The process from research to commercialisation for new medical treatments is changing with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca leading this transformation, as it outlined at last weeks Veeva R&D and Quality Summit Connect EU.

When you’re a multinational pharmaceutical company as well as a biotechnology giant like AstraZeneca, efficiency is key.

The process for creating new drugs and pioneering new medical solutions is often a long one, with multiple departments and processes involved.

Traditionally companies like this had used manual solutions to progress with these developments which often required huge amounts of admin, only further slowing the process.

This speed is most detrimental to the patient, who doesn’t have time to wait.

Easy-to-access data is also imperative to this if scientists are to collaborate with one another to grant the best possible outcomes for people.

In 2016, AstraZeneca began to assess if their research and development (R&D) process was meeting all this criteria.

The company had been attempting to digitalise this procedure for a number of years by this point, but with limited success.

Most departments used their own methods which often meant it became disjointed, with the time spent on locating and processing data continuing to rise.

Finding a solution that could streamline all of this on one simple platform became the British-Swedish company’s top priority.

A restructuring in 2017 freed up capital to make this a possibility, with the firm making this their main goal from 2019 onwards.

This eventually led them to Veeva, one of the market leaders in helping make the R&D system as efficient as possible.

The online platform is helping revolutionise the way clinical trials are carried out, from the initial research stages all the way to commercialisation.

Speaking at the Veeva R&D and Quality Summit, AstraZeneca’s digital transformation leader, Anders Persson said a change in approach to the R&D process was necessary for the company’s long-term success.

“It is one thing to deploy something new and get going from there,” he said. “But for us, the big transformation was to get all parties and departments involved. We wanted to make sure that we are always in a continuous development mode.

“Part of the discussion is to ask if and how you can fully exploit the opportunities that your technology partner brings to the table. You need to get the foundation right and you need to do it with a laser focus on delighting customers.

“We saw an opportunity here in the clinical space to prove Veeva’s clinical solutions evolved to reduce the time it takes to conduct studies.”

By using the online platform AstraZeneca brought all its projects into one place.

Researchers were given 24/7 access to crucial data and could easily set up and integrate clinical trials.

The company is now well its way to making its R&D system completely automated and paper free.

“For a long time, we have been creating PDF versions of something that is already in paper and making it electronic,” Persson said. “This is leading to a paperless transformation.

“Transforming drug development takes a lot of effort. It is not feasible without making sure that we have processes that support this effort, and also having a detailed understanding of how we manage ever-increasing information and data flows.”

After eight months implementing this digitalisation, AstraZeneca initially installed Veeva in the clinical sector of the business, but expanded it after observing its success.

The statistics also back this up, with the software allowing for a 50 per cent reduction in trial set up times and clinical monitoring reports.

Furthermore the firm saw a 80 per cent reduction in paper document scanning and distribution.

All of this is great for the company, but its leaders wanted to make sure it benefited where it matters – its patients.

The automation of this process is bringing medication to those who need it faster and more effectively.

Through this AstraZeneca could bring its clinical trials to people around the world, particularly looking at the most impoverished regions which often contain the people who need these treatments the most.

Sean Connolly, global head of R&D IT at the firm, spoke about the need to accelerate this globalisation.

“When we started our journey, it was all about re-imagining how we would transform our pipeline today, tomorrow, and collaborate much more broadly across the industry,” Connolly said. “The big impact here that plays into the future is our ageing populations, the burdens of chronic disease, and health economic conditions.

“It is really important that we get it right. As such, we need to make sure that part of our strategy is centred around how we are bringing our medicines to patients that are not western centric or eastern centric. It is a global approach, and we have tools that meet the needs.”

Veeva offers a range of solutions, but those at the conference from AstraZeneca were keen to point out the success it has seen when using Veeva Vault.

This cloud application development platform allowed the firm to make its own customised applications to improve workflow, manage content, create new protocols and process data all in their own way.

“At the time we didn’t have something like Veeva Vault Connections,” Connolly said. “The reality was, our journey started with the Veeva Vault Clinical Suite.

“There are a lot of cross Vault Connections that are only relevant when you’re bringing more Veeva Vaults into your enterprise, which we are now. We’ve adopted the principle that when these are available, we will implement them.

“We’re bringing more Veeva Vaults into play in regulatory and safety. We are evolving this data, the mesh architecture, and we’re managing the data that we hold in those Vaults as a product that can be offered. We’re decentralising a lot of that where we can.

“The other point I want to make is that when you put the right people in the right roles, your organisation will evolve.”

This is certainly the overall goal of AstraZeneca – to be a corporation that is constantly innovating and changing.

Its latest approach to R&D isn’t necessarily one that will be in place forever, but Connolly says it is the start of a bright future for the industry and its patients.

“I think it’s life sciences’ golden era,” he said. “So many things coming together that we’ve been waiting for. We’re not necessarily trying to prove that these technologies can have an impact. We’ve already proved that in a very rapid way.”

Source: Health Tech World