John Reynders - AstraZeneca

Architect of AstraZeneca's virtual neuroscience push

John Reynders
Vice president of R&D information, AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca ($AZN) took its budget ax to neuroscience in recent years, shedding hundreds of jobs and cutting off R&D in Europe and North America. Amid the cutbacks the London-based drug giant decided to keep a foothold in developing central nervous system (CNS) drugs via the virtual approach, and R&D information head John Reynders took a leading role in assembling the vital software elements to support a skeleton crew with a sizable neuroscience pipeline to manage.

Among the world's largest drugmakers, AZ has done little to inspire the industry about its pipeline through a series of R&D setbacks that brought new leadership to the company. Yet Reynders has made a case that the creation of the company's virtual Neuroscience Innovative Medicines Unit (iMed) succeeded as a major IT project that brought together people with expertise in drug development, cloud computing and informatics.

Reynders and his IT colleagues took part in the design of the virtual iMed from its conception, he says, rather than the company calling in the tech guys after setting up the group, which operates primarily out of Boston and Cambridge, U.K. Yet make no mistake. The biopharma industry, and AZ, will ultimately judge the success of the group based on successful drug research programs, not IT wizardry. AstraZeneca badly needs new products, and a breakthrough CNS drug for Alzheimer's would be a far more welcome than an IT award for the virtual effort. 

Nevertheless, Reynders has positioned the iMed group with a platform to make progress with its pipeline without much manpower.

"What was recognized is for us to create the amplification required for a very small lean team of only 40 folks, and for us to enable them to orchestrate an entire neuroscience portfolio through a complex network of partners--it needed a huge technology component," Reynders told FierceBiotechIT. "The analogy would be … a 747 that you're flying, and yeah, you've got three or four guys flying this thing, but they also have a ton of computers up there."

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For more:
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John Reynders - AstraZeneca
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