Earlier this month Japanese pharmaceutical firm Takeda announced it had teamed with Accenture and Amazon Web Services to accelerate its “digital transformation.” The plan, the firm said, is to leverage data-driven insights to speed-up drug development, increase operational agility, reduce tech costs, and “develop the workforce of the future.”

In practical terms, the project will involve transferring 80% of Takeda’s data applications on to cloud-based technologies, reducing the footprint of the firm’s in-house information management center and removing “undifferentiating” systems. The firm added the ultimate aim is to decrease capital spending.

According to Karl Hick, chief digital & information officer at Takeda, “We are moving from paper-based processes to electronic batch management (EBM) systems, and implementing predictive analytics. For one of our innovative medicines, an allogeneic cell therapy, we connected the manufacturing systems to the supply chain and the clinic to get the medicine administered.”

“The doctor can directly order the medicine through this system, which triggers the manufacturing in the plant. This is a lighthouse example for successful end-to-end supply chain and manufacturing.”

Takeda is not the only drug firm looking to go digital. Last December, Switzerland’s Novartis outlined plans to use data-enabled technologies to “transform the way medicines are manufactured and delivered.”

Post-paper

Growing willingness to swap traditional manufacturing for the data-driven paradigm is driven in part by evolving drug product and regulatory needs, according to Arjun Bedi, global strategic client portfolio lead at Accenture.

“Manufacturing is challenged to produce increasingly complex products in a heavily regulated environment, at a rapid pace to market, while many processes are still paper intensive and manual,” Bedi says. “Digitization of manufacturing calls organizations to do several things: one, overcome many arcane and manual, paper, processes that exist across manufacturing and quality.”

The second thing they need to do is “embrace the integration of these processes into the overall supply network to manage from end to end. Finally, they need to provide the digital architecture at manufacturing sites to allow for scaling capabilities and integrating with the enterprise in a secure way.”

Technology

Biopharma interest in digitization and industry 4.0 ideas also reflects advances in technology according to Denis Ring, PhD, a lecturer in process and chemical engineering at University College Cork in Ireland who co-authored a recent study on the subject.

“The biopharmaceutical industry is increasingly at the forefront of industry 4.0. Technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are widely use to supplement traditional process and production development,” he says.

According to Ring, a wide range of integrated digital transformation technologies are increasingly employed by biopharmaceutical companies to try and enhance process efficiencies and sustainability through the timely and agile use of plant data.

“Through leveraging the power and flexibility of 4.0 technologies for process data, storage management, monitoring, analysis and optimization the biopharmaceutical is empowered in ways which were simply inconceivable just a few years ago,” Ring says.

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