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Into the Cloud: How Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Companies Can Balance Cybersecurity With Efficient Data Sharing

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Pharmaceutical and biotechnology organizations bear the brunt of intellectual property (IP) theft, with the sector the number one target for cybercriminals, according to a study published by Deloitte. Recent headlines demonstrate that even the biggest names in the industry are not immune from the devastating impact of cybersecurity breaches. The consequences are often severe, with hefty fines from regulators, a loss of brand trust, and potentially years of wasted investment if proprietary information falls into the hands of competitors.

Furthermore, with large-scale clinical trials holding vast amounts of patient data, and as the industry increasingly focuses on developing individualized therapies, there is growing concern that cybersecurity breaches won’t just affect bottom lines, but will compromize individuals’ privacy and safety too. Here, a lack of preparedness for the additional data security demands these therapies require could be a key bottleneck preventing developers from bringing innovative personalized medicines to market in the coming years.

Unsurprisingly, data security is now top of the agenda for most companies in this sector. Robust data management platforms that put effective measures in place are fundamental to minimizing the risks posed by cybercrime. However, with outsourcing to contract research organizations (CROs) and collaboration with academic institutions becoming an increasingly important part of the modern drug discovery and development landscape, the platforms businesses use to control their information must ensure data remains out of reach from cybercriminals while also being readily sharable with key external partners.

So how can organizations balance robust cybersecurity with the need for efficient flow of information between colleagues and collaborators?

Cloud-based platforms: An extensible solution to managing biotechnology and pharmaceutical data

Increasingly, many forward-thinking pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are turning to the latest cloud-based informatics platforms to protect and manage their data. These extensible solutions allow businesses to expand their information pipelines as they grow, and add capabilities such as a laboratory information management system (LIMS), electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs), scientific data management systems (SDMS), and other applications, as they are required.

This flexibility also extends to the way in which these systems are deployed, with some of the most versatile informatics platforms allowing businesses to choose exactly how they are implemented. Flexible solutions such as Thermo Fisher Platform for Science software, for example, can be deployed on an organization’s in-house data center as well as on secure third-party cloud-hosting platforms such as Amazon Web Services and managed by either their own IT team or Thermo Fisher Scientific’s technical operations team, meaning organizations can benefit from secure data management on their own terms.

With many cybersecurity breaches linked to poorly-maintained servers and security software, third-party cloud-hosting platforms are becoming an increasingly attractive option for pharmaceutical and biotechnology businesses. Keeping digital infrastructure up to date is a critical yet time and resource-intensive task for in-house IT teams. For smaller companies, properly maintaining these systems can be extremely challenging. However, by using cloud-based solutions that are continually maintained by a third-party supplier, using some of the most advanced security technologies available, businesses can extend their operations knowing that critical updates to the environment will be managed for them.

Supporting collaboration while ensuring data integrity through the cloud

For businesses with facilities and team members spread across multiple sites and continents, or those that routinely engage with CROs, seamless access to information is vital to accelerate research efforts. Here, cloud-based platforms really come into their own, allowing organizations to efficiently share data securely between authorized individuals, wherever they’re located.

Key to this is the way in which cloud-based platforms store and manage information centrally, creating a single standardized repository for an organization’s data. As approved users are able to access this information directly through secure gateways, this circumvents the usability challenges often encountered when working with spreadsheets and databases stored in separate networks, which can quickly become out of date. Moreover, as data from instruments, sensors and monitoring equipment is stored in the platform as it is collected, users have access to real-time insight with which to make faster decisions and work more productively.

Collaborative working practices also make it more important to establish full accountability of actions from measurement to reporting. By storing data centrally, cloud-based platforms make it considerably easier to maintain a detailed audit trail of events. The most secure platforms will automatically record all user interactions made within the system, storing everything from data processing events to access logs. What’s more, because every interaction can be traced to an individual user’s password-protected account, it is much easier to determine who is accountable.

With cybercriminals going to increasingly sophisticated lengths to steal valuable IP from pharmaceutical and biotechnology organizations, businesses are increasingly recognizing that the tools they use for data management must provide the highest levels of protection. Cloud-based informatics platforms offer a flexible and effective solution to this challenge, proving that data integrity doesn’t have to come at the expense of operational efficiency.