Eli Lilly's virtual unit taps Oracle software for clinical trials

Tech giant Oracle ($ORCL) has found another taker for its new software designed to help pharma outfits tackle clinical trials budgeting and planning. Chorus, a virtual development arm of drugmaker Eli Lilly ($LLY), has adopted the hosted software and plans to use the cloud-based product for about 15 clinical trials annually, according to Oracle.

Oracle highlighted the customer in an announcement about the latest release of the software, which the company acquired last year in its buyout of Chicago's ClearTrial. The Chorus group, which operates with about 40 workers, relies on software and outsourcing support in place of scads of people to usher its programs through development.

Lilly began the Chorus effort several years ago as the Indianapolis-based drug giant sought a lean model to advance new compounds through proof of concept. The highly virtual approach has been adopted elsewhere in biopharma as companies look to develop drugs without breaking the bank on large workforces. AstraZeneca ($AZN), for instance, launched a virtual neuroscience R&D group last year with heavy support from IT to automate aspects of drug research.

As major pharma groups see their profits dwindle from generics competition, there has been a major push to boost R&D productivity and keep a close eye on spending. This squeeze on budgets aided ClearTrial, which grew rapidly in the years leading up to the 2012 sale to Oracle with deals from such heavyweights as Abbott Laboratories ($ABT), AstraZeneca and Sanofi ($SNY).

ClearTrial's software helps drug developers forecast budgets with higher precision than their home-brewed methods based on spreadsheets. For example, Chorus expects to reduce budget variance from 20% off its projections to within 5% to 10% with ClearTrial, according to Oracle.

Even when clinical trials go way below budget, pharma companies stand to lose because the unspent dollars could have been used to bankroll other programs, said Andy Grygiel, a senior director of product strategy in Oracle's Health Sciences group, told FierceBiotechIT in an interview.

- here's Oracle's release