3 ways big data affects biomedical research

As pharma companies look to improve their R&D productivity in the new year, some are shifting from a traditional mindset to one that is inherently agile, more typical of a tech company or a start-up.

This type of shift doesn’t always come easily for large organizations. Process complexities, legacy systems, and change management issues all lend themselves as challenges for transformation.

But, several industry players have proven that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to initiate a paradigm shift in the way that R&D operates. Research firm McKinsey has collated some of the key elements that have enabled this type of change in their new white paper R&D in the Age of Agile.

Driving agility into… strategy

In terms of strategy, the paper suggests pharma companies could explore relaxing therapeutic-area (TA) boundaries, opening up the ability to explore opportunities across multiple disease areas. Combined with differentiated, fit-for-purpose asset strategies, this allows pharma to transfer energy and resources to the areas of development that carry the most potential.

Driving agility into… structure

Structural change is necessary both to break down siloes and to allow rapid acceleration of priority programs. By mixing up project teams, pharma companies can optimize delivery against the asset strategy. One suggestion is to include commercial representation earlier in the lifecycle in the case of accelerated-approval assets. (This is something we’ve talked about previously on the Velocity of Content blog here.)

The key to being able to follow innovation opportunities and nimbly explore new areas, is perhaps to reduce internal infrastructure, enabling greater flexibility in capability and capacity. The problem is, as MIT researcher Deborah Soule points out, most large companies are not known for being nimble and agile. That’s why they need to rely on a strong combination of people, process and technology, to achieve digital dexterity.

Related Reading: Essential Resources for Life Science Organizations Undergoing Digital Transformation

Driving agility into… decision-making

There’s also the (not so) small matter of data, which can set the foundation for faster and earlier decision making by empowering asset-development teams. The big players have started to establish partnerships with tech firms in order to access cutting-edge data sets and analytics, which marks an increase in the level of investment in this area. Now it’s about building expertise in analyzing data, so it can be utilized to full effect.

“Collectively these changes would represent a fundamental shift in the R&D operating models of ‘traditional’ players and require new ways of thinking, working, and leading,” McKinsey concludes in the white paper. “Therefore, players may elect to focus first on a specific set of enablers with priorities determined by their starting point and final aspiration.”

The first step on this journey to agile transformation is ‘diagnosis’: assessing the current level of agility and identifying where opportunity exists. Then it’s about ‘aspiration setting’: defining the destination and the timeframe to get there.

Learn how organizations use Copyright Clearance Center’s RightFind solutions across the R&D pipeline. 


Author: Jill Shuman

Jill Shuman is a former Director of Product Engagement at Copyright Clearance Center and currently a CCC Consultant. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Tufts University School of Medicine, where she has taught courses in grant writing, searching biomedical literature and expository writing. Prior to her role at CCC, Jill headed up the corporate library and Knowledge Management Centers at Shire, and also served as a healthcare research analyst and an award-winning science journalist. She is active in SLA, HBA, and the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). In 2016, Jill was the recipient of AMWA’s lifetime achievement award for her success in teaching more than 40 classes, workshops, and seminars. When not at work, she can be found reading (on an e-reader to make the print bigger), looking for her glasses, or writing children’s mysteries that feature sick children as super sleuths.
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