Data is becoming increasingly important for companies in virtually every sector. Many companies depend on handling massive amounts of data as part of their research and development, particularly in the life sciences industry.
Experts note that data is the most valuable asset a company has, even if it is frequently undervalued. Part of this undervaluation likely relates to the outdated data management and informatics infrastructures that many companies continue to use. These systems stifle innovation and, in the life sciences, increase the time it takes for an important medical device or new medication to reach the market. Many life sciences firms are realizing this issue and looking for alternative solutions, which is where the cloud can help.
Cloud solutions give life science firms the ability to accelerate innovation and improve efficiency, allowing them to bring life-saving products to the market faster than ever before. Many sectors are adapting cloud solutions in unique ways that serve their specific purposes. For life science firms, the cloud is driving collaboration by making it easier to share and reproduce data. In addition, they are using the cloud to streamline their workflow and swiftly prepare new solutions for testing.
Cloud Solutions Drive Collaboration in Drug Discovery
The drug discovery process remains exceedingly complex. It involves several different teams and organizations, as well as other stakeholders, and only rarely are all these individuals in the same geographic location. Effective collaboration is extremely important for the process, but a big part of the issue is that many of these parties use different technological solutions that are not always able to communicate effectively with each other. Furthermore, sharing data can be cumbersome, and more importantly, invite security risks. More companies are turning to cloud platforms as a way of leveling the playing field across different players. These solutions offer instant and secure access to data from anywhere.
What makes cloud solutions particularly exciting for life science firms—and particularly for the drug discovery process—is the integration of the Internet of Things. Laboratory information management systems and electronic laboratory notebooks can be linked to the cloud so that all information can be uploaded immediately and without intervention, which minimizes human error and allows for real-time collaboration between geographically distant labs. According to studies, up to 50 days of a research scientist’s work year is spent recording data manually, so the need for instant connectivity is great. However, the cloud also saves time in other ways, as all updates and upgrades are managed by the system itself, not users.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the value of the cloud in life sciences research. Laboratories in different time zones and countries collaborated in real time through the cloud while respecting social distancing and making progress on pressing questions.
Ensuring Regulatory Compliance with Cloud Systems
The other major benefit of cloud solutions for life science firms involves regulations and compliance. Naturally, life sciences remains one of the most heavily regulated sectors, and drug discovery firms in particular must meticulously account for large amounts of data. Failure to comply with regulations quickly leads to business failure, or at least significant financial penalties that cut into productivity. Cloud applications are often architected in such a way as to facilitate and assist with regulatory compliance, freeing researchers to focus on their work. These systems flag regulatory issues to make sure they are addressed quickly and do not become a serious issue.
Regulatory compliance also involves data security. Any data breach can easily cost millions of dollars in technological solutions, and even more to repair relationships with customers. Cloud systems offer excellent security, so life science firms must ensure they are engaging with a provider that prioritizes cybersecurity. Cloud providers for life science firms generally need to go beyond industry standards to comply with both government and industry regulations. Vendors should be able to provide proof of their security standards, which in turn can help firms prove their compliance.
Of course, cloud solutions also help with other aspects of regulatory compliance by making data accessible and traceable. Companies should be able to locate the data from any location in a matter of moments, which can save a lot of time and energy in the event of an audit.
In short, cloud vendors take on much of the operational burden, freeing researchers to focus on their work in the laboratory. As cloud systems become more ubiquitous in life sciences, it will be interesting to see if innovations come to market even faster than they already do.