BioBuzz by Workforce Genetics

Digital Transformation in the Life Sciences Accelerates, Set to Reshape Industry Across Next Decade

Information technology, underpinned by advancements in Cloud computing, is no longer the understudy to the scientific, R&D lead. 

Biotech, pharma, healthcare and medtech organizations need to understand that building a fully integrated, enterprise level digital ecosystem is no longer a buzzword or passing trend. 

Digital transformation in the life sciences has become an absolute necessity. 

Like many other industry sectors, the bioscience space has been slow to embrace the digital future. Investing in and building out an integrated, enterprise-wide digital platform always played second fiddle to funding R&D, hiring, manufacturing and the commercial function. A Deloitte “Perspectives” piece perhaps framed the current state of digital transformation in the life sciences best, suggesting that organizations need to move “…from merely doing digital to being digital” or risk irrelevancy. 

“Doing digital” meant the typical life sciences organization dabbled in tech and the Cloud, whittling out little digital niches within the wider enterprise. The era of “doing digital” ended abruptly with the onset of the pandemic. 

Biotech, Big Pharma, healthcare institutions and even small startups were forced to engage the digital future by building virtual, remote work systems to keep operating and surviving. Companies went 100% remote, building virtual work environments that didn’t exist before the pandemic; telemedicine programs that had been in the works for decades suddenly were thrust into the spotlight, serving patients in numbers never before seen; healthcare laws changed to enable virtual healthcare visits and services; and clinical trials that had been halted inspired companies to create virtual, digital and decentralized clinical trials to keep potentially life saving therapies moving forward. 

The list of pandemic-related sea changes in the life sciences and healthcare industries are long and complex. And there are still many, many unknowns about how this will all play out. But one thing is clear—the pandemic lit the digitization spark. That said, the digital revolution in the life sciences remains in its infancy with some organizations well on their way to realizing a fully integrated digital ecosystem and others still pondering their next move beyond remote work.

Indeed, there seems to be a consensus among industry experts that there’s no going back to “doing digital”; “being digital” is the only way forward for life sciences organizations, and that means the full embrace of digital transformation, which most experts believe will revolutionize healthcare across the next decade.

Digital Transformation in the Life Sciences’ Sector 

The life sciences’ space reflects the growing momentum and acceleration of digital transformation across industry sectors around the globe. For most life sciences’-focused companies, digital transformation is still a nascent initiative; for some, the pandemic opened the floodgates for a digital world they had already fully embraced.

Conexus, a data integration solutions company located in Princeton, New Jersey, helps smaller to mid-sized life sciences companies stand up more integrated digital platforms. 

Collecting and analyzing large swaths of data has been at the heart of Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook for decades. For the life sciences, leveraging powerful digital tools to harness Big Data has been slower to develop. Strong bioanalytical insights gleaned from data integrated, organized and analyzed on an AI-empowered cloud platform can mean greater efficiency, lower costs and a higher rate of drug commercialization success. 

Conexus provides solutions that enable data architects and IT leaders to overcome intractable challenges related to large scale data integration. For organizations trying to reconcile many diverse data structures, Conexus enables reliable and scalable data model integration that results in IT interoperability. The company also supports Veeva Systems’ cloud-computing software, delivering configuration and implementation services and tech support for Veeva CRM, Vault, and other solutions. Conexus was founded in 2016 and currently has approximately 100 employees in the U.S. and India.

Aggregating, organizing and wrangling Big Data while making data and collaboration accessible anytime from anywhere, is where Conexus can help life sciences companies realize the full power of Big Data and digital transformation.

Automated Controls Concepts, Inc. (ACC) is another New Jersey-based company that works with multiple industry sectors, including the life sciences, to fully realize the benefits of digital transformation. ACC is an independent systems integrator, specializing in process control, manufacturing intelligence, and cyber security & industrial networking. We provide services and solutions from initial requirements definition and system design through the implementation and commissioning of plant-wide systems.

ACC has developed Lab Owl™, an automated bioreactor and control system for development labs. Lab Owl™ is a flexible, fully integrated, remote access bioreactor control and information system for cell culture, fermentation, regenerative medicine, cell and gene therapy applications. Lab Owl is an interface for bioreactor automation and process control that is highly adaptable and has been leveraged in applications ranging from development labs operating bench-top parallel bioreactors to pilot plants and manufacturing operations. 

Lab automation tech like Lab Owl empowers labs to increase experiment repeatability, run stability and purity and overall process efficiency by leveraging remote monitored automation technology. Through the Lab Owl bioreactor system technology, human error is removed from the equation, leaving a modular bioreactor automation system to streamline cell culture and fermentation applications while seamlessly integrating lab customization with the entire bioreactor control and information system configuration. 

ACC and Lab Owl are helping life sciences organizations of all sizes embrace lab automation and data aggregation tools to leave the days of highly manual, unpredictable, costly and inefficient drug development processes behind.

Virginia’s Jeeva Informatics is on the leading edge of the virtual, decentralized clinical trial revolution. Jeeva Informatics is developing Big Data solutions for a less publicized but equally urgent cell and gene therapy challenge: how to manage a radically new form of clinical trial that could span decades. The FDA recently passed new industry guidelines requiring long-term follow up (LTFU) periods of up to 15 years for gene and cell therapies, representing a sea change for how clinical trials will operate in the future.

Jeeva is a company that leverages Big Data, AI and mobile tech to decentralize clinical trials. Jeeva’s goal is to make it easier for biotech companies to collect, aggregate, analyze and report required clinical trial data while helping patients stay enrolled and compliant over longer periods of time with little travel from the convenience of their homes.

Jeeva believes that these long-term monitoring challenges can be managed by making clinical trial participation easier via mobile applications, video conferencing consultations and centralized scheduling, to name just a few of Jeeva’s product features. Leveraging digital health tech can reduce the need for travel and eliminate inconveniences that might cause a patient to become non-compliant or, worse, drop out of a trial altogether. Decentralized clinical trials eliminate the heavy burden of patient travel and makes the process simpler and more efficient. Utilizing a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) approach and an eVisit consultation model to create decentralized trials can reduce brick and mortar visits by 20% to 80%, according to Jeeva.

Jeeva believes that the technology is there to usher in an era of decentralized and digitized clinical trials that will increase patient access to trials, enhance trial compliance and reduce drop out while simultaneously generating vast amounts of trial data that could yield the next great breakthrough in rare disease or more common devastating diseases. 

These are just a few examples of companies from the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) and the Mid-Atlantic that are riding the digital transformation wave. Larger life sciences organizations, too, are funding and building out their digital ecosystems. Life sciences organizations small and large realize digital transformation is an imperative to secure their futures, reward stakeholders and deliver life changing medicines and products to patients in need.

Deloitte conducted a survey in 2021 that polled 150 biopharma leaders. 77% of respondents indicated that “their organization views digital innovation as a competitive differentiator.”

Call it a tipping point. An inflection point. A paradigm shift. A sea change. Call it whatever one likes, but the digital transformation revolution is underway and “doing digital” is dead. 

Being digital is the key to a brighter life sciences’ future.