Today, life sciences companies around the world find themselves at difficult crossroads. While research and development (R&D) spending continue to grow, drugs that actually make it to market are mired in a decadelong decline. The reasons are numerous and complex. Driven by more stringent government mandates aimed at protecting consumer safety and information privacy, and an emerging focus on chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and obesity, drug development processes are longer and more expensive than ever before.

Meanwhile, patent expirations and the quest to achieve greater R&D efficiency have given rise to high levels of merger and acquisition activity. A rapidly aging and increasingly cost-conscious consumer population demands access to less expensive therapies. At the same time, the life sciences industry faces widespread pressure from health plans and government regulators to control prices. Promotional spending is also an issue, as the number of sales representatives has doubled in the past eight years, while the number of physicians has grown by only 15%.

However, the future also holds huge opportunities. Increasing prosperity in emerging markets, particularly in Asia, creates new areas to increase top-line revenue. In parallel, scientific progress in biotechnology and the understanding of the biology inside the human body allows researchers to identify and develop entirely new compounds with higher efficacy and safety.

To meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities, pharmaceutical companies must find new ways to reduce costs, streamline research, and market their products more effectively. Today, two critical imperatives provide the essential starting point for responding to this challenging business environment. These imperatives are:

• Speed to insight, which encompasses the ability to integrate disconnected data sources and facilitate collaboration in order to drive faster and more accurate insights that speed decision-making processes.

• Value for cost, which entails the ability to extract greater benefit from existing investments, and realizes an even higher return on new investments.

To help life sciences companies fulfill these two imperatives Microsoft has developed Digital Pharma. Microsoft® Digital Pharma provides a practical vision and solutions framework for using new technological innovations to better integrate systems and information. Designed to enable seamless collaboration between pharmaceutical industry professionals, customers, and business partners, Digital Pharma will enable life sciences organizations to improve operations and decision-making across the entire industry value chain from drug discovery through marketing and sales.

Microsoft Digital Pharma overview

Pharmaceutical companies enjoy an incredible wealth of highly skilled information workers. But they are burdened by information infrastructures that were built on a complex mix of proprietary applications and systems, and assembled application-by-application over the course of many years. While these infrastructures have served as the foundation for remarkable innovations during the past few decades, now they hamper the flow of information from person to person and between organizations, adding significantly to the cost of new product development and limiting the potential for innovation.

Microsoft Digital Pharma provides a solutions framework for bridging the gap between people and applications. So, pharmaceutical professionals can collaborate seamlessly no matter where they are located, and access information quickly no matter where it is stored.

Designed specifically to ensure that pharmaceutical companies can quickly and easily implement next-generation solutions that add new business capabilities on top of existing technology investments, Digital Pharma enables pharmaceutical companies to realize speed to insight and value for cost, all across their business value chain.

Based on proven Microsoft technologies, Digital Pharma delivers tangible benefits that have a positive impact across the entire pharmaceutical organization and empowers researchers to focus on a new generation of innovations. Those benefits include:

• Reduced complexity: Microsoft technologies enable solutions that are easy to learn, easy to integrate, and simple to deploy and manage.

• Improved productivity: Solutions based on the Digital Pharma framework help information workers communicate and collaborate easily so they can make better-informed decisions more quickly.

• Integrated innovation: Based on industry standards, Microsoft technologies connect people and systems, and provide a robust platform for adopting future innovations.

• Value: Digital Pharma ensures a higher return on technology investments through the price advantages of the Microsoft Windows® platform, the ability to use commodity hardware, and a comprehensive set of rapid application development tools.

In emerging economies, new pharmaceutical companies are rapidly growing, for which Microsoft’s value can be even greater. These companies typically do not have to carry the burden of huge legacy applications and can enjoy the ‘green field’ approach based on today’s IT solutions. Microsoft solutions can help to keep complexity to a minimum, and pharma companies can build a culture that is geared at global collaboration and leverage of information technology across the entire enterprise.

The Microsoft Technology Foundation for Digital Pharma

Digital Pharma utilizes proven technologies to provide a comprehensive framework for creating solutions that enable pharmaceutical companies to fulfill the critical imperative to enhance speed to insight and improve value for the cost.

Digital Pharma utilizes Microsoft’s .NET Framework which offers superior interoperability and integration capabilities in combination with industry standards-based software to provide a robust infrastructure that helps pharmaceutical companies focus on solving business issues rather than dealing with complex integration and software implementation challenges.

To deliver the agility that pharmaceutical companies need to thrive in today’s demanding and fast-changing business world, Digital Pharma utilizes Web services and Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) principles.

Targeting discovery, development, manufacturing and supply chain, and sales and marketing, the Services Oriented Architecture serves as a blueprint that enables Microsoft technology partners to develop software and hardware solutions that help life sciences organizations solve real-world business issues. It also provides a standards-based foundation for interoperability between Microsoft solutions and legacy systems, ensuring that pharmaceutical companies can extend the value of their existing technology investments.

Implementing Digital Pharma

Pharmaceutical companies face the difficult task of striking the proper balance between the need to take advantage of innovation and the need to minimize the risks and dislocations that are inevitable whenever new technologies are introduced.

The good news for pharmaceutical companies that want to transform operations in order to achieve speed to insight and value for the cost is that their current technology provides the foundation needed to take the next step. And today, the standards that define the specifications for these new capabilities including Health Level 7 (HL7) and the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC) are maturing.

Digital Pharma is designed to enable pharmaceutical companies to build on current systems and utilize existing and emerging industry standards so they can pursue an incremental approach to technology investment that balances the benefits of each solution against critical issues such as cost, the potential for disruption, and impact on existing systems. This incremental approach ensures that each solution delivers benefits that are carefully matched to strategic needs, comes with a manageable price tag, and delivers a rapid return on investment.

The future vision for Lifesciences

Microsoft Digital Pharma opens the door to integrated innovation that provides greater value at less cost. However, Digital Pharma is not launched as a one-off undertaking, but as a journey into the future.

Building on a history of innovation and excellence in software development and a strong commitment to collaboration and integration, Microsoft is working closely with technology leaders and many of the industry’s most forward-looking companies to create a new generation of solutions that will drive unequaled value for pharmaceutical companies. Digital Pharma partners have access to pre-release versions of the upcoming products Windows Vista, Office 2007 and BizTalk Server 2006. Recently, Microsoft has launched an alliance of leading software companies to join forces to develop the next generation of BioInformatics tools. Microsoft collaborates with thought leaders to pave the way for RFID adoption in the pharmaceutical industry. Its recent Origami ultra-mobile device has been welcomed by pharmaceutical companies as an ideal tool to further boost sales force effectiveness. These examples illustrate how dedicated Microsoft is to continue investments into the pharmaceutical sector that help software partners deliver new innovations to further accelerate speed to insight and increase value for cost for the life sciences industry.