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Digital Revolution: Bring Your Cleverness and Wisdom

We are lucky to be living in the middle of the digital revolution. Our access to information, products, and ability to change platforms and paradigms has never been better. Professionals shaping the digital revolution in pharmaceuticals and health care moved the leading edge further forward at the 2nd Global Pharma R&D Informatics and AI Congress.

The amount, type, and connections among data is mind boggling. Cleverness is certainly needed to understand the work and resulting data of the many disciplines that touch bringing medicine to patients. It was apparent from the presentations that the symbiosis among data analysis, software, and hardware is key to keep in balance. Only when all three, equally important, areas are nurtured and evolve are dramatic advances made.

There is immense new value in discovering unexpected connections among data sets and illuminating ways to effect a positive outcome for patients. Getting that done in a vast “lake” of data is a challenge. What amount of codifying and curation compared to free form and search is right? How can automated tools crafted and trained to help? Which techniques will ferret out spurious results or inaccurate data? In turn, speakers laid out the approach taken in their organization, their success, and how much was left to do.

Once the value is generated who owns it? How is ownership of the underlying data and analysis determined? If harm results from a conclusion who is responsible? The current status of these legal questions were reviewed by one of the speakers which highlighted something important – a key component of the systems we build is our interaction with them. These human challenges require more than mere money and effort to solve.

Certainly, the road ahead provides a great opportunity. The poster I presented for my collaborators Jose Tabora, Pablo Rolandi, and Kushal Sinha from our work with the Enabling Technologies Consortium describes a cloud-based software as a service model for engineering simulation. As designed, the system will provide on-demand access to a pool of computing capability and library of software unimaginable just a few years ago. What we are learning about the environment is the ability to collaborate effectively within a company on a particular project, across companies on common problems facing the industry, and potentially with our regulators: to establish confidence in new capabilities and deliver even better medicines to patients even faster. That vision has been hard work to bring to reality, yet is being built as of this post.

The challenges we face in managing cycles of exuberance and managing for the long strategic build have been described by Alexander Kott in a post about the development of AI. Although working in a different field, Kott describes the same challenges of multiple types of sensors, devices in the field, integrating all the system, and analyzing data that we face in delivering pharmaceuticals. His insight identifies two key areas:

  • “patient sustained R&D” to meet the size of the challenge
  • interfaces enabling us to “collaborate” with the intelligent systems we build

Perhaps our success in a pharmaceuticals digital revolution will depend on partnerships across industries as well as within ours.

Only the strength, cleverness, and creativity exhibited by the conference attendees and their colleagues will be able to generate the wisdom to meet the challenges pharmaceuticals will face in the digital revolution. Robust investment and, more importantly, freedom to operate for the talented professionals engaged in this area is needed to integrate the physical and digital world. That work must be structured with pauses to think deeply and generate wisdom to deal with the human interaction with digital capability.

The revolution is here. If shaped correctly, it can deliver a vision of the future, shown at the conference: smart devices can access the collected knowledge about health with digitally aided cleverness, combined with the human wisdom of our physician, deliver just the right therapy, just when we need it.

This blog was originally a post on LinkedIn.


Howard Stamato is Associate Director at Bristol-Myers Squib. He delivered a poster presentation at the recent Global Pharma R&D Informatics and AI Congress.


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