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Microsoft Announces Digital Pharma Initiative

(03/15/05)—Today Microsoft announced its Digital Pharma initiative, an effort that provides a technology framework that life science companies can use to become more efficient and improve business operations.

“Microsoft’s Digital Pharma initiative is a result of our belief that there is opportunity to enhance business capabilities through technology and to provide much-needed tools to the market to achieve this,” said Steve Shihadeh, general manager, Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences.

The announcement, made today at the Pharmaceutical Technology Congress being held this week in Philadelphia, is part of a broad Microsoft strategy over the last few years that has focused on how to bring vertical solutions to market.

With the Digital Pharma initiative, Microsoft intends to provide hardware vendors, software developers, and systems integrator partners with a framework that they, in turn, can use to deliver life science-specific solutions to the pharmaceutical industry.

At the heart of the initiative is Microsoft’s belief that all aspects of a pharmaceutical company’s operations are being driven by two industry imperatives: speed to insight and value for cost. Microsoft defines “speed to insight” as the ability to connect disparate resources and data more efficiently to drive new and faster insights to speed decision making. And it defines “value for cost” as the ability to extract more value for the same or less cost and the ability to realize disproportionate return from incremental investment.

Microsoft contends that pharmaceutical drug discovery, drug development, supply chain and manufacturing, and marketing and sales operations all are trying to deal with these two imperatives. “Given these imperatives and [such things] as sparse pipelines, industry restructuring, and government regulations, we’re offering a hierarchical framework that enables pharmaceutical companies to address these challenges,” says Jason Burke, industry strategist, Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences.

Foundation Building Blocks
A key to the Digital Pharma initiative is getting partners involved. “Microsoft is a platform company with enabling technology,” says Paul Mattes, enterprise sales and industry strategist, Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences. “You will not see [a product called] Microsoft Clinical, but a partner may deliver [such a] solution based on Microsoft technology.”

To that end, Microsoft’s emphasis is on the architecture that partners can leverage to build solutions. Namely, it notes that partners will offer life science solutions that use a variety of technologies, including Microsoft’s .NET Framework, XML, and Web services.

Specifically, Mattes points out that partners will deliver pharmaceutical solutions using Web services, mobile devices, and collaborative tools and applications such as InfoPath Live Meeting and SharePoint Portal Server. Other Microsoft technologies that will also come into play include use of the company’s directory services, network and systems management, search and query, and security tools and services.

A substantial number of partners already develop or support solutions based on the Digital Pharma initiative. Those companies, also announced today, include Accenture, Covansys, DataLabs, HP, Immedient, Intel, Manhattan Associates, Meridio, Merit, Motion Computing, OnSphere, OSIsoft, OutlookSoft, ProClarity, Project Assistants, Proscape Technologies, Qumas, Siebel, and Tectura.

These partners will tap Microsoft technologies to develop solutions that enhance productivity, connect disparate information sources, and streamline information flow, according to Mattes. For example, to illustrate the potential benefits of the Digital Pharma initiative, Microsoft points to a solution, conceptualized by the consultancy Accenture, called Closed Loop Promotion (CLP).

The CLP solution is aimed at pharmaceutical sales reps in the field. The idea behind CLP was to improve the interaction between the sales rep and the physician. The solution, which involves products from Proscape and Siebel, is based on a pen-based, touch-screen tablet computer that uses the Microsoft Windows XP Tablet operating system to share information. Accenture claims that it leverages the Microsoft platform for collaboration and the rapid exchange of information to improve the way customer data and product information is delivered to sales reps in the field.

This is just one example; Microsoft promises there are more to come. In fact, Microsoft believes sales and marketing and drug development will be the first areas partners will focus on with respect to this Digital Pharma initiative. Other areas of interest include manufacturing, integration of radio frequency identification (RFID), high-performance computing, and standards and architecture development.

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