24 Jul Knowledge Management: The Key to Success for Life Sciences and Pharmaceutical Companies
Your company has recently completed a merger with another new life science organization, and is on the way to achieve the integration of the information systems that supported the operations of both companies. However, the departments that are starting to get consolidated are facing new challenges they did not encounter within the separate, regionally based, organizations. The sharing of information, best practices, and experiences, at different levels, is becoming more than ever a critical factor for the success of the merger. “Knowledge Management may be the key”, you started to reflect, “but how exactly will it apply to the different departments and their disparate problems?”
Research and Development
The pharmaceutical industry is knowledge intensive, and therefore Knowledge Management is critical to improve R&D productivity and reduce product cycle time. To achieve these goals, the trend in drug development is to work in multidisciplinary project teams due to the multiple skill requirements. The success of this approach depends, among other things, on the availability of information from multiple sources, presented to the team members properly organized around the research topics, and personalized to each researcher’s needs.
R&D professionals need to share their findings and conclusions with a geographically dispersed team. Although the discovery phase tends to be localized in “centers of excellence”, the globalization created by industry mergers and worldwide testing, operations and distribution, makes knowledge sharing a critical success factor for clinical improvement. At the same time, regulations, markets, and health care issues that were unique to geography need to be considered from a global management perspective in order to achieve the advantages of economies of scale.
To move quickly in a rapidly changing competitive environment, pharmaceutical and life science companies have performed bold strategic moves. One of these moves is to outsource elements of the R&D value chain through collaborative relationships with a widening field of players, such as dedicated biotechnology firms, contract research organizations, university laboratories, and other pharmaceutical companies. This portfolio of collaborative relationships needs to be managed, which includes source selection and monitoring based on internal knowledge and efficient transfer of knowledge from the external sources to the internal team. Knowledge must also be transferred within each team, and “lessons learned” need to be shared among the teams. Companies must learn from their experiences in collaborative relationships to strike better deals in the future. They must also be able to gauge their own knowledge capital when evaluating possible mergers or acquisitions.
R&D strategic knowledge can be organized best through knowledge maps, establishing the relationships among key players in the company’s processes and including in the ontology people, departments, documents, procedures, and other important components. A skilled Knowledge Management consultant can rapidly develop very sophisticated knowledge maps that are invaluable for researchers, analysts, managers and team leaders, The results can be presented in a familiar, easy to use browser interface, that enables the R&D community to access key personalized knowledge in a fast and effective way through the company’s intranet.
Standards and Regulations
One of the most complex challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry is accelerate the process for moving drugs from concept to discovery, then to clinical trials, and finally to licensing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and similar country organizations worldwide. It would be very advantageous for a company to have a single source that should provide exhaustive references regarding regulatory references, as well as advice on process shortcuts and lessons learned in the regulatory affairs area in order to provide replicable approaches for the opportunity teams, such as knowledge about how to prepare for presenting data and their case for drug approval to the FDA advisory board. An effective Knowledge Management discipline would use knowledge maps to show the relationships and references in a clear graphical way, help shortening the learning cycle time, and allow for fast dissemination of critical knowledge.
The competition in the drug development industry is intense, and physicians and health care organizations are being saturated with sales communications. To broaden the value proposition and gain mind share, pharmaceutical companies also need to provide knowledge gained from experiences regarding the comparative drug efficacy for clinical targets. More than classical clinical-trial data and descriptions of the drug benefits, physicians and pharmacists need constantly updated information about drug interactions, contraindications, and adverse effects to facilitate their decision-making and advice giving. A knowledge transfer link between the companies and the physician can make a difference m the choice of drugs. The link works both ways, and the companies can benefit from the early feedback of results of the use of their drugs in the medical practice.
Globalization-enabling knowledge management infrastructures will increase the amount of knowledge shared across the multiple geographies. This includes not only knowledge about the effectiveness of different drugs and therapies, but also about the economic and health care aspects that are important when selling to groups with high bargaining power. A rapid dissemination of “lessons learned” across geographies and product lines can improve the company’s sales results. This knowledge can be captured through the recording of collaborative interactions, and organized, shared, displayed, and disseminated on the company’s portal.
Pharmaceutical companies need to manage their intellectual property assets with even more care than they manage their physical assets. The clearest example is patent management. The companies need to know the industry patent ownership and filings, track and manage their organization’s patent licensing, and be aware of the industry trends by analyzing competitors’ patents and their relationships. Underutilized patents, and protection from infringements on patents related to key product lines are sources of wealth that need to be captured, understood, and acted upon. Knowledge management tools can provide valuable input to patent analysis by automatically extracting key information, creating summaries, and suggesting trends through automatic clustering and classification of patents.
The implementation of a knowledge management discipline can provide very significant and measurable advantages in today’s competitive environment. Knowledge management solutions provide a comprehensive and effective environment for building an enterprise wide knowledge infrastructure supporting the needs of the industry.
Daniel Tkach is a charter member and the first Technology Director of the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management. Previously, Daniel Tkach was the Principal and Practice Leader, of the IBM Global Services LA Object Technology Solutions Practice. Mr. Tkach has authored many publications including two books that were translated to French and Japanese, and many journal editorials and white papers. He is a frequent speaker at conferences, trade shows and international workshops. Send your questions and comments about this article to Daniel Tkach at firstname.lastname@example.org