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Author's profile photo Susan Rafizadeh

Big Data Everywhere and Other Trends – Quick Pulse Check 2015 of the Life Sciences Industry

Where is the life sciences industry heading for?


Last week, I had the pleasure to attend the German SAP Life Sciences Infoday kindly held at the facilities of Boehringer Ingelheim. It was packed with trending topics. Here are my personal highlights from the event.

Hot Topic #1: Big Data Everywhere: in Manufacturing, R&D, Finance, Marketing

In-memory technology seems to be the key for the future of Life Sciences. In almost every discussion, new scenarios and business models enabled by real-time interactions came up. Some examples:

1. Life Sciences R&D: Big Data in Life Sciences R&D seems to be a natural fit.

It can help navigate through multiple data models to filter the right data in clinical studies. Often, a multitude of applications are used for clinical trial analysis – which consumes valuable time. One report can take up to four weeks due to validation of computerized systems. Processing all the different data formats in one platform can save all this time and allow for real-time reporting and prototyping.

Of course in precision medicine and in personalized medicine, the ability to work intelligently with Big Data is key. The majority of health data including genomic or proteomic data, images, medical publications, doctor letters, is unstructured. As a result, in many cases a lot of valuable data that could unveil new insights stays untapped. Big Data tools are able to run sematic researches that take into account different terminologies, analyze graphical data, slice and dice –omics data, and more. The nice thing is that it can also turn any kind of analysis into graphical representations, which are much easier to understand for us. Any kind of peaks become visible immediately and draw our attention to new insights, such as specific mutations in genes responsible for a specific kind of response to a medication.

2. Manufacturing and IoT: The Internet of Things (IoT) will mean a great leap forward for Life Sciences manufacturing. Sensors in machines can monitor and analyze characteristics like pressure or heat, and they immediately can send alerts if any exceptions occur or if limits are exceeded, so that maintenance staff can intervene to prevent any bigger damages or outages. All the data collected by sensors over time can be analyzed through predictive analytics in order to detect signals in even earlier stages, so that any disruptions can be avoided proactively. This technology could also support Continued Process Verification.

3. Precision Marketing: What if a life sciences company could analyze online and social media behavior in real time, sense trends and needs immediately and respond with their campaigns accordingly and timely? This would be actually a win-win, as customers from wholesaler to patient would receive the information they are looking for more quickly, and the brands awareness would increase. Big Data analysis makes it possible, as it can process any amount of data in any formats in real time.

4. New Business Models: One key message at the event was that Big Data analysis does not only mean higher speed and higher precision. It also can  open up opportunities for new business models. One concrete example at the event covered SAP HANA Cloud Platform: Roche put an IoT scenario into practice with their connected health package “Accu-Chek” to fight diabetes. Through a smart wrist band and a sensor in their glucose reader, patients can automatically track their health data in a mobile app and connect with their doctors more quickly. Vice versa, doctors can analyze the health status of their patients more precisely and quickly and react accordingly to improve outcomes.

Hot Topic #2: Supply Chain Integrity – More than “Just” Compliance

Supply chain integrity is about patient safety. It’s about us, our children, our neighbors. Any kind of copied drugs or medical devices can bring risks to people’s health – either because there are cheaper hazardous substances contained than in the original, the active ingredient is not contained, faked implants don’t meet safety standards, or because drugs are distributed without complying with Good Distribution Practices – the list can be continued. Legislation and regulation across the globe have been implemented to mitigate this health risk. Not only in order to not only fulfill these requirements, but also in order to save their reputation and public health, Life Sciences companies continue to prioritize supply chain integrity.

Hot Topic #3: Contingent Workforce – It’s Not About Efficiency Only

There was one interesting conversation I would like to share. The question was how contingent workforce can be enables and motivated to work as productively as possible. The advantages of higher flexibility don’t pay off if the contingent workforce is not properly on-boarded, and not continuously trained enough to achieve the top quality levels. Cloud solutions can intensify collaboration between external workers and the hiring company resulting in a win-win situation for both parties: higher performance on the one hand with more identification with the brand and satisfaction for the contingent worker at the same time on the other.

There were many more best practices and discussion points included in the event – this is just a short snapshot. What are your key priorities for LS this year? Please join the conversation in the chat below, or through @SAP_Healthcare on twitter!

Photo credit: “Direction” by Ram Karthik on flickr

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