Digitization in pharma & how is Microsoft advancing medicine?

Chanice Henry

Alongside professionals from Microsoft, pharmaceutical experts from across the globe presented insights on how digitalization is changing medicine at Adents’ recent innovation summit.  

Cloud, medicine, digital


Andrew Whytock, Head of Digitization and Innovation, Pharmaceutical Business at Siemens, introduced the concept of the digital twin in manufacturing – a simulation that allows operators to visualise and play with various aspects in chain from design through to production. This tool optimizes the system’s flow and can support scheduling and scale up opportunities.   For example, plant simulation can help verify a site’s layout to highlight any bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

GSK is utilising progressive technologies to develop the science within manufacturing, deploying touch screens and virtual reality devices to maintain a sterile environment and bolster equipment maintenance.

In its digitization lab, GSK tests new technologies to fast-track their use across the whole company. Virtual reality simulates manufacturing technologies to allow for more granular employee training and testing in a risk-free environment – decreasing the potential for errors when operation commences.

Paperless manufacturing

ATMPs and personalised medicines are very diverse by nature and introduce many manufacturing complications. At Adents’ Serialization Innovation Summit the idea of paperless manufacturing was proposed - integrating information from different sources to produce a central data access point to reduce review and approval time for compliance with Good Lab Practices (GLPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).

According to Nicolas Teissie, Industry Software Product Manager at Siemens, a large majority of manufacturing units lack the electronic facilities to track and document production. Batch records are mostly in paper form. Paperless batch records would improve oversight activities by standardizing processes across global sites and CMOs.

Rather than having laborious, continuous quality review processes, time could be saved by using the electronic batch record to focus on deviations and review by exception.  Overheads could be reduced by increasing up-time of equipment, output and the right-first-time rate.

Reduced risk of manual documentation errors, batch failure incidents and schedule delays would also grant manufacturers with a faster route to market.

Want more? Top 10 Medical Contract Manufacturing Organisations: 2018


Marc Gardette, Microsoft Cloud Strategy Director and Stephan Goudeau, Microsoft Cloud Architect noted the power blockchain can bring to a range of areas in medicine:

  •           Securely sharing health data – so patients can manage their own healthcare decisions and clinicians can deliver better outcomes.
  •           Leveraging data and collaborative research
  •           Prescriptions with patients
  •           DNA sequencing
  •           Pharmacovigilance
  •           Product authentication
  •           Supply chain dispute resolution
  •           Dynamic pricing for raw materials
  •           Clinical trial management: Recording protocol before study launch
  •           Clinical trials: Innovation in care delivery
  •           Insurance claim adjudication

Want more? What is blockchain and what can it do for pharmaceutical supply chains?

What Microsoft is doing in medicine

Keynote speaker Laurent Curny, Microsoft – General Manger Microsoft Services noted that Adents has been collaborating with Microsoft to utilize their expertise on disruptive innovations such as machine learning, IOT, blockchain and how data can create value from serialization for example enhancing reverse logistics.

The event’s Microsoft speakers examined a number of ways digital technologies are revolutionising healthcare and pharmacology, including in bio- surveillance, metagenomics, the microbiome, infectious diseases and global pathogen surveillance.

Microsoft is currently undertaking its Immunomics project with Adaptive Biotechnologies – the aim being to learn the T-cell antigen map and unlock what is that T-cells know. This understanding could hopefully lead to the creation of a blood test which can read an immune system and detect diseases at their earliest stages.

Technologies such as AI and machine learning could be applied to forecast the spread of a disease. 

Empowering care teams in patient treatment

AI triage bots/intelligent clinician assistants are being developed by some in the industry to supply personal insights for dynamic patient care plans. These intelligent medical assistants listen to doctor-patient conversations and capture the relevant medical data to make care suggestions for the physician to consider.

Mixed reality methods can be used to support surgeons with remote training. This could be revolutionary for guiding those working in remote areas or countries of a lower income.


These intelligent technologies have the potential to upgrade how healthcare institutions operate and streamline business models. AI technology can automate any call of a repetitive nature, for example booking a GP appointment. Machine learning can examine hundreds of criteria related to sales performance to predict outcomes and facilitate data led decision making.

Klavs Esbjerg, CEO and Founder of Epista Life Science looked at the validation and qualification of technologies to ensure that pharma’s strong focus on compliance doesn’t block the industry from digital benefits.