Yulia Aspinall Biopharma Companies in a State of Flux
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By Yulia Aspinall


The biopharma industry faces some fundamental challenges, as highlighted in a recent PwC report. Yulia Aspinall looks at how industry professionals in the biotech and pharma field can help overcome these challenges through the use of big data, social media and networking.


Readers from the biotech and pharmaceutical area will find this analysis of recent FreePint articles highlights articles of interest, perhaps from surprising areas:

Fundamental Challenges Face the Biopharma Industry
If you happen to be an information professional in the ever-changing biopharmaceutical industry, then you will probably recognise three fundamental challenges faced by the industry, highlighted in a recent report by PwC "Pharma 2020: From Vision to Decision".

These are:

  1. Rising customer expectations
  2. Poor pipelines/lack of scientific productivity
  3. Cultural sclerosis.

Fundamental Opportunities for Information Professionals to Aid their Organisations

So where, in this complex, dynamic and evolving industry, should information professionals focus their expertise in order to provide the greatest value as their organisations navigate these challenges?

In my view, three areas in particular stand out:

  • Big data
  • Social media
  • Networking.

Unsure? If you don’t agree, then take a look at the articles that FreePint has published on these topics recently – they may well surprise you.

Big Data: Does it Have to be Big to Be Important?

Big data – the term given to datasets which are so huge and complex that they are difficult to process with existing database management tools – will increasingly impact organisations, particularly those in scientific and technological disciplines or those, such as supermarkets, which use large customer datasets. The recent FreePint Topic Series: Big Data in Action included a wealth of information and inspiration on this area.

It’s not just big data, though, that’s an issue. An almost equally-big challenge is to deal with the diverse variety of “small” data that's needed for decision-making throughout the drug discovery, development, and commercialisation pathways. Information professionals can provide their organisations with significant competitive advantage by ensuring that business users get immediate and integrated access to all information relevant to critical business decisions, regardless of location and format.

Most of these decisions don't need big data: they need the right data - whether big or small - and they need it at the right time. So the old cliché “to give the right people the right information at the right time” still holds true and remains the main principle for efficient information support.

Social Media: Connected Consumers Network Online

In this age of connected consumers, when both patients and healthcare professionals use the web to access information about medications or research diseases, and professional and patient organisations feed this information craving with a myriad of informational sites, a robust social media strategy isn’t just a “nice-to-have”.

A social media strategy is a crucial and integrated component of a biopharma company’s communications and engagement programmes and Claire Whayman's recent FreePint article "Forming a Social Media Research Strategy for Competitive Intelligence" highlighted many of the steps essential to developing such a strategy. Getting this right will help the organisation to manage the “rising customer expectations” challenge and can substantially differentiate the company from its competitors. As an example of its importance, 16% of US adults in a recent PwC survey claimed to post reviews of the medicines they take on social media sites.

Networking: Information Professionals Ensure Survival of the Fittest

Every successful information professional understands that networking, knowing customers and understanding their needs are core skills. Techniques such as open sharing, external networking, seeking innovative solutions to accelerate access to information sources and creating internal databases of project-relevant information are part-and-parcel of our daily professional activities, as Tim Buckley Owen explained in his FreePint article "Technology Talent + Softer Skills = Ideal Candidate?". It just so happens that these are also core activities which can support cultural change within an organisation, making it more open, adaptable and innovative – so they need to be shared and promoted!

In summary, the biopharma industry is in a state of flux. For some companies, the process of change will be more painful than others, and some will not survive. However, evolution supports the survival of the fittest, and information professionals can have a key role to play in supporting the process and sharing the techniques that will encourage adaptation and survival.

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