Adopting artificial intelligence and advanced analytics capabilities have enabled biopharmaceuticals company Hilleman Laboratories to unlock new vaccine development methods.

 Dr Raman Rao, the chief executive officer of Hilleman Laboratories. PHOTO: HILLEMAN LABORATORIES

Integrating data, intelligent technology and enterprise resource software into its operations enables biopharmaceuticals company Hilleman Laboratories to shorten the time frame for vaccine development and production. Hilleman Laboratories is a biopharmaceuticals company that develops vaccines to fight diseases prevalent in the developing world. Dr Raman Rao, chief executive officer, Hilleman Laboratories, sheds light on the company’s vision, mission and its drive to be an intelligent and future-ready enterprise through digital transformation.

Q: Tell us more about Hilleman Laboratories.

Rao: Hilleman Laboratories is a unique joint venture between Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (MSD) and Wellcome Trust that focuses on enabling access to vaccines by making them more equitable, affordable and sustainable for low- and middle-income countries. We develop vaccines to combat diseases that have a significant impact on these countries, such as rotavirus, cholera and shigellosis. Singapore is our global headquarters and functions as a hub for vaccine research and manufacturing. We are also rapidly expanding our activities and presence worldwide.

Technology is at the core of an organisation’s ability to become more agile and resilient. How is Hilleman Laboratories transforming itself to become an intelligent enterprise that is future-ready?

As a global research and development company dedicated to solving pressing healthcare needs, Hilleman Laboratories appreciates the critical role of technology in ensuring that our vaccine development and manufacturing infrastructure is optimised for maximum efficiency. We have made it a priority to deploy best-in-class solutions to reduce redundancy and improve productivity. This shortens the overall time frame for vaccine development and production while maintaining high standards of safety and quality.

Could you elaborate on Hilleman Laboratories’ recent decision to deploy RISE with SAP?

It is important for us to be agile, innovative and productive to unlock new vaccine development modalities and create new vaccines to fulfil unmet needs. This is particularly important as we ramp up our pilot scale facilities and processes. We identified the need to break down data silos, streamline our back office operations, improve visibility across the organisation, and utilise research insights more effectively. We also wanted to embed artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytics capabilities into our core operations to accelerate and improve decision-making.

RISE with SAP helped remove complexities by allowing us to deal with SAP as a single point of contact. The flexibility and scalability of the solution meant that we could specify infrastructure requirements that fit our business needs. We were particularly focused on ensuring that RISE with SAP would integrate seamlessly with our existing solutions to facilitate collaboration across our organisation and with external partners and stakeholders. Having access to the world’s largest business network – including SAP’s supplier, logistics and asset intelligence networks – also made us more responsive to opportunities and challenges alike. Hilleman Laboratories have now transformed all aspects of its business by integrating data, intelligent technology and ERP (enterprise resource planning) software on a single platform and
data model. This has resulted in faster time to value, cost savings and quicker decision-making across the company without a high upfront investment.

We are especially partial to the concierge service. An SAP Services representative supported the deployment by analysing how our processes performed and benchmarking them against industry standards. We then received tailored recommendations that outlined the key focus areas for our digital transformation. The support from SAP Services and SAP partner, ABeam Consulting Singapore (the latter having been engaged by Hilleman Laboratories as our implementation partner), which implemented RISE with SAP for us in only 90 days, has been reassuring.

Many companies are undergoing digital transformation to prepare themselves for the pandemic and the post-pandemic era. What would be your advice to them?

COVID-19 has hastened digital transformation in the biopharmaceutical industry, driving the adoption of technologies such as cloud computing to facilitate remote working and integrate laboratory activities and decentralise clinical trials. The post pandemic world will favour companies that can rapidly reinvent themselves as intelligent enterprises and harness digital strategies to better understand and serve their customers. Companies should make the adoption of new technologies a priority to navigate changes in the business environment nimbly and become resilient to future business shocks.

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