Why Biotechs Win Big When They Invest in Managing Their Complex Data and Processes

A Pioneer in Biotech Data Management Shares Insights Gained After 30 Years of Developing Complex Bio-IT Solutions

Biotech and biopharma companies seeking to cure disease and bring new products to market operate in a complex environment focused on identifying promising drug candidates, demonstrating drug safety and efficacy, and meeting stringent regulatory requirements.

Today’s biotech companies capture more information than ever before, at a volume and velocity that’s unprecedented in the history of humankind. Harnessing and corralling the data variance and complexity inherent in the life science industry poses unique challenges for companies of all sizes.

This is why Biotech and biopharma companies can see exponential benefits with the application of technology solutions that better manage these complex processes and better leverage the vast amount of data being generated.

Enter BioIT Solutions, a company that leverages its deep roots in the biotech industry to enable life science companies to prosper with flexible and adaptable solutions for data management, workflow, and computational analysis.

“We see a lot of complexity in the biotechnology industry,” stated Michael R. Fannon, President of BioIT Solutions. “Fundamentally, we are helping biotech companies manage complexity. We provide the engine that allows biotech companies to keep track of what they’re doing, to follow progress, record what’s happening and to keep things in order so they can pass regulatory muster. ”

Fannon founded BioIT Solutions, located in Maryland, in 2006. The company offers an enterprise data platform solution called 1PLATFORM4® Software Suite, along with IT strategy, architecture, and management consulting services for life science companies.

A significant challenge for life science companies is data type variation.  For biotech, data can take a lot of forms like images, chromatograms and flow cytometer readouts, to name just a few. Instrument data and sophisticated analysis techniques are especially demanding, as they introduce a variety of content-rich data types. All of these different types of data have to be acquired, stored, organized and integrated within the customer’s research, development or clinical program. Our real differentiator is the ability to present results from a number of different sources in a meaningful way,” Fannon added.

“We see instrument vendors enabling valuable experimental results, yet a standard that ties all instrument data together is still sorely lacking. Scientists and managers are coming to realize that it’s not just about using instruments to collect data, it’s really about determining what you want to get from them. How do you correlate this data? How do you build that holistic picture?”

“We have created a platform for managing data that is highly adaptable. BioIT Solutions provides a common access point into the complex world of analytical test results in various formats and streamlines the tracking of biomaterials.  Our tool kit helps companies get a handle on information,” Fannon stated.

“Our platform concept can seem abstract but it’s really similar to what we are used to in other industries. An iPhone is a platform; it has some utility in and of itself, but when you load it up with Apps it becomes this feature-rich thing where everything is integrated,” stated Fannon.

Fannon has deep roots in the defense and life sciences industry. He moved to the Washington D.C. area in 1983 with Martin Marietta, which eventually merged with Lockheed Corporation to form Lockheed Martin. After earning his MBA, Fannon started his own business in 1990. His first customer was a biotech company for which he built a custom lab automation system to automate tedious, paper-intensive manual processes. He discovered that biotech was deploying instruments to collect a lot of data but the tools were very crude compared to what he saw while working in the defense contracting industry.

His company was hired by Human Genome Sciences (HGS), which at the time had three employees. Fannon’s firm, TSI Consulting, was able to get on the ground floor at HGS when it was building the largest gene-sequencing lab in the world. He was later hired by HGS to lead bioinformatics efforts and became the manager of the sequencing lab and IT functions.   HGS’ genome databases were its most valuable asset.

“In the early days of HGS, we were selling access to genomes and databases. What was interesting to me as an IT guy was that we were part of the product rather than a cost to be controlled.  We contributed to the internet revolution in our own way,” said Fannon.  

After HGS, Fannon started BioIT Solutions.  BioIT’s first customer was BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) anchor company MedImmune. In working with MedImmune’s research department, he quickly realized they were drowning in data and couldn’t glean much actionable information from the data being generated. The systematic biology approach used by HGS was not yet being applied by all companies in the emerging biotech industry.

“Essentially, the core team from those early days at HGS is back with me again at BioIT Solutions. We wanted to encapsulate some of our knowledge, experience, and skills into an offering for the biotech industry,” he added.  BioIT Solutions serves an international customer list with an increasing focus on personalized medicine, including cell therapy and immuno-oncology products.

Fannon sees the life science industry facing a number of challenges heading into the new decade. “The biggest challenge we see our customers face is going from concept to actual product. For young companies, getting launched is still a huge issue,” stated Fannon.

Fannon sees data complexity in biotech companies resulting in the creation of insular expertise-driven domains leading to data silos. In addition, the economics of drug development are unique:  the incentive to optimize processes as seen in other industries dependent on efficiencies for survival is not the same in biotech companies.

For Biotechs looking to evolve their information management approach, Fannon recommends that they consider their data needs early in their company’s life. “We encourage emerging biotech companies to develop a sense of what they need before they make mistakes that will be difficult to reverse later on,” said Fannon.

“As experts at the convergence of biotech and information technology, BioIT is in an extraordinary position to help facilitate the biotech industry’s data evolution,” he added.

As we begin 2020 and look to the decade ahead, the biotech companies that can better manage and utilize the data derived from their complex processes will be in the best position to innovate faster, move their pipeline forward with more confidence, achieve more success in clinical trials and bring their products to market quicker and cheaper.  These are the companies that will be the big winners of the future.

 If you’d like to learn more about BioIT Solutions, be sure to visit their website or join Fannon and his team in-person as they will host the first BioBuzz event of 2020 on January 15th from 5 to 7 pm at Bar Louie in Rockville. 

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