In the blog, Informatics Challenges in Pharma and Biopharma R&D, we identified five major challenges facing R&D and IT managers in pharma and biopharma companies as they strive to equip their researchers with modern, flexible and responsive laboratory information management systems:

This post is the fourth in a series examining these challenges in more detail, with examples gained while staff collaborated with customers to understand their requirements and devise and deliver solutions. The first three posts discussed Managing New ScienceDealing with Change and Integrating Old and New Systems, and now we will consider the informatics challenges in addressing the needs of Collaboration and Externalization.

The methodology of global pharma R&D continues to evolve away from purely in-house operations, and collaboration and externalization are now very much part of biopharma’s modus operandi. As John LaMattina has observed, “Over the past few years, big pharma companies have announced a host of new collaborations. These vary from deals with small biotech companies for early drugs or new technologies, to major alliances with academic institutions. Many companies, such as Pfizer, Novartis, and AstraZeneca, have even begun to co-locate research labs in “hotbeds” of academic excellence such as Cambridge (Massachusetts and England)”.[i]

Collaboration and externalization offer the promise of reduced costs, more effective science, enhanced productivity and quicker time to market. And the outcomes are promising, as LaMattina indicates, “33% of drugs in the pipelines of the top ten pharmaceutical companies were initially developed elsewhere”.[ii]

When companies externalize their R&D activities they need new communication and data exchange capabilities to collaborate effectively and securely with their new partners. These new partners may include CROs, academia and smaller biotech firms, with each providing a crucial component of the complete R&D process, whether it’s chemical synthesis and scale-up, assay development and operation or a novel platform technology.

Managing an Externalized Research Environment

In such an externalized research environment, the parent company will want to manage the same overall workflows, data types, samples, requests and reports as they could in a fully in-house system: but now they face the added challenges of managing the R&D process across different locations, time zones, user groups with different permissions, IT infrastructure, applications and data storage.

The client company’s legacy in-house informatics systems may not be adaptable enough to deal with this changing web of external partner organizations; in contrast, cloud-based collaboration platforms and laboratory information management systems with strong security and user and group permissions can help companies to manage their rapidly evolving externalized workspaces.

In working with its customers and partners, we have identified five collaboration models that cover the various types of externalized research that companies may be planning for, or are currently using.

To support these models in action, Thermo Fisher™ Platform for Science™ software can be used to provide immediate, securely sequestered, virtual workspaces for collaborators around the world. The workspaces are walled data stores, within the same database, ensuring that only the external partner assigned to the workspace and the owner of the system can access the data. Teams can quickly spin up (and decommission) secure workspaces so that approved collaborators can use pre-configured products (Thermo Scientific™ Core LIMS™, Core ELN™ & Core SDMS™ software) and applications to achieve the owner’s stated objectives. When a workspace is decommissioned, the data remains intact in the database and the external partner’s access rights are withdrawn.

Cloud-based Laboratory Information Management Systems

Platform for Science software is available in the cloud (public or private) and is accessible with any web browser (including on mobile devices) for real-time data capture and sharing to speed research and innovation. In addition, the platform provides interactive social functionality for commenting and following users or projects, facilitating collaboration and interaction between virtual teams.

Platform for Science software provides customers with a flexible, configurable cloud-based laboratory information management system to address their needs for a secure and extensible platform to manage their continually evolving virtual research environments. Parent companies retain complete control of their R&D process, while their collaborators are all equipped with secure access to a common and consistent set of informatics tools, data structures and processes that provide for greater efficiency, better science and reduced maintenance costs. Learn how.


[i] http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnlamattina/2014/03/11/does-pharmas-emphasis-on-external-sourcing-of-drugs-represent-a-strategic-shift-away-from-internal-research/

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnlamattina/2014/03/11/does-pharmas-emphasis-on-external-sourcing-of-drugs-represent-a-strategic-shift-away-from-internal-research/