Digitalization and Competitive Advantage in Pharmaceutical R&D

By Joseph Kiran Kumar, Director and Head- IT, Eisai Pharmaceuticals India

Research and Development (R&D) func­tion of pharmaceutical companies work very meticulously towards giving a com­petitive advantage to the organizations while serving the people by bringing in new pharma products and also improving existing products.

Pharmaceutical R&D encompasses two major phases, Drug discovery and Drug development. Modern drug discovery involves the identification of candidate molecules, medicinal chemistry, optimization that re­sults increase in efficacy, metabolic stability and bio­availability. This is the most important phase of the drug identification. Drug discovery is a very lengthy process and would attract lot of capital investment and takes many years to reach the development stage. Many drugs after going through this process may not reach the mar­ket as could fail in the clinical trials resulting in loss of time and money.

Next comes the phase of Drug development which is the process of bringing the new pharmaceutical product to the market. This phase includes pre-clinical research on microorganisms & animals and getting regulatory approvals to market the drug.

R&D centres are the innovation beds for the phar­maceutical companies who aspire to be different and want to progress on the upward trajectory. Currently R&D functions spend globally is growing around 2.8% CAGR is expected to reach up to 3% by 2020-22.

Pharmaceutical industry is one of the top most in­dustries in the world with an estimated value of around USD 1 Trillion and the Indian Pharmaceutical Indus­try is currently worth around USD 36 Billion. Pharma­ceutical industry continues to look at various means of innovation that would help the industry grow even in the face of challenges faced by it due to the decline in the profit margin, pressure to reduce costs due to drop in the profits, products going off patent, ever evolving stringent regulatory requirements and of course the competition. Every company is trying to carve a niche for itself by adopting new business models and hoping that others not emulate them.

Digitalization Can Bring In Major Disruptionin Drug Dis­covery

Indian Pharma industry too is experiencing a new wave of innovation and isadopting modern technologies and processes on par with the US and Europe. Technology has become a key differentiator and Digital technolo­gy stands tall as the major differentiator. This modern technology ranges from customer centric technology pertaining to the health care providers to the manufac­turing and R&D focused technologies that would en­hance productivity and enhance compliance. Digitaliza­tion can bring in major disruption in these two phases of research and development, es­pecially in drug discovery. Digitalization has already made inroads into sales and mar­keting and has made significant positive impact on business.

Digitalization is the use of digital technolo­gies and data to create revenue, improve busi­ness, replace/trans­form business processes and create an environment for digital business.

When companies are looking for ex­ponential growth or to speed up the process of launch of new products, digital platforms become a very import­ant ingredient of the organizations’ resource portfolio. Digital platforms are sure to have a significant impact on the Pharma value chain especially in the manufacturing & Research and Development.

Alignment of the R&D function to Digital Platform

Companies have realized that it is very vital to collabo­rate both within and outside the company. The agility that is required in adapting to the latest trends is vital and defines the success or failure of the company. The in­dustry is very knowledge intensive and with the amount of data and information pertaining to the processes that exists is quite astonishing. Digitalization can provide one such platform for the organizations especially the ones actively involved in the Research and development space. One can see visible benefits in the areas of se­cured collaborative research, Quality by Design (QBD), Product life cycle management (PLM), Modelling and simulation in process development besides analytics and visualizations. Companies spend billions of dollars and many thousands of researcher hours in the development of the pharmaceutical products and they all come with their share of risks which should be handled efficiently to improve the chances of bringing the product to the market.

Digitalization of Pharmaceutical R&D would reduce the time taken from discovery to the launch of the prod­uct, ensuring patient safety, reducing the costs and the failures during the research process.

When the Pharma industry is bracing itself to the challenges, transformation of business through Dig­ital platforms seem imminent as these platforms hap­pen to be the prime choice of both the customers and the vendors centered around the value chain of the organization.

Digitalization essentially helps the alignment of the R&D function to a digital platform with the help of spe­cific software and standardized hardware, depending on the current technology used. Digitalization helps in im­proving collaboration between various elements within the discovery and development process by facilitating in time communication between the people and the pro­cesses, and this enhances the efficiency of the processes when combined with automation. The combined frame­work of integrated instruments, information technology and the Internet brings greater visibility to R&D pro­cesses and becomes a launch pad for the companies to bring products faster to the customers. Going digital in the R&D appears to be an obvious choice for the com­panies to be successful in the industry.

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