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A Life Sciences Strategy


John Russell

January 20, 2010 | The Russell Transcript
| Long known for its scientific software delivery expertise and technical staffing capability, Tessella now dedicates 100 consultants (30% of its business) to life sciences. The challenge is to shift industry’s perception of Tessella from one of mostly technical problem-solving to one that encompasses broader strategy and business development. According to Andrew Chadwick, principal consultant in life sciences, Tessella Support Services, Tessella is moving toward understanding the barriers and problems that clients and the industry as a whole share and “trying to see how we can use what we have learned to help solve these problems and genuinely to innovate.”

Chadwick acknowledges that Tessella is not widely recognized within big pharma as a full-service consulting group. “We want to move toward that through identifying and exploiting particular niche areas where it’s hard for the larger consultancies to deliver people who are both expert in the science and up-to-date with what’s going on in some of the fast-moving areas whether it be translational medicine or rich image and rich data analysis,” says Chadwick.

Core Strengths

Setting aside core competencies in IT infrastructure and scientific software, Tessella has developed many domain strengths such as in clinical trial technology and management, medicinal chemistry and compound screening, and statistical analysis. Working at the cutting edge of such disciplines has not only honed Tessella’s technical prowess but also sharpened its ability to recognize game-changing technology trends.

For example, “We see translational medicine as a sea change in the way that both discovery and early clinical work are done. We have a lot of experience in the design of clinical trials and also have been doing consulting on the logistical elements of clinical trials,” says Chadwick. Tessella has begun digging deeply into adaptive trials, through simulating designs including use of predictive or prognostic biomarkers (see, “Boosting Adaptive Clinical Trials,” Bio•IT World, Jul 2009). “It’s not only that we can deal with recycling information from early recruits to help allocate patients to trial arms but also we can offer to make the best of information which comes in from early measurements, well ahead of the formal end point which goes into the statistical analysis,” he says.

Tessella has developed a product to assist adaptive trial management called EDC Lite, which acts as an adjunct to the formal clinical data capture system, helping clients obtain critical results from patients to guide the model of likely progression. “We can’t afford to wait until all of the data has been formally cleaned up. Adaptive trial approaches require working in a much more proactive way which makes the best of the data as it comes in.”

Rich data analysis is another core Tessella strength and not surprisingly the company has put it to use in imaging analysis. It’s also an example of cross-industry fertilization. Lessons learned from Tessella teams working on radar analysis have been applied to data filtering in pharma. “We are helping AstraZeneca in a number of discovery areas to look at automating the measurement of tissue damage or drug response through fine-tuning the imaging data,” says Chadwick. “That’s basically working out what weighting you put on the different parameters you measure in order to find the best possible classifier.”

Past reliance on human interpretation of images is being steadily replaced by greater acceptance of IT algorithms as often being more accurate, says Chadwick. Last year, Tessella struck a deal with Definiens. “They have a very nice package and we help them apply it onsite, advise them using our experience in the scientific problem areas.” Chadwick emphasizes Tessella’s expertise in handling rich data format problems extends far beyond imaging. Solving these specific technical problems is challenging, says Chadwick, but integrating new technologies and changing behavior among the diverse stake-holders inside a pharma company is often more demanding.

With more than 50 percent of its personnel having Ph.Ds, Chadwick contends Tessella is well-prepared to help clients understand larger technology strategy and organizational issues. The combination of cross-industry experience and technical expertise gives Tessella the right set of tools and perspectives to help clients solve broader technology strategy and implementation challenges.

 


This article also appeared in the January-February 2010 issue of Bio-IT World Magazine.
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