Some say the life sciences sector is the new IT, suggesting it's likely to become the next big growth industry. However, the analogy falls down when it comes to the sector's relative enthusiasm in adopting the latest in technology for managing information.
According to analysts at Ovum, the life sciences sector is still largely reliant on outdated technologies for key data and organisational functions, and this represents an opportunity for IT suppliers to engage with life science companies.
"The failure of many IT applications in the past has left key decision makers very wary in a secretive industry still reliant on paper-based, manual work flows," said Ruchi Mallya, pharmaceutical technology analyst at Ovum.
"Yet with R&D costs spiraling out of control, they’re having to rethink. Issues include: paper based systems for extensive clinical trials for a single drug costing upwards of $500,000 in correcting data entry mistakes alone; departments operating in silos using different systems and procedures with no standardised way of sharing information; outsourcing and moving facilities into emerging markets to reduce costs increasing the burden on datasharing and supply chain management."
According to Ovum's estimates, the global life sciences industry is forecast to spend nearly $17 billion on IT in 2010 as it seeks to migrate to more streamlined IT systems.
According to Ovum, some of the IT systems that life science organisations are expected to adopt include collaboration tools that foster the sharing of knowledge, such as laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and eNotebooks.
Life science organisations are also looking to migrate from a paper-based data capture and storage system to electronic data capture in an effort to improve efficiency and reduce errors.
Data mining and data management are also set to be areas of interest to the life science sector particularly when dealing with non-standardised structured and unstructured information.
Regulation is a major influence on the life sciences sector, so IT tools that improve transparency are also important.
Data and content management products that enable information to be shared easily and securely with partners will be significant.
Another area where potential savings can be found is in using in silico methods to conduct research and direct decision making.
“With all the challenges and obstacles that the life sciences must overcome, there are several uncertainties about the future growth of the industry," Mallya said.
"Forward-thinking executives are quickly realising that whatever the path may be, the utilisation of advanced commercial IT solutions is a must to get through these turbulent times."
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