The pharmaceutical industry is widely known as one of the most lucrative industries in the world. In a world where it can take over a decade to research, refine, produce, test and market a potentially life-saving drug, the pharmaceutical industry is also known for moving at a snail’s pace. Given how extremely intensive and rigorous the entire process needs to be, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise to most people. What does come as a surprise however is just how quickly the industry has latched onto the cloud computing in a bid to make this process easier.

Cloud computing is generally split into three different services SaaS, PaaS and IaaS – Software, Platform and Infrastructure as a Service, respectively. Most businesses and industries will see the potential benefits of at least one of these fairly quickly – usually the SaaS email functions or PaaS for webserver or database functionality, though adoption of all three system at once isn’t particularly common.

That being said, the pharmaceutical industry in recent years has completely and utterly latched onto all three aspects of cloud computing, and has even adopted a ‘cloud first’ mentality for the most part. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, for example, has already developed a cloud-based data aggregation system for managing data in their clinical trials, which smaller pharmaceutical companies such as Chemist-4-u are beginning to invest in. With the sheer scalability and flexibility these systems offer, cloud computing seems to be the ‘miracle pill’ that IT technicians in the pharmaceutical industry has been vying for, offering everything that the pharmaceutical industry needs, in one easy to use package.

For some this may fly in the face of reason, what with intellectual property and research secrecy being so highly guarded. However when you consider the sheer volume of data that needs to be shared, the leap to cloud computing makes sense – not even 10 years ago the fastest way to share a full genomic sequence with your colleague on the other side of the country was to post him or her the hard drive it is saved on. With ever-growing demand for larger and larger datasets to be shared, processed and analysed between sites, cloud computing really is the best way forward for the industry. The associated computing capacity of cloud computing alone makes IaaS an extremely attractive area for the industry, making resource-intensive tasks like gene sequencing and molecular modelling significantly quicker and easier.

This leap to the cloud will hopefully lead to shortened lead times and reduced R&D costs through the initial phases of the drug development lifecycle. Though this won’t have too much of an effect on the trial phases of the lifecycle, cloud computing will help round off the process with the eventual commercial, supply chain and enterprise aspects of the industry. All in all, cloud-computing has already offered a huge amount of benefit to the pharmaceutical industry, and is likely to continue doing so as this new technology continues to grow and improve.

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