The pharmaceutical industry is always looking for new and innovative ways to leverage technology to improve its bottom line and outperform competitors. Computing and digitization represented a natural opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to transform into digital-first organizations, complete with electronic records and internet-enabled equipment. The industry also recognized the disruptive effects of machine learning, and biotechnology companies are already using techniques from computational biology to discover new potential products and treatments.
On the cutting edge of new disruptive technologies in the pharmaceutical space is cloud computing. Just as pharmaceutical companies saw the value of transitioning from paper to digital records, many of these companies are realizing the benefit of migrating digital data to the cloud. However, many people are still unaware of what motivates this trend, and the benefits companies enjoy from storing data on the cloud.
So, let’s break down exactly what companies mean when they refer to cloud computing, the different cloud providers, and the advantages that many pharmaceutical companies are already experiencing by embracing the cloud.
Cloud Computing for Pharmaceutical Companies
In the context of pharmaceutical companies and B2B enterprise organizations, cloud computing refers to storing data on the internet using Software as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service technology. Cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, or Microsoft Cloud rent this IT infrastructure.
This advantage represents a significant change for pharmaceutical companies that have had to buy, manage, and upgrade their IT infrastructure and hardware systems to store data and electronic records. By working with modern cloud computing providers, companies can use software solutions to accomplish many of the same data management tasks that previously required complex hardware. Moreover, by renting out cloud infrastructure from reputable companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, pharmaceutical companies can save on the labor costs of maintaining and updating their own IT systems.
Pharmaceutical companies are using cloud computing techniques to store data from various sources. An important application of this tech is in the area of clinical trial management. That’s because the data collected from pharmaceutical clinical trials are often complex, dense, and large in scale.
Moreover, the accuracy of clinical trial data is paramount to proving that new pharmaceutical products are safe and effective to regulators like the FDA. Even slight inaccuracies in clinical trial data can endanger patients and subject pharmaceutical companies to severe legal liability. Qualified academics must also review clinical trial data as part of the peer review process to publish in medical or scientific journals.
Even scientists running clinical trials to explore the potential for non-pharmacological interventions can benefit from using cloud computing techniques to store clinical trial data securely.
Applications of Cloud Computing for Pharmaceutical Companies and Biological Breakthroughs
Considering how important it is for pharmaceutical companies to get their research published in peer-reviewed journals, it’s obvious why clinical trial data management is so important. Cloud computing systems allow companies to centralize clinical trial data, keep it secure from cybersecurity threats, demonstrate data transparency, and easily share it with other parties.
Aside from storing clinical trial data, pharmaceutical companies use cloud computing platforms to store pharmaceutical products’ chemical and biological composition data. This application is becoming increasingly relevant today with the advancement of precision medicine, which often incorporates genetic information and even genetic sequences. Sophisticated computing and data modeling systems analyze genetic sequences and cloud computing solutions to store this genetic information securely.
Another crucial application of cloud computing for pharmaceutical companies is its use for drug discovery. That’s because pharmaceutical data stored on the cloud, machine learning software, and algorithms designed to detect patterns and insights from large data sets can quickly analyze data. Pharmaceutical companies use these data-based insights to inform possible lines of research that seem promising to develop new pharmaceutical products.
A robust use case in machine learning and AI platforms driving breakthroughs in biology is the success of Google DeepMind in solving the long-standing problem of protein folding. That could have wide-reaching implications for drug discovery when considering that the shape and movement of proteins drive most bodily functions. For example, tangled or deformed proteins play a role in developing many illnesses, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Solving protein folding required DeepMind’s platform AlphaFold to crunch staggering amounts of data to solve the protein folding problem. Consider that the body produces 10,000 to a billion different proteins, that each protein consists of various combinations of amino acids, and that a protein with complex amino acid sequences can form a vast array of protein structures. It’s easy to see why robust cloud computing systems are needed to store and analyze vast quantities of data and create innovative healthcare applications.
Pharmaceutical companies must frequently keep records of the temperatures at which to store their products. That’s because pharmaceutical products exposed to inappropriate temperatures can become defective. As a result, some products require storage at a pharmacy room temperature range, while others need low or ultra-low temperature storage, according to Dickson.
Today, many pharmaceutical companies use cloud storage platforms to log temperature storage data for submission to regulators to ensure compliance.
True Benefits of Pharma Cloud Computing
Aside from decreasing labor and data storage costs, one of the primary benefits of pharma cloud computing is that it makes data far more shareable and accessible. Traditional data storage techniques require large datasets to be frequently uploaded and downloaded to the internet or connected to other systems with a wired connection to be shared. However, data stored on the cloud is directly accessible over the internet.
As a result, pharmaceutical companies can store data on the cloud and permit parties and devices access to that data. That means a wired connection often isn’t necessary, and uploading data from a hard drive only so that the receiving party can later download it is also redundant.
Pharma cloud computing can also improve the shareability of data within an organization. This process prevents companies from being siloed and ensures all team members can quickly transfer data between different departments. For example, scientists and researchers could use cloud computing techniques to transfer data to a company’s compliance division more easily.
To sum up, it’s easy to see why many companies are taking advantage of the many benefits of pharma cloud computing to ensure compliance, discover new therapies, and make significant scientific breakthroughs. Moreover, it is a trend that will likely continue and even accelerate in future years.