It has been an interesting journey for the Life Sciences industry over the past year. To the industry's surprise, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a unifying affect across organizations in the Life Sciences sector, simultaneously uncovering organizational gaps across businesses.
Growing pipeline pressure and high drug prices paved the way for a year of collaboration instead of competition. We began to see a steady decline in R&D capacity with enforced pause of many clinical trials and postponement of elective surgical procedures. Additionally, the pressure to build innovative pipeline increased across the industry as the need to bring drugs and therapies to market faster escalated.
Both of these pressures have shifted priorities for Life Sciences for the foreseeable future. As organizations work to solidify priorities for 2021 they will need need to take into consideration R&D costs and pandemic responses. While this has led to a new level of collaboration among some competitors, through pandemic-born joint ventures driven by the shared burden of R&D costs, others have chosen to repurpose the research and manufacturing expertise to lean into the pandemic response via testing, treatment or vaccine research. As a result, Life Sciences not only need to find new ways to keep research programs up and running at a time when their teams are physically separated, but also now organizations must find new and effective ways of managing those cross-industry relationships with partners, healthcare authorities, and other external alliances.
Today, as organizations slowly return to “business as usual,” success will come from rethinking the established models of the past and embracing the new. The focus for many Life Sciences organizations is collaborative digital technologies and innovative tools that can facilitate the safe and consistent transfer of critical data, while connecting a global workforce of knowledge workers.
We are now in the beginning stages of a digitization trend that will likely continue through the foreseeable future. Life Sciences organizations have been forced into performing manual tasks remotely which requires them to digitize processes and many are now using this as an opportunity to harness the power of digital collaboration, communication tools in R&D. A couple of areas that have been acutely affected for content management in R&D are in clinical trials and virtual inspections.
Embracing Remote Clinical Trials
The speed with which new therapies and devices make it to market is bound closely to the success and efficiency of clinical trials. Although not a new concept there has been a big acceleration in conducting remote site selection and monitoring processes
With in-person clinical site visits growing more difficult to conduct, study managers turn to content management solutions like Box to drive digital access, source document verification, and sharing of patient records without the need for physical intervention in a secure and GxP compliant way.
Conducting Virtual Inspections
Similar to remote clinical trials, virtual site inspections was long overdue for digitization. Conducting site inspections on critical R&D content was traditionally a very manual, in-person and paper based process. However, this notion drastically changed with the global remote-working experiment that the pandemic created in Life Sciences, highlighting the need for virtual inspections.
Many Life sciences look to content management solutions like Box, to digitize inspections and auditing processes creating streamlined collaboration and benefits across Sponsors, CROs and healthcare authorities alike. Auditors have the advantage of saving time and costs in travel and the auditees have the novel benefits of having access stats to document reviews and maintaining an all digital chain of custody for regulated documents like policies, batch records and study protocols.
Through the past year, we have seen a bifurcation in the industry. Organizations are cautiously optimistic of the near term outlook. Some organizations that implemented bandaid-like technology solutions last year are wary for the future and others that renewed investments in cloud infrastructures and content platforms are more confident on their return in this investment.
As we move into 2021, the Life Sciences industry is going to see a shift in research and manufacturing capacity through consolidations, once the pandemic priorities have been normalized. And all the organizations that repurposed their R&D capacity for the COVID-19 pandemic will likely refactor those resources to support new pipeline priorities. Some may chose to divest these new found capabilities in manufacturing and research that does not fit their core competency, leading to increased M&A activity. While those efforts normalize operations in the industry, they will find that their investments in horizontal platforms like the Box Content Cloud will be the stabilizing agent through the periods of change.