How the cloud enables innovation for pharma and life sciences

For all the potential benefits of SaaS-based analytics and AI apps, privacy concerns remain, slowing data sharing and suggesting the need for new approaches to cloud security.
By Nathan Eddy
11:06 AM
How the cloud enables innovation for pharma and life sciences

The cloud’s great potential benefit to innovation in the pharmaceutical industry is in its scalability, with cloud-based technologies giving companies the ability to access greater resources and processing scale.

This in turn could be a great enabler for artificial intelligence strategies, such as for drug discovery – however, some experts warn the cloud will not by default reduce costs or create benefits, and security concerns remain a major roadblock to IT departments looking at cloud-based innovations.

"It comes down to each individual organization determining what processes have ‘fat’ that could be trimmed through a transition to the cloud and what new capabilities they can access through cloud platforms and supplier ecosystems," said Dr. Abed Saif, founding partner and director of cybersecurity advisory services specialist AbedGraham.

He said he believes the development of new applications that enhance analytical capabilities, particularly through the use of AI, will be particularly valuable, as that could be applied to everything from patient engagement through to supply chain management.

"There is a huge opportunity for pharma, as well as in the medical technology and life sciences industries, to use the cloud to help with curing diseases, but that concern for privacy slows down the data sharing," said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute.

He noted one opportunity for pharma would be to develop a new type of data security in the cloud environment, which would also help alleviate concerns many big companies have when it comes to storing sensitive data in cloud environments.

Ponemon also explained supply chain processes could be expedited significantly, improving the economic state of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole and leading to faster return on investment.

"There could be innovation on not just the product side, but also for data sharing on research in the cloud environment," he said. "When you have research that is dependent on other research – the use of metadata – that is only available through the cloud, and is just not possible with on premises solutions."

Innovations such as file sharing apps that allow pharmaceutical companies and researchers to share files securely on a worldwide basis would lead to a data lake filled with possibilities – say, the ability to test a new drug.

"If you were just relying on an on premises solution you’d never have that ability," said Ponemon. "So, there’s a huge possibility that’s being missed right there."

Making matters more complicated is a disconnect between the C-suite and the IT department when it comes to using the cloud for innovation – in many cases IT feels constrained because they’re trying to cut costs and provide innovation.

"Those IT people in pharma are frustrated – they see the value of public clouds, but a lot of them are still investing in on premises solutions and that’s a big part of their budget," Ponemon said.

"They are looking at the cloud as a smart thing to do, but as a result of security worries, any innovation in pharma IT is not done through the pharmaceutical company, it’s done through a third party," 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.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer:
Twitter: @dropdeaded209

Want to get more stories like this one? Get daily news updates from Healthcare IT News.
Your subscription has been saved.
Something went wrong. Please try again.