Analyst: R&D time pressures mean clinical trial tech and automation are finally taking off

After years of dabbling, biopharma companies may finally be setting aside their conservatism and fully embracing the wealth of clinical trial technologies now available. The trend, according to the analyst who observed it, is partly a result of the pressure on R&D teams to hustle drugs to market as quickly as possible while also generating the pharmacoeconomic data payers now demand.

William Blair analyst John Kreger made the observations after attended DIA, an annual conference at which IT and data tools have played a steadily growing role. As Kreger saw it, 2015 was the year in which the expanding interest in IT resulted in the topic percolating through every session and talk at the conference. Why now? In part, it is just the natural evolution of the industry's relationship with technology, which has seen it slowly embrace electronic data capture and then look for the next tool to improve the ever-troublesome efficiency of R&D.

The emergence of electronic health records, regulatory acceptance of risk-based monitoring and relentless improvements in computing capacity mean the pool of tools available is expanding quickly. And with firms desperate to save time in development--as indicated by Sanofi's ($SNY) willingness to pay $245 million to shave four months off an approval timeline--they are increasingly open to using new tools to achieve their R&D objectives.

"We heard reports that clients are more willing to consider these newer tools than they have been in the past given the structural pressures on them to get novel products to market faster with supporting pharmacoeconomic data to justify pricing," Kreger wrote.

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