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Emerging Biopharma Gains Competitive Advantage in the Cloud

By Doug Caldwell, Vice President, Customer Architecture, Veeva Systems

Doug Caldwell, Vice President, Customer Architecture, Veeva Systems

The probability of receiving FDA approval for a new drug is less than 10 percent–and as low as 5.1 percent for oncology medicines. Small and emerging companies typically invest more than a decade of time and money into drug development, with no guarantee of eventual commercial success. They face the same industry-wide challenges as established, larger competitors, but have to succeed with fewer resources.

"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"

Smaller biopharma companies have a short window to make the shift from focusing purely on research and development to commercialization. Launch success often requires a commercial infrastructure spanning everything from multichannel CRM software to customer reference data, master data management applications, and increasingly, even a data warehouse. Because small life sciences companies do not have the bandwidth or resources to implement a piecemeal commercial infrastructure, they are leading the industry’s shift to the cloud.

“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.”

Leading with a cloud-first strategy allows companies to be more responsive to changes across their commercial environment. It also levels the playing field by providing emerging companies access to the same world-class 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.

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.

Unexpected Advantages of Cloud-First Strategy

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 able 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. All of which can increase the attractiveness of an emerging company as an acquisition target.

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.

Embracing a cloud-first strategy supports their efforts to hit the ground running. Rather than pouring IT resources into solutions from a host of vendors with non-integrated legacy solutions, the cloud enables a more efficient and agile organization with smarter customer engagement.  

Leveraging the Cloud to Seize New Opportunities

Life sciences companies that embrace a cloud-first strategy are focused on more than just cost reduction. They look to evolve alongside their markets, realize new business opportunities, and rapidly adopt new technologies. The cloud gives them access to a comprehensive information management system and allows them to scale on demand as their commercial requirements grow. Many emerging organizations find that a cloud-first IT strategy is the answer to their needs. It drives efficiency, agility, and smarter customer engagement to help better compete against the large field teams of enterprise organizations.