main business advantage of cloud computing is the standardization and streamlining of operations, higher reusability, better integration, and stronger collaboration with external entities and the health care ecosystem. However, as the uptake of cloud increases, we can also expect greater focus on aspects related to security, privacy, data protection and IP management when reliance on the cloud grows.
What else can we expect to see affecting pharma in 2011?
One of the biggest changes that 2011 will bring is the increased amount of government intervention in terms of drug approvals, pricing and reimbursements. European pharmaceutical companies are already used to dealing with a single payer system and a higher role for the government. However, they face unfamiliar territory from growing emerging markets, ageing population in mature pharmaceutical markets, and the increased focus on generics.
From a patient perspective, society is showing less trust in drugs alone as the key element of treatment. Customer-centricity will see patients having a higher stake in their own health management decisions and treatment regimes.
2011 will also see the use of telemedicine and remote health monitoring for areas like diabetes, cardiac and sleep disorders. This is due to the fact that it is a popular choice for patients and that it offers obvious cost advantages for all stakeholders.