Getting everyone’s heads in the cloud

BT advances cloud services to increase pharmaceutical R&D productivity and optimize clinical trial results

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LONDON—April 25 saw British telecommunications network andservice provider BT, which operates in more than 170 countries, make twoseparate announcements regarding life sciences and cloud computing that showthe company is working toward end-to-end online solutions for life sciences,from the earliest stage of research and development to clinical trials.
The first and more prominent of the two announcements putsBT together with San Diego-based Accelrys, a scientific enterprise R&Dsoftware and services company, and Middleton, Mass.-based BioTeam, whichprovides consulting to life-science researchers with an eye towardtechnology-agnostic solutions. In that effort, the collaborators are working toboost the fledgling BT for Life Sciences R&D platform, which BT trumpets asthe first cloud-based service designed to enable collaboration within the life-sciencesindustry for increased R&D productivity.
According to BT, the new service is designed as a "secureand segregated platform for scientists in pharmaceutical, biotech, devices anddiagnostics companies as well as in academia and government" to allow customers"to comply with the industry's stringent security, regulatory and compliancerequirements in a way that is suitable for many regulated applications acompany may wish to deploy."
Reportedly, BT for Life Sciences R&D will allow users toconstruct and orchestrate in-silicoworkflows and data pipelines to identify new pharmaceutical targets and drugcandidates and make predictive simulations. In addition, this platform isintended to enable research scientists to create global project groups and collaborateusing social media tools.
This ecosystem will allow the group to securely uploaddocuments, share results and communicate via IM, voice, video or chat toanalyze results in an environment that segments data and uses qualifiedhardware components and workflows specific to the pharmaceutical industry," BTexplains.
Added to this is the fact that the BT for Life SciencesR&D platform is supported by the BT Assure portfolio of security services,which assists customers in designing data encryption, anonymization, riskmanagement and resilience to meet quality and regulatory requirements for thecloud environment. BT for Life Sciences R&D also leverages other aspects ofthe BT portfolio, such as BT One for collaboration and unified communications andBT Connect to provide a high-capacity secure network that allows for private,hybrid and public clouds interoperability. Customers are also expected tobenefit from BT Advise's professional services capabilities for applicationselection and migration to the cloud, orchestration support, Bioteam'sconsulting services and design of cloud environment elements.
The new cloud platform for life sciences initially builds onBT's On Demand Compute service, but also required BT to team up with Accelrysand BioTeam for additional life science and technical know-how to furtheradvance and improve the platform.
Accelrys' role is key, in that it is to bring additionalfeatures to the platform, including  useof Accelrys scientific applications in BT for Life Sciences R&D andproviding on-demand services for Accelrys customers.
"A secure cloud platform from a trusted supplier like BT isan important step in addressing the externalization, collaboration and costpressures faced by many of our pharmaceutical and biotech customers today,"noted Dr. Matt Hahn, senior vice president and chief technology officer atAccelrys. "Combining the scientifically aware Accelrys Enterprise Platform andBT's robust cloud offering enables our customers to quickly analyze and sharedata using Pipeline Pilot, Symyx Notebook by Accelrys, Isentris and otherAccelrys software to improve collaboration, lower costs and accelerate time tomarket." 

The Accelrys Enterprise Platform is said to "enablescientific innovation and lowers total cost of ownership" by deliveringflexible, configurable service-oriented architecture; data management, analysisand reporting on complex data types including chemical structures, sequences,image, numeric and text; integration with third-party applications, databasesand existing scientific infrastructure; and an open architecture that providesthe ability to access third-party data sources that are ODBC compliant.
"The pharmaceutical industry is facing an extremelychallenging environment where patent-protected revenues are at risk and R&Dproductivity are declining, resulting in lower revenues and continued rise inthe cost of bringing new drugs to market," according to Bas Burger, presidentof global commerce for BT Global Services. "Now, companies can potentiallyreduce research costs and accelerate time to market by collaborating with thirdparties in a secure and compliant environment, and bring innovative solutionsto market faster through computer simulation and modeling. This aims at helpingthem develop new products faster, with lower costs and increased revenues."
With the official BT announcement, apparently BioTeam wasable to reveal a part of its work with the collaboration that it has beenimpatiently keeping close to the vest, as the company posted this exuberantmessage on its website April 25: "BioTeam has had this cooking in the lab for awhile now, but now we can discuss it publicly. We've been working with ourpartners Accelrys and BT to demonstrate what we think is a really cool concept:using Apple Siri on iOS devices to interact directly with a cloud platform (BTCompute) and scientific analysis software (Accelrys Pipeline Pilot)."
The second announcement from BT on April 25 was more focusedbut also involved the new cloud-based platform and shows that BT has it eyes onthe far end of the R&D spectrum, too—clinical trials—with an effort to getBerg Pharma into the cloud to "optimize results for clinical trials andmanagement of the patient ecosystem."
Reportedly, Berg Pharma and BT Global Services will beworking together to accelerate the process of drug discovery and development,using resources and technology from both companies. The joint effort will focuson the use of innovative approaches to target identification and validation andon lead optimization of novel drug candidates and will support the use ofcloud-based, high-throughput molecular profiling techniques to select patientsfor clinical trials.
As part of this, Berg Pharma will use the BT for LifeSciences R&D cloud service as the de-factostandard for running Berg's Interrogative Biology platform.
"Berg Pharma's novel approaches to drug discovery anddevelopment will integrate well with BT's new cloud services offering," saysNiven R. Narain, president and chief technology officer of the company. "Thisapproach will enable us to gain insight to underlying disease mechanisms andpathophysiology, provide a template for expedient proof-of-principle INDenabling testing and allow for higher clinical trial success based on much deeperdisease understanding. Medicine of the future must be data-driven to addressthe multifactorial nature of disease onset and allow for astute clinical andeconomic modeling. Big data is important, but actionable data is invaluable."

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