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Pharmaceutical companies usually recruit people in the biotechnology and biochemistry industries, and also recruits from large marketing concerns on occasion. It is seldom that these companies would hire from information technology (IT) giants.

The Tide is Turning

Times have changed, as firms like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson & Johnson, along with other big pharmaceutical companies, are now aggressively recruiting from IT companies like Microsoft Corporation, its subsidiary LinkedIn, and Alphabet’s Google, Inc.

This operating procedure has since seen some change as most of the recruits from large IT companies are on the front lines of research and development.

The bold move stems from the idea of using these IT experts’ technological knowhow and applying them to the way pharmaceutical firms run their business. This is a massive innovation effort with far-reaching goals. Part of the innovation is to modernize the way pharmaceutical firms collect and use data. Another important task is to innovate and streamline various processes.

It All Boils Down to Data

One of the biggest innovations former IT employees can bring to pharmaceutical firms is the use of data. Pharma uses data in drug testing, choosing candidates, as well as keeping track of control against experimental data.

Data collection is a big endeavor. It usually reaches beyond borders, and is necessary in seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Even before conducting the tests, the search for human candidates for clinical trials can make use of the IT expertise in big data.

Healthcare choices in futuristic graphic

Using big data methods, programmers are developing machine learning tools in order to sort through and sift raw data already gathered by pharma companies. This could lead to new processes which can help in making testing and approval a faster process. One example is the use of standard clinical trial data previously collected for other prior tests. In some instances, the control data can come be the same control data used for earlier drug tests. Although this sounds logical, it still requires FDA approval before using the old data.

Machine Learning in Pharma

Machine learning is a big trend in IT companies at the moment. Pharma firms can use this method to mine and analyze their existing big data. This could potentially lead to new information that they did not realize before. One other IT initiative is recruiting candidates for clinical trials; using apps and other mobile technologies is feasible for this purpose. While traditional recruitment methods used flyers, newspaper ads, and radio announcements, mobile tech allows access to more possible candidates. This wider reach and bigger candidate base allows better candidate selection.

Although pharmaceutical firms have big budgets for IT-related services, these are typically for backend administrative tasks. IT personnel are usually not included in drug testing procedures. In the same manner, they are usually not comfortable being included in mainstream pharmaceutical research and development. Admin, researchers, and recruiters, as well as IT personnel themselves, agree to the exclusion of IT personnel because they have no clinical background.

This operating procedure has since seen some change as most of the recruits from large IT companies are on the front lines of research and development. It is not that pharma is becoming more IT; instead, it gives opportunities for a fresh approach to use IT personnel in pharmaceutical studies.