At a faster rate than ever before in history, the life sciences industry is experiencing unprecedented technological change, primarily due to the blurring of the line between “life sciences” and “technology.” As a result, every new technological breakthrough, in fields ranging from AI and machine learning to DNA sequencing and genomics, has contributed to the ongoing digital transformation of the life sciences industry.
Of course, ever since the launch of the modern software industry in the mid-1970s , technology has had a significant impact on the way companies in the life sciences industry operate. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, for example, made it possible to coordinate sophisticated supply chains spanning multiple countries (and even continents). Sales force automation software made it possible for pharmaceutical companies to transform the selling ability of their sales teams. And nearly every aspect of the life sciences industry was made better, faster and more efficient by the introduction of new software that enabled different units of the enterprise to “talk” with one another. That, in turn, helped to speed up the R&D cycle, improve the overall quality of healthcare, and spur new breakthroughs in the way we treat infectious and chronic disease.
You can think of that phase as the first round of digital transformation in the life sciences industry. It largely fulfilled vision of famous Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who once famously opined that “software is eating the world.” What he had in mind was a brave new world where every process, every operation and every aspect of industries would be transformed by software. But even visionaries like Marc Andreessen could not anticipate what happened next.
The next wave of digital transformation involved the introduction of the cloud, Big Data, mobile devices and the Internet of Things. Each of these huge technological breakthroughs had a tremendous impact on the future growth trajectory of the life sciences industry. The cloud, for example, made it possible for doctors on one side of the world to analyze data from patients located in another part of the world in near real-time. Big Data meant that doctors and medical professionals had more patient data than ever before to come up with cures and treatments, while R&D professionals had many more insights into how to develop the next Miracle Drug.
That brings us to the situation today, where big digital trends like the cloud, Big Data, and mobile have already transformed life sciences companies. But now comes an even more exciting era, brought on by technological innovations in fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Already, there are AI-powered supercomputers capable of diagnosing patients and disease symptoms almost as well as today’s top medical professionals. It is only a matter of time before a “trip to the doctor’s office” means hooking up with an AI-powered online avatar that you communicate with via your smartphone. Moreover, the Internet of Things is leading to the development of innovations like “digital pills” that can track and monitor your body from inside once you consume them.
For the past half-century, the impact of software and digital transformation on the life sciences industry has truly been profound. The blurring of the line between the life sciences and tech industries is only going to intensify in the future. SAP’s intelligent software solutions are helping life sciences organizations with transformation that will allow them to thrive in the digital age. Contact us to learn more!