Case For The Cloud: Balancing Robust Cybersecurity With Efficient Data Sharing

October 2, 2019

Contributed Commentary by Tess Mcarthy & Brian Stewart

October 2, 2019 | Few months go by without a high-profile cybersecurity breach at a pharmaceutical or biotech company hitting the headlines. According to consulting firm Deloitte, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector is the number one target for intellectual property (IP) theft by cybercriminals. Such attacks are costly, from fines imposed by regulatory bodies to jeopardizing years of R&D investment if proprietary information falls into the wrong hands.

However, it’s not just company profits that are affected by poor data security. As the volume of patient information from clinical trials increases and personalized therapies gain traction, concerns have been raised that cybersecurity lapses will put patient privacy and safety in jeopardy, and potentially slow the development of much-needed next-generation treatments. As a result, data security has moved up the agenda for many of the most forward-thinking companies in the sector.

With the volume of information generated during the development of pharmaceutical and biotechnology products increasing at a remarkable pace, many businesses are now investing in robust data management platforms to minimize the risks posed by cybercrime. However, with outsourcing to contract research organizations (CROs) and partnerships with academic institutions becoming increasingly important in modern drug discovery and development, these solutions must ensure that data security doesn’t compromise efficient working with colleagues and collaborators.

Extensible Cloud-Based Platforms

To balance robust cybersecurity with the need to ensure information can be easily shared and accessed by external partners, growing numbers of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are choosing to manage and control their data using cloud-based informatics platforms. These extensible solutions allow organizations to expand their capabilities and incorporate features such as laboratory information management systems (LIMS), scientific data management systems (SDMS), and electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) as their business and research needs evolve.

Cloud-based informatics platforms also offer flexibility in terms of the way they are deployed. Some of the most versatile solutions available now allow businesses to either install their platform on their own data center or use secure cloud-hosting platforms managed by in-house IT personnel or third-party technical teams. Such flexibility allows businesses to benefit from the latest secure data management and vital research tools, while making the most efficient use of their resources.

This is particularly important as poorly-maintained servers and out of date security software are major factors in a large number of cybersecurity breaches. However, regularly updating infrastructure can be a costly and time-intensive task for in-house IT teams, especially for smaller businesses with limited resources. Given these concerns, third-party cloud-hosting platforms are proving to be an increasingly convenient and cost-effective option for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies seeking the highest standards of data security. Using flexible, cloud-based informatics platforms that are continually maintained by third-party suppliers, businesses can extend their operations and benefit from the most advanced security technologies available, while all relevant updates are managed on their behalf.

Seamless Data-Sharing With Robust Cybersecurity

Collaboration plays an increasingly important role in the drug discovery and development landscape. Yet successful outcomes depend on strong teamwork and the seamless exchange of knowledge and expertise. Here, cloud-based platforms are helping to accelerate research and commercial success, allowing organizations to share data freely but securely between approved individuals.

Cloud-based platforms provide an effective solution for secure data sharing as they bring an organization’s information into a centralized repository. Authorized users are able to access this single point of reference through secure gateways, avoiding many of the challenges associated with the use of separate spreadsheets and databases, which can fall out of sync and are more vulnerable to manual data transcription errors. Furthermore, as all data generated by instruments and monitoring equipment is recorded to a platform directly, this allows faster decisions to be made based on real-time insight.

It almost goes without saying that traceability and transparency are extremely important when collaborating with other organizations. Thanks to centralized data management, cloud-based platforms make it much easier to generate a detailed audit trail of events. By automatically recording all interactions with a system and linking these to individual password-protected user accounts, modern platforms are able to provide a comprehensive yet easily searchable record of events, supporting full accountability of actions.

The growing threat from cybercrime has led many pharmaceutical and biotechnology organizations to reassess the tools they use to control their IP and patient information. Cloud-based informatics platforms provide a flexible and effective solution to the challenge of data management, helping businesses balance efficient data sharing and seamless collaboration with the need for the highest standards of data security.

Tess McCarthy is the Senior Manager of the Cybersecurity Resilience & Culture team at Thermo Fisher Scientific, where her primary focus is to establish a culture of security-minded professionals to protect the company’s digital assets and earn customer’s trust through repeatable, scalable, and operationalized security awareness services and capabilities. Tess can be reached at

Brian Stewart is the Senior Director of Software Engineering of Thermo Fisher Scientific's Digital Science business unit where he and his team are building industry leading laboratory management systems and platforms. Prior to Thermo Fisher, Brian was a Senior Director of Software Engineering at Oracle where he led teams who built a wide variety of SaaS and on-premise based Oracle technology and enterprise software solutions. Brian can be reached at