We need to build a ‘digital culture’ for pharma research : Sauri Gudlavalleti, Global Head, IPDO, Dr.Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd – ET HealthWorld


A 2017 McKinsey report describes Digital in healthcare R&D as a $100 bn opportunity. The top 7 Indian generic pharmaceutical companies spend over $1.5 bn a year in R&D and develop hundreds of products each year. In the current pandemic situation, there is a need to expand pharmaceutical research efforts while still maintaining lean lab presence for safety reasons. Digital technologies can help unlock significant resource efficiencies, enable deeper scientific insights, and develop higher quality products. However, achieving these benefits at scale requires the R&D organisation to build a “digital culture”, where people not only rapidly adopt, but constantly develop innovative digital solutions to problems. Building such a culture requires four types of interventions.

Start from the top
An informed and inspired leadership is essential to chart out a clear and coherent digital vision, sponsor digital programs, and communicate their potential value to the entire organization. Therefore, senior R&D leaders and domain experts must develop an understanding of emerging digital technologies and an appreciation of their potential impact on their own domains. An effective way to achieve this is to draw parallels by taking them on a sensing journey in non-pharma product development. For instance, by exploring the similarities between the elimination of bugs in software and the avoidance of deficiencies in regulatory submissions; or, by examining how creating multiple variants of one cellphone chip for multiple cellphone models is similar to using one active pharmaceutical ingredient in multiple formulations.

Showcase impact through early wins
Creating successful use-cases through the deployment of select tools will help build organizational conviction in the power of digital. Initially, the focus can be on digitizing manual workflows and data collection, simplifying literature search, automating routine data extraction, documentation and verification, and giving more scientists access to a few advanced analytical and modelling techniques. The productivity and convenience benefits of these tools will encourage adoption. Additionally, they help create “clean data” which will be the foundation for advanced analytics applications in the future. Accelerating R&D while ensuring personnel safety in the current pandemic situation also needs immediate investment in tools that allow scientists to remotely control laboratory equipment, trouble-shoot production issues, and transfer process technologies to distant sites.

Build capability and capacity
First, a pool of “digital translators” must be built, who can combine domain expertise with an understanding of digital tools. Curious early adopters in R&D domains are ideal for this. They may be taken through a focused digital immersion program that blends online, classroom and experiential learning, followed by “what-if” ideation sessions on how to radically transform their domain activities using digital tools. To build capacity in the larger organization it will be necessary to hand-hold all team members in adopting the initial tools to the fullest extent, as well as to facilitate wider exposure by creating broad-based learning modules and holding lecture/demonstration events. As the tools gain adoption and clean data begins accumulating, digital translators must start ideating more advanced use cases with predictive capabilities using science-based or artificial intelligence enabled models.

Incorporate in formal processes
Now, it is time to close the loop and make digital transformation a formal priority. Leaders’ annual scorecards must have specific digital transformation deliverables, while a share of the digital translators’ time must be dedicated to these programs. For the rest of the organisation, performance management can incorporate digital skill building, tool adoption and idea generation. Program deliverables must not stop with implementation of digital use cases, but need to go all the way to converting it into value realization in terms of increased number or value of products developed.

Digital tools are essential to accelerate scientific solutions, increase resource productivity, improve product quality as well as to generate “clean” data for future applications. Especially in the current situation which demands faster development amidst multiple physical constraints. It is imperative for pharma R&D organisations, both generic and innovator, to build a digital culture using a concerted approach.

Sauri Gudlavalleti, Global Head of Integrated Product Development Organization (IPDO), Dr.Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.





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