Top Stories of 2020: Pharma’s Digital Plan, Data Commons, AI and Quantum Computing. And COVID-19

December 29, 2020

December 29, 2020 | In a year that defied all expectations, COVID-19 stories were—understandably—our most watched coverage. We began posting weekly literature roundups on Fridays early in the pandemic and those roundups alone are a fascinating capsule of our growing understanding of the biology of the virus and the best ways to treat it.

But while much of the biotech and life sciences fields shifted to focus energy and efforts into understanding SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, these weren’t the year’s only developments. Bio-IT World also covered growing data commons efforts, announced our annual Innovative Practices Award winners, looked at how Big Pharma is doing data science, and much more. —The Editors

Pharma Companies Poised To Go Digital, Starting With Field Reps: Topping the COVID-19 stories that went beyond our weekly summaries of the literature, Deb Borfitz looked at how pharma planned to manage the total shift caused by COVID-19 lockdowns. The pandemic served as the catalyst to shift pharma into a digital mindset, starting with field reps.

Building A Commons: How Bristol-Myers Squibb And BioTeam Used Gen3 To Build A New Data Paradigm: Bristol-Myers Squibb wanted to improve the culture of data sharing at BMS and apply FAIR principles to the company data, and they need a new framework. Enlisting the help of consultancy BioTeam and the Gen3 platform for building data commons, BMS launched the BMS Genomics Data Hub. 

Bio-IT World Announces 2020 Innovative Practices Award Winners: Although the Bio-IT World Conference and Expo didn’t happen as planned in April—instead we hosted a wonderful virtual even in October—we still named the 2020 Innovative Practices Awards winners this summer. Winners included Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pistoia Alliance, Mission: Cure, Roche, Eli Lilly, and Massachusetts General Hospital. 

AbbVie’s Fresh Look At How AI And Quantum Computing Will Transform Biotech: In an exclusive Q&A with Brian Martin, head of artificial intelligence and senior principal data scientist within AbbVie's R&D Information Research group, Bio-IT World conference content producer Bridget Kotelly discussed the biggest AI challenges for pharma and how AbbVie is approaching quantum computing. 

Keeping It Real: Challenges And Benefits Of Integrating AI And Machine Learning Into Pharma R&D: In a contributed commentary, Tom O’Leary from ICON delves into the areas most ripe for AI adoption in pharma and the barriers to adoption. Among the challenges: data governance issues, transparent algorithms, and hiring the right data science professionals. 

10x Genomics: Culture of Collaboration And A New Product Engine: In our last in-person interview of 2020, Ben Hindson, co-founder and CSO of 10x Genomics, outlined the company’s vision and direction, gave a tour of the new offices, and cast a vision for a single-cell future.

PacBio’s Focus on Human Genomics And Read Length Sweet Spot: Among the many things that changed dramatically at the beginning of 2020: Illumina and PacBio’s merger was called off in January. But when we spoke with PacBio about six months later, the dust had settled, and the sequencing company was aggressively pursuing its Sequel II platform and HiFi reads. On the roadmap for PacBio’s 2020: one human genome, on one SMRT cell, in one day.

Virtual Twins: Their Roles In Healthcare, Drug Discovery, And Pandemic Response: Dassault Systemes created its first virtual twin—a model of Boeing 777—in 1989. The Living Heart Model may be their most widely-acclaimed biological model, but the company isn’t stopping there. Now the company is applying that modeling expertise to everything from the human body to populations as a whole to our healthcare system. 

Bryn Roberts: Reflections on Pharma’s Scientific Computing Journey: In one of his monthly Trends from the Trenches column, BioTeam co-founder Stan Gloss chatted with Bryn Roberts about pharma’s scientific computing growth. Interoperability has been a goal for decades, Roberts said, but the future requires that we shift our thinking to data citizenship, managing our renewable, sharable data resources.