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4 critical challenges that life sciences firms solve with technology

INSIGHT ARTICLE  | 

Whether they are developing new drug therapies, designing innovative medical devices or creating more accurate medical diagnostic tools, organizations that fall under the “life sciences” umbrella have complex technology needs.

While in the startup phase, for example, many of these companies understandably turn to basic systems and spreadsheets to manage operations. After all, these early-stage life sciences organizations are often comprised of scientists who converge to explore new cures, devices and approaches; managing budgets, procurement cycles and paying bills generally are not a core competency of these young organizations

Once discoveries move out of the lab and into clinical trials, these companies must be able to scale up quickly—a necessity that often leaves their manual and spreadsheet-based processes struggling to keep up. Quickly, these organizations find themselves in desperate need of more formal tools to support the rapid growth and complexity of operations.

Four key challenges that a cloud ERP solution helps the growing life sciences industry solve:

  1. Zero visibility over clinical study spend. By their very nature, life sciences firms accumulate a high degree of clinical study-related expenses. For a company that either has multiple drugs in its current development pipeline—or that is running multiple studies on the same drug—tracking project-related spend is critical. Indeed, understanding the spend for each specific drug candidate is crucial. Prior to moving over to a ERP solution, like NetSuite for example, these firms don’t generally have a good method for handling the necessary tracking. Strong procurement processes and ability to analyze spend is crucial to the overall effective management of these drugs as they move through its lifecycle.
  2. Inability to do accurate product costing. As they close in on commercializing their drugs or therapies, life sciences firms have to look outside of their four walls for supply chain outsourcing options. In most cases, those supply chains include contract manufacturers, contract packagers and other partners. The more entities that are involved in getting the product from Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) to the patient, the higher the variability of product costing. Because the cost of producing a drug can vary greatly from one batch to the next, the application of specific product costing is an issue that comes up with most commercial life sciences companies. Tools such as NetSuite provide solid processes to effectively capture this data for operational decision-making.
  3. Can’t live up to team members’ high expectations around technology. New life sciences companies may be small or pre-revenue, but that doesn’t preclude them from attracting some of the industry’s top talent to their R&D and commercialization teams. Having racked up experience working for larger organizations—be it big pharma or biotech—these individuals bring with them very high expectations for the types of systems and tools and support they’ll have at their fingertips. These professionals expect tools that will not only help them effectively run the business, but also communicate to internal/external stakeholders.  Technology is the key to scaling, meeting regulatory needs and creating a smooth operational process to manage the business.
  4. Controllers who wear many hats. Today’s controllers and financial professionals working in life sciences companies juggle myriad responsibilities during the course of a day. Add an initial public offering (IPO) to that equation and that individual’s work overload becomes apparent pretty quickly. This creates a high need for efficiency that just doesn’t happen with manual, siloed or spreadsheet-based systems. These controllers need unified systems that include specific user roles, controls, security and streamlined processes that allow them to work more efficiently.

Technology to the rescue

As life sciences firms work to overcome these challenges, many of these companies find themselves held back by their manual, legacy and spreadsheet-based business systems. To continue thriving, life sciences firms need unified, modern technology solutions that can be deployed when mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity, IPOs and commercialization come into the picture. The firms that wait too long to replace their rudimentary financial and back-office infrastructures will quickly find themselves behind, but those that think ahead and act now will be best positioned for success.

CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS

Steve Kemler- Director, U.S.


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