Eli Lilly uses cloud computing for clinical data analysis

Eli Lilly "effectively paid $89" to its cloud provider in one case of drug development data analysis, says consultancy Accenture in Forbes. Completing the same analyses using internal resources would have required the purchase of 25 servers.

That's the sole example that the consultancy provides of a company's use of cloud computing resources "to direct IT analytics power at the right place at the right time." Authors James Harris and Steven Nunn make no attempt to conceal their zeal for the cloud, which they say is part of a story that transcends IT to "the fundamental re-creation of the traditional enterprise operating model." Cloud technology provides a "newly enabled agility" that will transform IT, the workplace and business processes.

It's good to see the pharma industry, oft described among industries as an IT laggard, highlighted by an esteemed consultancy in an esteemed publication in an article on a leading-edge IT topic. It's especially good to see the mention in the context of a clinical trial project, rather than the far more often mentioned drug discovery arena.

The pioneering cloud work of Eli Lilly, J&J Pharma R&D, and others has received much industry attention, and rightly so. But the big story here, as in last week's story on IBM's cloud computing project, is use of the cloud in clinical research. That's where IT meets the antithetical requirement of simultaneously sharing and protecting sensitive data in a highly regulated environment. It's the intersection of trust and technology, where big pharma must reign in its protective instincts while guiding information technologists out of the ordered realm of bytes and into the convoluted and complex layering of a regulatory system whose origins precede computing capability.

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