The COVID-19 pandemic and the many long-term changes it has made to the global economy have altered the investment dynamics and purview of life sciences companies towards technology investment. As I discussed in an earlier blog post, it has become essential for life sciences companies to accelerate their digital transformations to maintain business viability and stay ahead of the competition.
So now we know that life science companies need to rebuild their digital roadmaps and accelerate plans that used to span several years. But which aspects of their business should life sciences organizations focus on when planning to upgrade their digital capabilities? There are four critical areas in the value chain that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted. These areas must be brought to the forefront of the digital transformation initiatives of life sciences companies:
R&D workplace design
The traditional research and development (R&D) lab space have given way to the concept of “smart labs” and hybrid workplaces in life sciences organizations. Leading pharma-biotech companies like Roche have invested in innovation arms and spaces that blend automated workflows with a collaborative workspace.
Other companies in the life sciences industry have virtualized the entire process of biomolecule discovery, which allows scientists to free up time and resources from the constant monitoring of samples and tends to optimize time across R&D productivity.
In addition, the focus on product development has completely shifted. Organizations are now looking to develop orphan drugs and solutions for rare diseases instead of the prior emphasis on blockbuster therapies. This shift has led to a broader scope of innovation and collaborative outcomes across scientific workgroups, albeit with limited personal interaction.
A drastic 80% reduction in on-site visits by patients for clinical trials has paved the way for a corresponding increase in remote clinical trial interactions. The pivot toward remote clinical trial engagement has been upended by the rapid adoption of digital clinical trial technologies such as real-time clinical analytics, wearable monitoring, decentralized clinical trial technologies and real-world evidence capture systems.
The challenge for life sciences companies looking to upgrade in this area lies in designing an ecosystem that supports the integration of key digital technologies to support clinical trials and applying a design mindset towards adapting the implementation of technologies towards the new normal of clinical trial technologies.
Four fundamental transformation behaviors drive the post-COVID manufacturing environment in life sciences:
- The adoption of cloud-based environments
- Modular manufacturing
- Industry 4.0 — or connected manufacturing environments
Before the pandemic, the manufacturing units of life sciences organizations were slow to adopt cloud technology and the establishment of connected factories to focus on batch processing and meet demand surges with reduced downtimes.
Compounded by the lack of scalable capacity and workforce, these factors have pushed life sciences organizations to invest significantly in cloud-connected manufacturing. These investments also facilitate collaborative engagement across other life sciences manufacturers to scale capacity towards optimizing the long-standing challenge of managing production costs of biologics while reducing the development times of new therapies.
Yet the transition toward connected manufacturing and automation in life sciences is riddled with fundamental impediments across the industry. More than half of organizations lack suitable manufacturing software and connectivity across siloed data. Even fewer have the capabilities to drive real-time data analysis within the life sciences industry ecosystem.
Supply chain management has been the gravest challenge for life sciences companies in the post-COVID world. With more than 90% of API supplies and component supplies coming from China, bans and restrictions on imports have caused significant disruptions across scheduling cycles, inventory management and demand spikes. The disruptions across the supply chain ecosystem of life sciences companies manifest across four key dimensions:
- Demand management
- Logistics and warehouse operations
- Manufacturing operations
The primary opportunity for digital transformation across the supply chain for life sciences companies lies in building strong supply chain visibility. The industry now prioritizes technology investments such as control towers, AI-based business response and resilience, market and product tracking, and IoT and blockchain solutions. Executives in the life sciences industry believe that investments in these technology solutions will reduce customer cycle time, minimize lead times, and improve delivery time accuracy.
In the next part of this blog series, I’ll examine several realities life sciences companies must face in their quest for digital transformation. In the meantime, learn more about how life sciences organizations can bolster their digital capabilities to thrive in a post-COVID business and regulatory landscape.
Post Date: 4/7/2022