PwC’s Scott Lawson: ‘Pharma needs to embrace industry 4.0’

20 Mar 20181.16k Views

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Scott Lawson, PwC UK director for pharma and life sciences. Image: Luke Maxwell

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Fusion blockchain, data, AI and manufacturing will transform pharmachem companies into digital enterprises.

The fourth industrial revolution (industry 4.0), with its advances in internet of things (IoT) devices, sensors and analytics, is a compelling opportunity for the pharmachem industry.

That was the message from Scott Lawson, PwC UK director for pharma and life sciences, during the recent BioPharma Ambition event at NIBRT in Dublin.

‘The level of data integrity is essential, combining elements of blockchain, cybersecurity and working with regulators to get those over the line’
– SCOTT LAWSON

Lawson pointed out that while the pharma industry is moving from a human-based ecosystem to a machine-based digital ecosystem, this evolution isn’t happening fast enough.

Powerful changes made possible through the delivery of medicines to patients using track and trace, 3D printing of drugs in pharmacies, cloud, robotics, blockchain and artificial intelligence need to be embraced.

Lawson said that the disruption to the pharmachem industry could happen at a rate never seen before, with new business models such as outcome-based reimbursement made possible.

Big data will be the driving force behind industry 4.0

Speaking with Siliconrepublic.com, Lawson said that industry 4.0 is effectively the digitisation and use of technologies such as IoT to enhance the way that products are manufactured and ultimately help patients.

“As with any industry, the pharmachem industry has got to look at its methods of manufacturing, the way it can leverage digitisation and embrace advancements of IT and technology.”

He elaborated: “We as consumers are demanding different service levels. Online, we can have orders and deliveries within hours. But with pharmachem, it involves doctors, clinicians and drug manufacturing, and it is a lot more complex. So, how do we as an industry deliver a service level that is more standard in our lives now?”

Lawson said that industry 4.0 represents the ability to tag together all the different technologies and capabilities to ensure the product reaches the patient quickly and safely.

The hardest part, he explained, is navigating the regulatory environment. To do so, pharmachem industry players need to think about the opportunities that digitalisation represents.

Because digital moves so quickly, organisations need to think in the medium term rather than five, six or seven years down the line.

“Big data is the driving force behind industry 4.0,” said Lawson.

“Leveraging big data is the key to ensure that we can serve the patient, make sure they have the right drug product that it is personalised to them, but also that we as an industry have controls.

“The level of data integrity is essential, combining elements of blockchain, cybersecurity and working with regulators to get those over the line.”

Lawson said that within pharmachem, the two areas that blockchain will revolutionise are supply chain and the management of personal data.

“We will all own our personal data ultimately, and one of the things that the industry is struggling with is, how does it share data in a regulated environment?”

The entire supply chain – from the patient, the doctor and the pharmacist to the health insurance provider, the medical device manufacturer and the drug manufacturer – could be revolutionised by blockchain.

“Blockchain can really put some structure around that and ensure that data flows through the health cycle to ensure that we get the ultimate and best-possible treatment programmes.”

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com