Digital transformation: it is time to choose

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After the pressure imposed by Covid-19 emergency to the computerization process, Biopharma agencies have to choose between digital transfromation or the old known road.

Despite pharmaceutical business is based on R&S and on an agency innovative abilities, the biopharmaceutical area has always been disinclined to improve the most innovative digital technologies. After the pandemic outbreak, the perspective had to change. All of a sudden, pharma agencies had to renew their organization and hijack a consistent slice of its investments on digital tools.

Cloud, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) became priorities to the new panorama of digital transformation. Now, that the world is getting out of the emergency, this area needs to choode whether getting back to old school, or turning once and for all to the digital era.

The die is cast

The “Biopharma digital transformation: gain an edge with leapfrog digital innovation” data reported a momentum towards digital innovation which is not destined to slow down at all. A survey revealed that 82% of the responders confides in a continuation of the innovation process, even after the end of pandemic. Three over four are persuaded that in an immediate future the digital innovation level will be decisive on business competition.

Early adopters and followers

However, this does not mean that agencies are ready for it at all. Just one third of the responders thinks of working in a pioneering agency (early adopter), led by “visionaries, able to quickly adopt technologies and capable of timing the industry”; 57% considers their organization as a “fast follower”, going after competitors who proved technologic benefit; most of the executives (80%) is persuaded that society needs to be more aggressive in terms of innovations, in order to compete on the market; 10% of the responders is even more critical and convinced of belonging to a “laggards” agency, too slow to keep up with times.

The possible solutions are: clouds, data lakes and wearable tools. Some other technologies, such as digital twin, blockchain and quantum computing are still at their early stage.

Cloud and mRNA

Cloud computing is, with no doubt, the technology known the most. The clouds gave the agencies an effective solution to allow the employees to work from home, even during the pandemic most restrictive phases. Thanks to the cloud, agencies benefited of an advanced equipment, endowed with IAs and machine learning algorthms.

American biotech Moderna used a drug design tool, made on the Amazon Web Services cloud computing. This solution allows to virtually project mRNA sequences for specific protein targets. These virtual sequences are then converted into physical mRNA for consequent experiments and to start clinical studies.

Thanks to such a technology cloud based, Moderna only needed 42 days, since the SarsCoV-2 virus sequencing, to deliver its first batch of candidate vaccines for the trials.

Even artificial intelligence (IA) is universally known among biopharmaceutical executives. IA represents the main investments cathegory in digital technology in the drug discovery sector. On the contrary, the manufacturing area is quite tardive, even though there is the will to make it up. Of course, algorithms provided a support for marketing and for the identification of the perfect mix of digital channel, in order to involve patients and guide the conversations with them.

Remote checking

The use of wearable technology sensors have been applied especially during the drug development steps, in order to give a contribution to clinical studies, which had to be stopped during the pandemic outbreak. In such cases, researchers could adopt a hybrid method: drugs physical administration to patients, with a remote parameters monitoring.

Augmented reality and virtual reality solutions proved to be very helpfull too, when dealing with a staff reduction because of the contact restrictions.

HI-Tech future

Biopharmaceutical agencies are still exploring new advanced technologies to apply a digital transformation, such as digital twin, blockchain and quantum computing.

Digital twin is a computerized couple of an object or a process (even a person), existing in the physical world. Digital twin can be used by researchers for real time analysis and data collection, and for models elaboration or testing phase.

Some agencies are experimenting blockchain nets, close to serialization, to track products and prevent them from counterfait. The main investments aim at the supply chain, giving birth to the Clinical supply blockchain working group (Csbwg), a pharmaceutical industry stakeholders consortium led by Pfizer and Biogen, which is exploring blockchain applications to clinical supply chain.

Last for employment, but one of the most fascinating digital tool, even if just at its early stage of development: the quantum computer. Unlike the common binary computers, quantum models could effectively simulate even the extremely complex biological interactions, enlarging the mechanisms understanding on which many pathologies are based on.

No doubts: future will be digital