The Virtualization of R&D

Yesterday I gave an invited talk at the 2nd meeting of the PRISME Forum, a group of pharma IT folks. The one day special interest group focussed on the virtualization of R&D including inter-company and academic collaboration as well as business-process outsourcing. There were talks from big companies (Oracle, Accenture) CROs (PPD, Charles River labs), Academics, big pharmas etc..There was lots of discussion around many of the topics covered in our recent book and on previous blogs here (precompetitive collaboration, mobile apps, cloud etc) and I came away thinking that this was the most energized I had seen any group of pharma folks about collaboration etc..I felt a little humbled to be even in the room as there were very few vendors, and all these companies had tens of thousands of employees. Although the title of my talk sounds quite dry I tried to cover some of the things I am seeing happening concurrently (data & models becoming open, mobile devices, fragmentation of drug discovery into big networks, the push to collaborate) and some of the collaborative projects I am involved in. I do not think collaboration will be the only solution to the pharma industry.  I was thinking initially that while pharma tries to figure out a solution it could be blind sided by a new way to do R&D if someone could make a breakthrough discovery. The barriers to entry are incredibly high, academia and government alone cannot discover and develop drugs, pharma is the key piece..

After a delayed flight home, I fell asleep thinking, all some pharma will have left is a brand name as they outsource everything and become like any other node on the collaborative network, and talking to Tony Williams today he added..’and what value will that have as the consumer buys generics from Walgreens’. I thought this was a good point, maybe something for the next PRISME meeting.  Brand names (read credibility) may be more important for collaborations than for selling product. Anyway, I also came away thinking that the way we collaborate now may not be perfect (with software tools) but we have created a de facto standard, if we like it or not. I look forward to seeing some of the ideas shared, used by the industry, or at least improved upon by others.

As a footnote, I cannot help but think Pharma is spending a lot of time trying to cure or rescue it’s decades old business model while it should not lose sight that it’s very existence should be to cure the patient.

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  1. A golden opportunity for open science » Collaborative Chemistry says:

    […] that I feel a passion for the subject that I can bring over. Last week I had the opportunity to talk to many IT decision makers at global drug companies about collaboration. Today I gave an invited co-presentation (with Antony J. Williams) to the […]

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