Transforming the drug discovery process with digital

"Our need will be the real creator" – Plato
Despite being old, this proverb resonates well with the pharmaceutical industry's current scenario. The sector is undergoing rapid change, and one of the essential aspects of this transformation is the expiring patents which contribute a major share of the revenues.

The journey from developing a drug molecule to introducing it into the market depends on the speed and cost of the clinical trials - which focus on analyzing data to prove the efficacy and safety of each drug. Over the last three years, the drug development process has slowed due to the pandemic. Here's how the pandemic has impacted the pharma industry:

  1. It shifted drug development goals and forced the pharma industry to address the calamity. Many large companies were compelled to focus on developing drugs to combat COVID-19, which meant devoting time, resources and money to this cause.
  2. Innovation did not stop but slowed down considerably impacting the entire drug development process. Developing new drugs requires huge amounts of data to be collected from clinical trials, which helps prove their efficacy and receive regulatory approval. The speed at which clinical trials were conducted also slowed due to the inaccessibility of patients.

This pandemic will not be the last one, and we could face crisis equally or more severe in the future. Pharmaceutical companies must prepare for similar disruptions and ensure the innovation engine runs at full speed.

Innovation is a continuous process, and the pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to this fact. It must consider how to utilize external interventions to innovate faster and more continuously. Digital technologies are fully entrenched in the industry, and now is the time to use them to accelerate the drug development process.

Specifically, digital could help pharma companies reduce dependencies on external factors for clinical trials, capture accurate data remotely and feed it back to the sources for analysis.

Innovation is a continuous process, and the pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to this fact. It must consider how to utilize external interventions to innovate faster and more continuously

During the pandemic, the major roadblock in the clinical trials industry was participant recruitment. Digital recruitment solutions that leverage online portals and social media have gained momentum. Quantum computing can help insilico drug development, which involves simultaneously developing 3D models of many compounds and simulating clinical trials. Besides ensuring data accuracy, it will help pharma companies develop new molecules faster, thereby hastening drug development.

Pharmaceutical companies have a vast amount of data available to use for virtual clinical trials. Digital technologies like predictive analytics (which are highly data-dependent) can also accelerate the process. By mining data from their servers, it can produce models capable of simulating virtual clinical trials and also help transform their data stores into an effective knowledge bank.

This process will improve accuracy by identifying patients at a greater risk of developing complications or providing early confirmation that the product is working as expected. Another digital revolution is “digital phenotyping”, which holds great potential for collecting patient data and reducing the dependency on clinic visits, laboratories or specialized medical instrumentation.

Pharmaceutical companies are at an exciting juncture today. End-to-end digital solutions and virtual clinical trials are the need of the hour. With technologies advancing rapidly, they have an opportunity to use them to transform the entire drug development supply chain. Digital can become a catalyst in this process and help them shorten the clinical trial timelines and bring new drugs to the market.

Atos helps pharmaceutical companies accelerate the drug development process and reduce time to market. To learn about our solutions, you can read more at Accelerating clinical trials and reducing costs with digital technologies.

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About Harbir Sawhney
Global Portfolio Head, Life Sciences
For more than 30 years, Harbir has been associated in the IT industry, including 12 years helping healthcare and life sciences companies in their digital transformation journey. Harbir’s focus over the last six years has been to help life sciences companies build a digital transformation roadmap from molecule to market by leveraging AI/ML, big data and analytics, automation and Industry 4.0 for drug discovery, decentralized clinical trials, factory automation, and post marketing to accelerate the processes while reducing costs and improving quality. He is engaged in creating solutions that utilize sensor technology, mobile apps, cloud and smart labels for tracking and collecting patient data and enhancing patient engagement.