Report tips analytics to get biopharma out of its productivity slump

With the end of 2013 nearing, market analysts are looking back on the year and forecasting what is next for the industry. Shared, familiar themes are emerging: Biopharma is still struggling to make R&D more productive and observers are still talking up the potential for technology to ease the industry's woes.

These conclusions are prominent in the "Measuring the return from pharmaceutical innovation 2013" report from Deloitte and Thomson Reuters, which names better use of analytics as one of three areas of focus for biopharma executives. Biopharma has begun to dig into the data it generates, but is reportedly lagging behind other industries in its adoption of technologically enabled analytics capabilities.

"While the trajectory is correct, the pace of industry transformation must accelerate significantly to achieve sustainable and compelling levels of return from the investment in innovation," Julian Remnant of Deloitte and John Cole of Thomson Reuters wrote in their introduction to the report. Maintenance of the status quo is predicted to cause continued declines in return on R&D investment.

The future envisaged by the report sees biopharma give its leaders large volumes of clinical, scientific and real-world data, and the infrastructure to extract insights from this information. This data-driven approach is tipped to cut discovery time, help generate novel therapeutic hypotheses and suggest new uses for old drugs. The use of real-world data can also convince skeptical payers to reimburse expensive new drugs.

Similar claims litter many reports on the state of biopharma R&D, but implementing the actions is harder than suggesting them. Access to real-world source data is restricted by patient privacy concerns, an issue the report suggests solving through the development of a regulated good practice. Even if biopharma has data and analytical software, it must still find staff who understand what the outputs mean for the firm.

People with these skills are in demand. The report notes that staff retention across R&D is hindered by management viewing the function more as a cost than a source of future revenue. Other areas of the healthcare industry are waiting to snap up any informatics staff biopharma loses. A Frost & Sullivan report into healthcare in 2013 predicts hospitals will prioritize investment in cloud computing and informatics.

- read the Deloitte-Thomson Reuters report (PDF)
- here's the accompanying release
- check out F&S' news
- and its presentation