Where is cloud computing a fit in pharma?

Major tech and services firms would love for pharma to give cloud computing a wholehearted embrace, but the reality is that cloud software and services have trickled into the spending plans of drugmakers as they slowly warm up to web-based systems.

In an article from BioPharm Insight, industry insiders help color in a picture of where cloud has been applied in the pharma industry. Cloud platforms have been highlighted as answers to untangling data problems that pharma companies face in collaborations and work with external groups. Linda Drumright, who heads the clinical trial optimization solutions group at IMS Health, noted that the M&A in pharma has often underscored the difficulty of disparate IT systems from separate companies.

In fact, some pharma buyers have kept operations and IT systems of their acquisition targets intact for years after the deals are sealed. Takeda took this route for years after the $8.8 billion buyout in 2008 of Millennium Pharmaceuticals, which Takeda has recently begun to further integrate into the mother ship. As Drumright told BioPharm Insight, cloud-based systems offer the opportunity to swiftly integrate data from two organizations. Drumright knows all about M&A in the pharma software sector because she joined IMS through the information giant's buyout of her startup DecisionView last year.

Pharma companies use DecisionView's software, which is available in cloud or hosted options, to optimize the selection of clinical trials sites. Indeed, one of the common themes in the BI article is that pharma has been willing to adopt cloud technologies to fill niche voids in their IT and clinical trials operations. As FierceBiotech IT has noted, goBalto has scored some early CRO customers with web software for sponsors and research contractors to use for what had previously been a paper-based process of getting clinical trials off the ground.

Pfizer ($PFE) pushed the use of cloud computing for supporting an online clinical trial called REMOTE, which the pharma giant abandoned because of low patient turnout. Through the virtual effort, however, the company identified some useful web-based technologies that could boost the use of cloud computing in future clinical trials.

Yet Roche ($RHHBY) and others have shown a willingness to use cloud-based software for research programs, email and other services that do not open sensitive information, such as patient clinical data, to security threats.

- here's the article