A new business entering the competitive pharmaceuticals market faces a steep climb, so any innovation capable of creating a handhold is highly valuable. The evolution of cloud computing technology over the past decade has been a particularly favorable development for startups, offering them essential resources and capabilities that might otherwise be cost prohibitive. At a high level, cloud tech encompasses several benefits:
- Flexibility: Cloud tech provides variable and easily scalable computing capacity, which allows companies to invest time and capital only in the resources they use.
- Agility: Companies utilizing cloud tech have immediate access to new IT assets, reducing the time it takes developers to build new systems.
- Efficiency: Rather than allocating funds toward building internal infrastructure, companies can use cloud tech to focus on specific project-based initiatives that will create the most value for their business needs.
From 2016 to 2017, I was able to directly observe and facilitate these advantages at New York-based organization Intercept Pharmaceuticals. As the company prepared to launch its lead product—a therapy that aids the treatment of the liver disease primary biliary cholangitis (PBC)—it needed a comprehensive data management and analytics system that would help gather valuable insights to guide the sales strategy. Developing such a system internally could have taken a year or more, and Intercept was keen to capitalize on having been granted accelerated FDA approval for its product.
Intercept and ZS made exceptional partners, as we’re both driven by an innovation mindset and collaborative cultures. We introduced the company to the ZAIDYN™ Data & Analytics platform (formerly REVO™), built with cloud services from Amazon Web Services (AWS), and leveraged the solution to set up Intercept's data management and analytics capabilities.
The speed and dexterity of cloud tech allowed Intercept to not only bring its lead product for PBC to market within a tight timeframe—a feat that would be impressive even for larger pharma companies—but also introduced capabilities like mobile and self-service reporting, data exploration and advanced analytics such as artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML). Nagesh Bhide, Intercept’s director of commercial operations, data management and reporting, notes that, “When we started our journey, the company was very small but growing rapidly at this time. We needed a tech platform that could keep up with our growth and aggressive launch timeline.” By adopting cutting-edge advances in analytics, Intercept placed itself in a position to transcend its modest foundations and become a contender within the market.
In addition to its importance in launching its lead product for PBC, implementing a cloud-based platform has contributed to major day-to-day business transformations at Intercept. By providing greater centralization of data and analytics within a platform that updates daily, the company’s 130-plus users have ready access to the most useful resources and insights that they need for decision-making. This also encourages greater collaboration between individual units—such as the teams handling analytics, sales operations, patient services, forecasting and other functions—which builds greater efficiency. Such systems also offer a high capacity for scalability into support areas like medical and finance, along with other strategic initiatives.
The impact of cloud technology, in addition to cutting-edge AI/ML innovations, presents such powerful opportunities to emerging pharma companies that it has become imperative for larger organizations to consider their advantages as well. Traditionally, the major players in the global market would spend substantial time and capital to develop these capabilities in-house, built around their specific systems, and requiring a refresh in a few years due to stagnant infrastructure. As cloud tech solutions from outside vendors have evolved to achieve greater flexibility and scalability, these companies have higher motivation to “buy” the capability instead, and free up resources for other business goals such as product research and development. These vendors continue to innovate in this fast-moving space and offer “future proofing” at a fraction of the cost compared to custom-built solutions while providing complete control over data.
Maintaining a clear view of industry trends is essential to every competitive organization. As cloud-based systems and software-as-a-service become the norm in pharma, even larger companies that ignore its potential could find themselves in danger of being left behind.