Donna Conroy, MS is the Founder/CEO of SciMar ONE, Inc., a technology company that develops AI-based SaaS solutions for the pharmaceutical industry.
The pharmaceutical industry is investing heavily in technology – $57.4 billion in 2022 alone – to discover new therapies to treat our biggest health problems. Yet drug development teams are still using the same antiquated manual processes to move these life-changing therapies to market.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the power to find potential new molecules 1,000 times faster than existing models, but patients who could benefit from these discoveries still have to wait due to bottlenecks in the development process .
Although clinical trials are the most familiar part of drug development, the work required to accomplish the hundreds of complex tasks that move a therapy toward regulatory approval and commercialization is equally vital.
All of this begs the question: why is pharma investing billions in discover new molecules, only to rely on the same old, antiquated processes and siled technologies to develop these molecules towards commercialization?
To help the pharmaceutical industry modernize the status quo, a comprehensive solution that fosters collaboration and strengthens business processes and organizational success is needed in drug development.
Accelerating the speed of development: technology connects the unconnected
Pharma is under pressure to move faster. Following the speed at which Covid-19 therapies have come to market, there is an increasing urgency to shorten drug development timelines.
Speed of Development (DV) is a new term defined as the speed at which a pharmaceutical company moves a therapy through the development process and into commercialization. A myriad of interrelated bottlenecks negatively impact DV, but most important is the lack of comprehensive technology to support drug development programs.
McKinsey agrees that technology is essential for the pharmaceutical industry to accelerate drug development timelines and recommends that technology solutions be used beyond analysis and integrated across an organization to support collaboration. and growth.
Yet development teams continue to rely on point solutions and manual processes. Explosive data science growth, lack of cross-functional coordination, and cultural adherence to the status quo lead to bottlenecks that, if left unaddressed, can lead to loss of momentum that extends timelines and budgets reviews.
To accelerate DV and accelerate life-changing therapies for patients, the pharmaceutical industry must look to new and emerging technologies to replace legacy processes currently entrenched in drug development.
Bottlenecks in drug development
Not all bottlenecks have the same impact. Some delay progress by weeks or months and cost millions, while others have less impact. Big or small, bottlenecks collectively impact the life of a drug development program and magnify inefficiencies. Bottlenecks can cause significant delays and additional costs in the drug development process and impact the availability of new and innovative treatments to patients.
My company’s proprietary research (primary market research conducted in Q2 2022 with cross-functional members from multiple global pharmaceutical companies) identified over 200 individual bottlenecks that are slowing drug development. The bottlenecks fall into three main categories: data utility, project management, and business approach.
• Data utility: Most drug development tasks rely on complete and accurate scientific data for decision making. Inefficiencies occur when cross-functional teams perform manual data analysis or when individual functions adopt siled technologies to perform analysis. Both scenarios have a negative impact on DV.
• Project management: Collaboration varies between teams and within drug development programs due to the challenges of siled work environments. Without a roadmap to guide the process, interdependent workflows lack cohesion and tasks can be duplicated unknowingly. DV is negatively impacted when knowledge sharing and interdependent working is limited between cross-functional teams and stakeholders.
• Business approach: Has management recognized that it must prioritize and champion the change management required for effective drug development? Are the development teams ready to adopt new technologies?
A complete technology to eliminate bottlenecks and completely accelerate drug development must incorporate the following features:
• Shift the redundant work and heavy load of data analysis from humans to technology, freeing up people to focus on more strategic tasks
• Reduce silos and increase communication between cross-functional teams to minimize duplicate efforts and redundancies that slow progress
• Support change management within an organization and resolve misaligned business processes
• Provide a pharma-first, tech-second approach, rather than modernized technology for use in the pharmaceutical industry
The Challenges of Current Drug Development Technology
Current drug development technologies are generally point solutions that solve particular problems. While teams can gain efficiencies when performing isolated tasks, existing tools fall short of the complex needs of end-to-end drug development. Technology provides a great opportunity to streamline manual cross-functional processes and save critical time and resources.
To get the most out of these technological solutions, the pharmaceutical industry must be prepared to change the status quo and embrace innovation in drug development, just as the industry has embraced technology to discover new therapies.
Changing corporate culture will be key to supporting drug development functions that historically operate with individual processes, systems and goals. Technology should help promote flexibility, collaboration and partnerships. Although it will take time, I believe these benefits are worth the wait for patients and our industry.
The need is clear: Pharmacy must invest in end-to-end technologies that leverage data, improve collaboration, and facilitate cross-functional workflow to accelerate drug development and keep pace with burgeoning drug discovery technologies.
The first step is to identify and measure specific bottlenecks within development programs. Only then can these inefficiencies be replaced with comprehensive technology to improve the speed of development.
Pharma’s adoption of technology that increases efficiency and resolves bottlenecks that slow time to market will increase profitability and strengthen its core mission: the rapid and safe delivery of life-changing medicines to those who need it most.
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