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Technology Touches Every Aspect of the Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Industry

By Michael Swanick, Global Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Industry Leader, PwC


Michael Swanick, Global Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Industry Leader, PwC

Technological advances, empowered consumers, disruptive new entrants, and rising demand by an aging population are ushering in a new era in healthcare—what we at PwC call the “New Health Economy.” While many of these trends have been emerging for some time, never before have they been accompanied by a rapid shift in dollars, triggering major changes in behavior and fundamentally altering the business. Tech-savvy New Entrants including startups as well as major technology, telecom and retail companies–are moving fast to capitalize on the change.

One aspect of this evolution in health is that the global need for innovative, cost effective medicines continues to rise at the same time that regulators, payers (the government, employers, insurance companies and individuals under the Affordable Care Act), health care providers and customers are demanding greater value for money, proven effectiveness of products, more transparency and access to information. To meet these demands, companies are seeking ways to improve R&D productivity, increase the efficiency of its operations, rationalize spending on sales and marketing, and enhance financial performance.

Technology: The Great Enabler
Recent research we conducted shows that around the globe, leaders in the Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences (PLS) sector who are searching for these solutions see technology, digital platforms, and IT as essential to their quest. In PwC’s 17th Annual Global CEO survey, conducted in the last quarter of 2013, PLS CEOs were even more convinced than their peers in other industries that technological advances will transform their businesses in the next five years fully. 89 percent of PLS CEOs name “Technological Advances” as a top transformative global trend.

It’s easy to see why this is the case. In the PLS industry new technologies enable greater understanding of disease, while reducing costs in R&D, manufacturing, and the supply chain. Technology also encourages closer relationships with regulators, payers, providers and customers through a more integrated approach to product development and marketing as well as healthcare delivery, through greater transparency and sharing of information across companies, and with third parties including industry regulators and customers.

But there is a glaring gap between aspirations and actions. In fact, while the vast majority of CEOs have plans for change in the technology space, just over one third have acted so far. Of the CEOs we spoke with, 86 percent told us they see the need to change technological investments, but only 40 percent have started or completed such changes.

Indeed, technology investment can be important at all stages of the PLS business model. A quick look at each of those sectors demonstrates the opportunities to leverage technology:

R&D—The volume of information generated at all points from research and development process through clinical trials to submissions to industry regulators is rising exponentially. Concurrently, approaches to the use of information technology to store, find and link information has evolved beyond simple data collection. Semantic technology will enable more intelligent searching across databases containing information from R&D outputs, plus clinical trial data, regulatory submissions, and post launch marketing surveys.

Manufacturing—Process Analytical Technology (PAT) is a system for designing, analyzing, and controlling manufacturing through timely measurement of critical quality and performance attributes of raw materials and in-process materials and processes with the goal of ensuring final product quality. The goal is to understand and control the manufacturing process through a drug quality system: built-in or by design. The PAT framework concerns designing and developing processes that can consistently ensure a predefined quality, resulting in real-time release of products. Underpinning the implementation of PAT is technology, i.e. the introduction of new process analytical equipment, data management, and software.

In the future manufacturing will become made-to-order rather than bulk manufacturing. The development of more complex products such as biologics make the manufacturing process more complex and difficult to manage and so will require a greater degree of control through the use of technology.

Supply Chain & Distribution—The supply chain of the future will offer alternate supply models to match shifts in the provision of care—direct to consumer rather than via the wholesaler/pharmacist. It will promote the use of advanced product design and packaging techniques to drive patient compliance and protect Intellectual Property and the adoption of inventory tracking tools to eliminate counterfeit product and parallel importing risks.

Currently technology enables real time tracking of product deliveries in other industries such as couriering services. The technology not only provides information about the speed, and direction, but gives real time data on heat and vibration experienced by the product in transit. Given the rising trend in sensitive biologics that need to be delivered from a manufacturing site in perhaps China or India to its final destination, this technology will become increasingly important in tracking transport of medicines around the globe. It will also be technology that enables manufacture-toorder rather than mass production of products.

"While the vast majority of CEOs have plans for change in the technology space, just over one third have acted so far"

Meanwhile, talent is one of the main engines of business growth. And CEOs are concerned about developing a workforce that can cope with a changing world—51 percent of pharmaceuticals and life sciences CEOs are worried about the availability of key skills, according to PwC’s 17th Annual Global CEO survey. It’s a continuing concern. As consumerization dramatically changes the delivery of healthcare, old business models need to change, and that includes people and skills.

This talent imperative is especially important in the technology sphere. PLS companies require knowledge in IT strategy, IT architecture and design, enterprise applications, sourcing, project management and IT operations management. In the surveys included in our report, “Getting the biopharmaceutical talent formula right,” fifty-one percent of life science executives reported that hiring has become more difficult than before, with only 28 percent saying they’re very confident they’ll have access to top talent.

Companies across the entire healthcare spectrum will be competing for the same limited number of skilled workers. Companies that successfully build their IT identity and brand will likely be best positioned to acquire, manage, and retain critically important technology workers.

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