Admittedly this is not a new concept. When enterprise resource planning (ERP) was first introduced the focus was on integrating finance/accounting, manufacturing, sales and service. ERP provided the means for ‘integrating; the business processes within an organization. So why raise the topic of “ERP for R&D?” Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices develop new products in an environment that is driven more by science than a ‘business process.’ Scientists will suggest that forcing a business process into R&D limits their creativity. Today we are well aware of the problems facing R&D: lack of new products, reduced productivity, significant capital cost with diminishing results in terms of new products.
In my last blog post “Improving the Business of RandD” the focus was on the impact that cloud computing could have on R&D. Platform as a service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) are alternatives that can help IT supplement their existing business process. Today contract / clinical research organizations (CRO) are being used to supplement R&D in the area of clinical development. Basic research and clinical manufacturing (in some organizations) are also being ‘outsourced.’ Given this quilt of organizations and separate business processes I’ve concluded the need for “ERP for R&D.”
Ultimately change will occur. I read an interesting article “Pharmaceutical Innovation Hits the Wall: How Open Innovation Can Help” by Henry Chesbrough. He writes about the need for changes to the industry’s innovation process. You may already know about the industry’s focus on ‘blockbuster’ drugs where the business is using science to find that next billion dollar product. Which comes at the price of research in seeking medications for smaller patient populations, so I contend that the business processes with R&D need to be ‘integrated’ with visibility to the data across the organization. I do agree with the point that Henry makes in his blog post that ‘there needs to a change in the innovation process.’
I have begun this journey to offer ERP for R&D as several of my customers have asked our company to give end-to-end services. I would like to see the industry focus more on new treatment and medication innovation and leave the IT to systems integrators (SI). Unlike software development companies SIs is pretty much agnostic to the software solution and more about how to drive out cost and improve IT performance.
A lot has been written about Cloud Computing. In “Tech Giants look forward to Cloudy Days” this speaks to the competition between Apple, Google and others that want you to store your files on their technology. In “Here’s Why Cloud Computing Is So Hot Right Now” talks about the shift from client-server to ‘shared’ hardware located away from the corporate offices. In a earlier blog I wrote called “Managing my data…”I detailed my experiences with my data after my laptop was damaged. Learning to use and apply cloud computing is the focus of this blog post with an emphasis on Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices R&D.
Lately I’ve been working in the R&D area and specifically on the business processes that extend from Basic Research through New Drug Application (NDA). Most of you have heard about the impending loss of revenue due to patent expires of branded pharmaceuticals. The question is what can be done to “Improve the Business of R&D.” For starters most companies have realized that IT is not their core business. IT is just an enabler of the business processes within a company, and most executives I know want to focus on the core business of creating new medicines and treatments. Then there is the high amount of effort needed to make sure ‘compliance’ is maintained to the local regulations, when it comes to making these products. Add to this situation if IT develops a ‘homegrown’ solutions within R&D.
In the past information technology (IT) was used to serve the needs of the R&D. Today there is a need to see how IT can accelerate the business within R&D. The example that comes to mind is how kids use technology (cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc.). They just use it to do whatever it is they are looking to do. Make it simple and the user will consume more of this technology. Today we’ve come to the conclusion that IT is not keeping up with the demands of R&D. So how can we improve this?
Cloud computing offers the ability to expand IT capacity in an ‘on demand’ fashion. We’ve begun to take this concept one step further. What if IT services providers created an infrastructure or platform ‘on demand?’ Google Mail (Gmail) is an extreme example of this where users can get access to their email through cloud computing. As more users go to Gmail capacity expands to meet the needs of the users. I say this is an extreme because the cost model for Gmail is different from a R&D model.
Imagine a day when you can ‘rent’ a process – add database capacity – replicate existing IT landscapes in the cloud. We refer to this as process-as-a-service (PaaS) where you can use any given process via the cloud. Allowing you to add new users to a business process on an as needed basis. We can also provide infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). We’ve had clients ask if we can offer the servers organized in a specific fashion to support their business process. Companies can leverage these services and get out o the IT business of maintaining and supporting these systems.
Is this a novel idea? Not really – other industries have enacted similar PaaS and IaaS solutions. What makes this different is that within Life Sciences (especially Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices) you have to discuss the regulatory aspects of your IT systems. And ‘yes’ we can support a cloud computing environment that is compliant to the FDA regulations. IT services providers would have to offer this in order for Life Sciences customers to use these solutions.
What is exciting to me is that we have the opportunity to apply cloud computing for the industry and create a fully ‘integrated’ process which, I believe, will improve the business of R&D.