Sierra Oncology keeps IP secure and compliant

Sierra Oncology

Welcome to our Work Unleashed series: a collection of posts from Box executives and conversations with Box customers on navigating the "new normal" of work today. Here, you'll find insights and resources that enable your teams to do their best work, anywhere, anytime.

Myelofibrosis is an insidious and uncommon blood cancer — a chronic form of leukemia that often isn’t symptomatic right away but has a median survival rate of only about six years. It's not an area of medicine that necessarily gets a lot of public attention, although about 16,000 to 18,500 people in the U.S. areliving with "MF."

The late-stage drug development company Sierra Oncology is actively working on a phase 3 trial for a myelofibrosis drug called momelotinib. As Executive Director, Information Services at Sierra Oncology, Mike Engels calls the company "a really exciting place to be. Being part of a life sciences company that's making a difference in people's lives has always been appealing to me."

Like every IT leader, his job is to enable the entire workforce to be productive, effective, and efficient. But life sciences companies have particular IT demands. As Engels puts it, "Every dollar we spend on IT is a dollar we don't spend on developing assets and putting back into the patient community." In a way, making the right platform choices is literally a matter of life and death. One of the biggest technology concerns for Sierra Oncology, of course, is protecting intellectual property — the most valuable asset of any life sciences organization.

"So how do we ultimately protect IP?" This is the question Engels asked himself.

Sierra Oncology initially partnered with Box around a single use case. They had an opportunity to acquire a late-stage asset, but didn't have the infrastructure to support the import of all the relevant content in a valid way. Chain of custody is incredibly important to health authorities, and Engels knew that Box had recently released Box GxP Validation, "so we were able to very quickly onboard the GxP platform for that very narrow use case." It took only six to eight weeks to stand up content and fully validate it with the implementation partner and their quality team. 

"It was a really great experience for us,” says Engels, “and since then we've worked very closely with Box to unlock some of the other potential and value that Box can provide. Now, it's our standard content platform. We've displaced all of our traditional file shares, and we leverage Box instead."

It’s a common journey, and even a wake-up call for some. Companies need to solve a pressing problem that old ways of working can’t support, so they turn to a more modern solution. While Sierra Oncology first used Box to solve a particular content problem, as their digital journey has evolved, the company now holds Box at the core of content management. "We're locked in with Box as our chosen content provider,” Engels confirms. "To the extent possible, we look to integrate new systems that can either consume or generate content  into Box so we have that single content repository."

Today, Sierra Oncology also takes advantage of Box Shield in order to put in place enterprise security architecture around all content. “We can set guardrails: classify our content, ensure that content is not shared inappropriately,” says Engels. “Then, we can get out of the way and have confidence that the system is monitoring what historically would have been a person's job. It's been really empowering.”

"All the while, we have controls. We can keep the content within our ecosystem. We don't have to worry about it being leaked. We can even prevent editing or downloading. Really great granular controls." — Mike Engels, Executive Director, Information Services at Sierra Oncology

Having cloud content management in place via Box also helped ensure content security and compliance when employees were forced to go largely remote in 2020 because of the pandemic. "We had architected in such a way that we could support our distributed workforce across North America.” Engels quips: “I joke that the biggest challenge we had when we decided to close the doors was, who's going to pick up the mail?"

With remote work a long-term norm for at least some team members, Sierra Oncology must extract as much value as possible from existing cloud-based tools. Engels plans to start using Box Relay to automate common workflows, and he looks for more opportunities to capitalize on the rich capabilities of Box when it comes to securing life sciences content.