From start to finish, drug development could benefit from cloud computing

From streamlining operations to fine-tuning optimal treatments, the technology makes a business case for pharma.
By Nathan Eddy
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Cloud-based computing could offer major benefits to pharmaceutical companies in the area of drug development as they grapple with rising costs and avalanches of data that need to be collected, analyzed and shared.

In particular, the technology could help streamline operations and develop business cases as to whether a drug is likely to be needed — or financially viable.

“If you’ve got big pots of data that tell you conventional antibiotics aren’t solving a particular malady that a large percentage of the population is suffering from, you could essentially use that data to put together a business case to develop a drug to meet the need,” Jonathan Armstrong, partner with law firm Cordery, told Luisbrandao.

Armstrong noted that an organization could use that data to potentially pinpoint what that problem is, as well help determine the optimum efficacy for when to deliver drugs to the patient set.

“If you’ve got big pots of data you could improve drug regimens — it almost gives you the ability to do a whole clinical trial but with a much larger population set,” he said.

As companies move toward a modelling and artificial intelligence-aided approach to drug design, together with the need to integrate large data including from genomics sources, the cloud could also assist in storage and analysis of these extremely large datasets.

This would help avoid the need to move the data around — particularly if the data can not only be stored, but analyzed in the cloud so that only the results need to be downloaded locally.

Dr. Abed Saif, founding partner and director of cybersecurity advisory services specialist AbedGraham, explained the ability to digitize workflows and create new applications in an agile manner could be a major boost through the entire life cycle of drug development.

He noted pharmaceutical companies’ access to increased computing power brings the possibility to enhance everything from therapeutic target selections to statistical analysess of success likelihood and progress.

“Provided the transition to the cloud is managed appropriately in a controlled manner with clear objectives, there is every opportunity to accelerate successful drug development in a cost-effective manner,” Saif told Luisbrandao.

There’s also the economic aspect — the faster a company can get a drug to market, the more profit they’re going to have. However this remains a major challenge because of data protection regulations pre-date cloud technology, according to Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, who explained that from a regulatory framework, laws and data sharing mechanisms need to be updated.

He explained that the pharmaceutical industry provides a very interesting case for the use of cloud technology, allowing everything from faster drug delivery to building a process for development, testing, marketing and sales of new drugs.

“The cloud streamlines the process from start to finish,” he told Luisbrandao. “If you have the right dataset, you can do some incredible things. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical companies still live in a world where privacy is so restrictive that things aren’t as streamlined as they could be.”

Ponemon pointed out that the cloud is such a broad and useful technology that it has the potential to help pharma speed the entire process of drug development.

“From [the] research phase on a global scale, down to the supply chain process and helping with them speed the time it takes to go to market with new drugs — we want pharmaceutical companies to innovate with the cloud when it comes to this, but major security concerns are still there,” he said. 


Focus on: The Future of Pharma

In the month of July, we'll take a closer look at the many answers to this question, as well as exploring what the changing face of pharma means for other healthcare stakeholders.