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Formula Five For Biotech IT

By Jeffrey Keisling, CIO and SVP, Pfizer


Jeffrey Keisling, CIO and SVP, Pfizer

With the explosive growth of genomics data and the broad implementation of electronic medical records, there are more opportunities than ever to leverage technology to better serve the needs of patients. Healthcare, our understanding of disease, and our ability to positively impact patient health are all undergoing a transformational change. To this end, Pfizer’s Business Technology (BT) team has developed the “Formula Five”-five key strategies through which innovative technology solutions are deployed to enable success in biotechnology IT.

"Business Technology has developed a scalable cloud architecture leveraging best-in-class agile technologies for clinical data management and analytics"

1. Medical and Clinical Science Goes to the Cloud

For decades, Pfizer has partnered with thousands of medical and clinical experts to conduct tens of thousands of clinical trials with hundreds of thousands of patients in hundreds of countries. More recently, the sources of medical knowledge has grown at an exponential rate, generating data measured in the petabytes–including tens of billions of data points with inputs from digital medical outcomes in the millions and vast amounts of genetic (DNA) information.

Pfizer’s focus on developing medicines to meet the toughest medical challenges–such as cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease–drives the need to sort through this complexity and focus on the meaningful data points. To that end, Business Technology has developed a scalable cloud architecture leveraging best-in-class agile technologies for clinical data management and analytics. This first-of-its-kind solution stores, annotates, integrates, and provides seamless access to useful data for scientists–enabling them to look for relationships between drug response and genotypes, identify extreme responders, and identify potential causal gene variants that may lead to additional ways to regulate a biological pathway.

2. Precision Medicine—Analytics Can Help Identify the Right Medicines for the Right Patients

Why are certain therapies successful in broad populations of patients, but less effective in others? Advanced analytics, using massively large and complex datasets, is a critical scientific tool in answering this question–by finding a single variable amongst billions of data points.

Leveraging advanced analytics and integrating anonymized information from clinical trials, biological networks, human genetics, pharmacology, toxicology and imaging, Pfizer has developed an innovative precision medicine approach that can now define and compare different methods of developing and delivering possible new medications in an effort to help address unmet medical needs.

Specifically, these advanced analytics enable Pfizer researchers to assess exploratory biomarkers to understand which patient subpopulations are most likely to benefit from an investigational therapeutic. Pfizer’s clinicians can then include such identified sub-populations in the clinical testing of potential new therapeutics. As DNA sequencing, imaging and other technologies have rapidly evolved and grown less expensive, Pfizer’s knowledge of human biology is also growing. The ability to access and use this information in a meaningful manner is essential to speeding the discovery and development of potential therapies for patients in need.

3. Digital and IoT Serving Patients and Physicians

Pfizer is at the forefront of embracing emerging technologies, open source, cloud computing and advanced interactive digital technologies to engage patients and physicians in a meaningful way that goes “beyond the pill” to provide better outcomes. Whether it is in leveraging mobile devices and novel apps to improve clinical trial data collection or in providing custom wearables to track pain levels to assist with physician conversations on dosing, Pfizer is focused on having insights drive the most meaningful features and utilizing technologies that are fit for purpose.

An example is how Pfizer is partnering with the American Lung Association on a mission to support smokers’ attempts at a healthier life by utilizing technology to overcome common barriers to a successful quit attempt. The Quitters Circle combines a mobile app, a wearable, and a rich social media experience to provide quitters and their targeted support network with the tools they need to quit “for good”, including tracking tools, informative content, support triggers, Quitspiration, and ready access to physicians and telemedicine. Pfizer understands that the world we live in and the technologies at our fingertips are ever evolving, and through the creation of Pfizer’s Digital, Mobile, and Emerging Technologies Centers of Excellence, Pfizer has committed to ensuring their organization will as well.

Finally, Pfizer has begun using actigraphy data–data gener­ated from sensors–to understand patient response to medicines. In effect, the “internet of things” becomes the “internet of pa­tients” as FitBit-like sensors are used in our trials to continuously monitor patients to understand if Pfizer’s medicine is controlling their tremors, or if they are able to sleep at night. This type of data allows Pfizer to demon­strate an improve­ment in a patient’s quality of life in a way that wasn’t possible with tradi­tional measurement models.

4. Partnering for Innovation—Bringing the Best Medical and Scientific Minds Together

Pfizer engages in hundreds of formal partnerships, actively building and cultivating relationships with top centers of medical and scientific innovation in academia, clinical, medical, and hospital institutions around the globe. Solving the world’s toughest medical challenges requires the ability to quickly and securely collaborate with these partners–crucial for advancing the development of innovative patient therapies while protecting Pfizer's intellectual property.

Business Technology plays a key role in enabling Pfizer's open innovation model through the use of scalable, agile and secure collaboration technologies. With sophisticated technology playbooks, processes and tools at their fingertips, it is now possible to establish secure connectivity and collaboration environments regardless of deal complexity in a matter of hours, rather than days or months, making Pfizer a respected “Partner of Choice”.

5. Thought Leadership in Business Technology

Because technology is embedded and acknowledged in every facet of science and business operations, Business Technology colleagues are accountable for demonstrating effective thought leadership–now a critical capability and a key factor in talent selection and advancement. Through effective thought leadership, successful IT organizations are identified as having more than just a “seat at the table”–but as being “front and center” in every facet of our business.

The Formula Five is a major driving force toward achieving Pfizer’s mission. The effective use of the clinical cloud, precision analytics, digital and emerging technologies, agile and secure collaborations, and the thought leadership to effectively align and connect these focus areas to business strategy, will all work together toward success in Biotechnology at Pfizer.

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