The Digital Innovations Behind the Booming Life Sciences Industry

Life sciences industry manufacturers are digitalizing business to deliver more personalized services and head off supply chain disruptions while reducing costs and innovating for the future. IDC analysts predicted that by 2023, 75% of life science manufacturers will invest in intelligent supply chain solutions to enable resilience and prevent future disruptions in health emergencies such as COVID-19.

According to researchers at Forrester, precision medicine therapeutics have accounted for 25% to 40% of all FDA approvals in the past seven years. They believe precision medicine has “proven its worth with mounting evidence of improved patient outcomes in oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, and other disease areas.” From the patient’s perspective, Gartner analysts suggested a digital-first “health journey” vision that prioritizes digital engagement and the use of digital interactions, products, and services throughout an individual’s journey through health, wellness, and illness.

Data Makes Life Sciences Supply Chains More Intelligent

Michael Townsend, research director of Life Sciences Commercial Strategies at IDC, saw the industry in the early stages of digitalization, focusing on the value of technology that brings intelligence across life sciences supply chains.

“Companies are beginning to make processes more digital, applying intelligence from technologies to make better decisions,” said Townsend. “For instance, there’s significant investment in supply chain solutions like digital twins, where you construct a digital model to experiment with what-if scenarios in performance at various points along the chain such as assembly, shipment, or geography. You can stress test alternate choices without actually having to make any changes.”

Townsend said that segmentation was another intelligent node across supply chains, allowing companies to identify and store medicines and packaging based on country-specific regulations, improving lead times, reducing unused inventory, and simplifying shipping. Some organizations are also using control towers to track demand patterns against materials and component availability, avoiding overstocks and shortages. For example, if COVID-19 cases rise in a certain region, a vaccine manufacturer can act faster to stock up and start shipping prevention and treatment products to that location. Connecting data across supply chains for quick response times applies to any unexpected disruption, including natural disasters and political conflicts.

Ecosystems Surface Expert Wisdom

Mandar Paralkar, head of Life Sciences Industry at SAP, agreed that organizations are moving from historical emphasis on addressing disease with bulk manufacturing of medications to personalized therapies that improve individual patient outcomes and involve more ecosystem collaboration. In an industry with longer product development cycles, he said that collaborative consortiums like SAP’s industry cloud are a way to share intelligence for expedited success.

“Whether startups or established leaders, life sciences companies are using technology to improve patient outcomes and company profitability while reducing costs and risk,” said Paralkar. “They’ve realized the imperative to compete as an ecosystem across connected digital supply chains and smart factories. One example of this is SAP Intelligent Clinical Supply Management, a solution we innovated with a consortium of customers and partners. This collaborative effort exemplifies how innovation in the cloud can potentially help life sciences organizations create, manufacture, and deliver effective solutions faster, allowing the partner ecosystem to compliment value-added services.”

Cloud-Based Technology Disrupts Life Sciences

The pandemic has irrevocably disrupted life sciences, revealing a new vision for innovation from cloud-based collaboration. Almost overnight, companies invested in technology to work from home, and that bled over into new ways of thinking about the use of technology in areas like process automation and decentralized clinical trials, along with working together in trusted relationships.

“Collaboration hubs where multiple, trusted entities can exchange information, collaborating to learn from each other and solve problems is part of the life sciences vision,” said Townsend. “Experts involved with clinical supply chains and other aspects of life sciences are motivated to streamline processes, make suggestions to software providers, and share information between systems. Cloud-based software is critical. If you’re on subscription-based software, updates are almost in real time and it’s much easier to collaborate and access different sources of data when it’s available in the cloud.”

Achieving a Healthier and Profitable Vision

As costs and regulatory pressures rise and educated patients clamor for personalized treatment, digital innovations will inexorably alter the life sciences landscape. Within a few years, IDC researchers predicted 75% of trials will be “patient-centric” decentralized clinical trials, 90% will be hybrid, and at least 10% will be virtual, driven by a 30% growth in connected health technologies.​ They said that by 2025 the market for prescription digital therapeutics will more than triple, focusing on mental health and chronic conditions, blurring the boundaries between healthcare and life sciences. It’s no wonder that Gartner analysts advised life sciences manufacturers to prioritize “clinical solutions that include interoperability as a core feature, including easier connectivity of content and data between clinical sites, sponsors, clinical research organizations, and other ecosystem participants.” Trusted intelligent data is the must-have for a healthier future.


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This also appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.