Last week, the US government announced the first clinical trials for a potential vaccine for COVID-19. It follows just weeks of intensive and, frankly, heroic work by researchers worldwide. Although it’s likely that the vaccine will only be available to patients after the virus has peaked and is in decline, the response from Life Science, healthcare and public health has been truly astounding. This is global collaboration on a completely epic scale.
It took more than a year to sequence the genome of the SARS virus after it broke out in 2002. This time around, the COVID-19 genome was sequenced in under a month from the first case being identified. Researchers have explored new ways to share research and publish results, highlighting and showcasing many aspects of how we can work collaboratively.
Scientists have worked hard to make the results of their research freely available, demonstrating that Open science has finally reached a tipping point, with much greater levels of data and information sharing. Currently, the two most popular preprint servers, bioRxiv and medRxiv, are getting around 10 COVID-19 papers per day.
While open science is accelerating the speed at which researchers have access to potentially vital new data, it has also led to what’s been described as the ‘infodemic’. These web-based resources are open to everyone and sometimes, in a haste to publish, researchers get things wrong.
The result has been that these publications have been used to circulate false and malicious information on the internet. So much so that organizations like Google and Twitter are beginning to deploy artificial intelligence to try and counter the spread of online misinformation.
What open science demonstrates is that everyone in Life Sciences is looking for ways to save lives by working collaboratively. Online platforms such as a GISAID, and virus tracking applications such as Nextstrain, are the easiest, fastest and most scalable methods of sharing finding, however, they can bring security and data misuse challenges.
Transforming business models
Long before this Coronavirus outbreak, I’d been speaking with Life Sciences and pharmaceutical companies about the need to re-assess traditional business models to achieve the levels of speed and innovation required for success.
Central to this business model transformation is data and finding ways to increase the insight and value in the information available. That data must be applied across the drug lifecycle from initial R&D and trials to manufacturing and commercialization to real world patient use. It’s important to break down siloes internally and facilitate the process of collaboration externally and across the supply chain.
That’s why we’re beginning to see the evolution of interoperable data platforms that ensure organizations have the high-quality ,accurate data they need. These platforms enable valuable insights to transform how a Life Sciences firm operates and engages in a patient-centric world.
Communication and collaboration are a great start. But what’s next?
The industry is moving towards an environment where sharing and collaboration are essential ingredients. This can only benefit everyone. To achieve the full benefits of collaboration means introducing modern enterprise data platforms that can help answer some of the key business challenges, such as:
- How do you work and collaborate more closely with your partners, suppliers and academic institutions?
- How can you make sense of the vast quantities of data available from global research?
- How can you improve the recruitment, retention and operation of clinical trials?
- How can you quickly alter manufacturing processes and scale to meet new drug production?
- How can you streamline the supply chain while ensuring the safety and efficacy of drugs?
- How do you improve and accelerate the regulatory submission process?
- How do you increase patient involvement and create patient-centric workflows?
The drug approval and distribution process – quite rightly – takes time, and while this can be fast-tracked in exceptional circumstances, it is important we maintain the focus on safety and compliance. What the latest Coronavirus outbreak has shown is how the industry can work together, quickly and collaboratively, to produce some amazing results.
The question is now: How do we build on that?
You can read OpenText’s commitment to customers and partners during COVID-19 here.
If you’d like to learn more about the services that OpenText™ delivers to the Life Sciences sector, please visit our website.