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Big data will play a major role in the pharma value chain

Exploiting big data analytics via emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) has improved return on investment in the pharma industry by shortening drug development timelines, reducing costs, increasing sales, and improving the likelihood of drug approval. If this continues, big data will transform the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years, observes GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘Big Data in Pharmaceuticals – Thematic Research’, reveals that the global data and analytics market in the pharmaceutical sector is forecast to grow to $1.9 billion by 2025.

Christie Wong, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries generate data in abundance from a wide variety of sources. Big data analytics is the driving force behind many ongoing waves of digital transformation including AI, IoT, 5G, and cloud.

“If we look into the drug discovery process, for example, when predictive modelling is combined with the use of virtual and augmented reality, it can aid the understanding of the structure of molecular targets and allow for rapid design modifications to develop drugs more efficiently. Furthermore, with access to large amounts of data on the clinical profiles of existing drugs and diseases, an algorithm can cross-check and predict whether an approved drug would be effective for another disease.”

A recent example of this was BenevolentAI repurposing Eli Lilly’s Olumiant (baricitinib) for the treatment of COVID-19. Within nine months, it received FDA approval for hospitalized COVID-19 patients who require supplemental oxygen or invasive mechanical ventilation.

Drug development can be further enhanced by optimizing clinical trial processes. For example, Unlearn.AI leverages big data, machine-learning, and AI to create digital twins that can serve as virtual control groups.

Wong continues: “On the commercial side, pharma companies can use datasets on consumer profiles and social media activity to gain better insights into consumer responses to marketing campaigns, as well as evaluate product performance and predict upcoming industry trends to improve sales and marketing strategies. In addition, when robotics is combined with AI and IoT, this allows for fully digitized operational processes, enhancing control over the manufacturing process and minimizing of opportunities for human error. GlobalData’s Smart Pharma Survey in 2021 indicated that of the emerging technologies, big data was the most important technology for sales and marketing strategies and supply chain management, with 27% and 21% of pharma industry professionals saying it had an important role, respectively.”

The increasing number of successful use cases of big data analytics in the pharma industry is reflected with the expansion in big data vendors, high-value financing rounds and pharma partnerships. Leading pharma companies adopting big data analytics and forging partnerships with specialist big data vendors include Amgen, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, and Takeda. Furthermore, there has been a steady rise in big data-related job postings in the pharma industry. A recent analysis by GlobalData identified that the number of active job postings related to big data in the pharma industry grew from over 3,800 in Q3 2019 to more than 13,900 in Q1 2022. These trends will continue to gather pace as the role of big data continues to grow.

Wong concludes: “With digitization, there are more avenues for cybercriminals to steal sensitive patient personal data and proprietary data. Furthermore, with the rise of wearable devices, remote patient monitoring, social media, and other data-generating technologies, there is rising concern over issues surrounding the exposure of sensitive health information, jeopardizing the privacy of the public. Thus, with the growth of big data usage across the pharma value chain, it is essential for pharma companies to comply with privacy regulations, secure special category personal data, and increase efforts to reduce the risk of cyberattacks.”

CT Bureau

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