Lessons Learnt: Novartis Integrate an ELN system with a Web Interface

Raquel Dias Miranda, Application Service Manager for Novartis Pharma AG, joins Pharma IQ to discuss the upgrade of the ELN System in place at Novartis.
Pharma IQ:  How long has the ELN been established within the chemistry area at Novartis?
R Dias-Miranda: We currently use the Perkin Elmer ELN. It has been in place for the past five years and been through a couple of upgrades in the meantime due to compatibility issues with Office 2007. We’re finally moving to the new and unreleased version 12, which is compatible with Windows 7; one of the reasons why we’re doing the upgrade.
Pharma IQ: Do you face many integration problems or many issues trying to get your systems to talk to each other and how do you overcome those problems?
R Dias-Miranda: We do have a lot of legacy applications, legacy data and very old applications. It was quite an effort to migrate these and make compatible with Windows 7.  So it was quite hard work in Research, to make sure that all the applications are Windows 7 compatible – so it’s quite an effort. Most of the problems were around the older applications, but we are confident now that we are ready to migrate everybody to Windows 7.
Pharma IQ: What other challenges are you currently facing with your informatics system?
R Dias-Miranda: The biggest challenge is around the amount of data that we have been gathering over these years. It’s reached over two terabytes of data and that has been our biggest challenge because the search ability is the one of the main reasons for having a a global ELN. 
The most important thing about it is sharing information across all sites, systems weren’t prepared for the vast amount of data we had and this is why we are moving to V12 and why we’ve been putting in place a web service layer to basically query the database through other systems than just the ELN that we currently have.
Pharma IQ: Do you get advice from other industries or your peers to find out how they’re managing their data?
R Dias-Miranda: We are in contact with most of the pharma companies that are here in Basel and we have meetings periodically to discuss our biggest issues and try  to learn from each other’s mistakes to figure out which is the best way to do it. So we have ongoing discussions with other companies and also with other vendors to find about  the best solutions which are suited to us.

I don’t think there is one solution; there are several solutions and we’ve been basically implementing a couple of them in parallel just to make sure that we solve this problem.
Pharma IQ: What are your goals for the next three years, say, between now and 2015?
R Dias-Miranda: Our goals are to have a stable ELN and a structured database where users are on just one system.  If we don’t manage to do that, we’re thinking of using a web service layer which we can implement. Through this web service layer, we can embed Windows Explorer inside the ELN and use other kinds of services which we might be able to go and embed in an ELN so that the users think that they’re still using one system.
I think that after going fully electronic, which was one of our biggest challenges last year, we’re now considering what else we can plug into the ELN and what measures we can make to improve the usability of the system.
Right now all our energy is on getting the upgrade done and having a good enough performance so that everybody is happy across the board.
Pharma IQ: What other verticals or industries do you look to for inspiration??
R Dias-Miranda: I think it’s always interesting to hear what’s going on in other industries around the decision-making challenges. There are a broad range of pharmaceutical companies, but we’re very much like a small community, so there are ongoing discussions between us. I don’t think there is enough time or space for us to reach out into other areas.
Pharma IQ: In terms of Novartis’ journey, where do you think are in finding the perfect solution compared to other pharmaceutical companies?
R Dias-Miranda: It took us quite some time to go to fully electronic; a lot of other pharmaceuticals were fully electronic when we weren’t. However, I think that we are making the right decisions now  to strip off all the coffin code that we built for Novartis,  specifically at-the-core customisation which was impacting our performance. We’re now taking as much out of the box as possible, and in addition to putting the web service in place, I think we might be somewhere close to leading.
Interview by Niamh Madigan, Pharma IQ, www.pharma-iq.com
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Please note that we do all we can to ensure accuracy within the translation to word of audio interviews but that errors may still understandably occur in some cases. If you believe that a serious inaccuracy has been made within the text, please contact +44 (0) 207 368 9425 or email Niamh.Madigan@iqpc.co.uk