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Benchling launches its inaugural 2023 State of Tech in Biopharma report. The report surveyed 300 R&D and IT experts from biopharma companies large and small to do a first-ever investigation into biopharma’s use of an enabling tech stack — consisting of robotics and automation, connected instruments, R&D data platforms, cloud-based scientific applications, and AI and ML. The report sheds light on the obstacles that biopharma encounter when striving to fully implement and embrace these technologies.
The report finds that the biopharma industry is widely adopting enabling tech, with R&D data platforms the most widely adopted (at 70%), followed by robotics and automation platforms (63%), AI and ML (59%). However, the adoption of SaaS software is lagging, with only 18% of respondents using it for the majority of their R&D and IT work.
This high tech adoption has also corresponded with a complex tech environment in labs — with 53% of scientists using 5+ unique scientific software applications each day, and 40% of IT at large companies supporting more than 20 applications. 84% are using some custom-built software, indicating a holdover of legacy systems. In addition, 41% of scientists find collaborating with and across teams a challenge, and 38% are needing to collaborate with 20 or more people in their day-to-day work.
With such complexity, FAIR data principles are still out of reach - with limited progress in achieving organisation-wide data interoperability (I) at 28%, and data reusability (R) at 30%.
The report also reveals that the two biggest barriers to adopting enabling tech and being able to work with it effectively is a lack of skilled talent, and science-specific solutions. This shows a clear call to action for the industry to invest in attracting the right talent to work with emerging technologies, and those who have a strong desire to build new, fit-for-purpose scientific software that can delight scientists and free up IT teams.
Benchling’s research reveals companies also need to take a logical step of fostering stronger alignment between their R&D and IT organisations — including rationalising divergent tech priorities and having an honest dialogue on the real barriers to adoption, such as organisational culture and change management. In the coming years, the importance of scientific data and AI will only grow, putting additional pressure on biopharma to abandon legacy tech and build a stronger digital foundation.
“We're witnessing a remarkable era in biopharma, where groundbreaking therapies and technological innovations are reshaping disease prevention and treatment. Enabling tech is helping companies bring the power of automation, cloud, and AI to bear on problems of speed, quality, success, and scalability in biopharma” said Bob Burke, EMEA General Manager at Benchling. “Our report highlights the hurdles that must be surmounted to accelerate scientific progress. In the years ahead, scientific data and AI will gain even greater significance, intensifying the need for biopharma to shed legacy tech and fortify its digital foundation. Companies capable of attracting top talent, fostering alignment between R&D and IT, and swiftly adopting new technologies, the right technologies which are built for this new era of biology, are poised to become the most influential players in biopharma, driving success for generations to come”.
"To propel the UK toward its science superpower vision, it is imperative that we attract more technical talent to the life sciences industry, upskill and train existing employees, and prioritise user-friendly and built-for-biology SaaS and tech tools.” said Bob Burke, EMEA General Manager at Benchling. “Talent is here and the roots are here but we need to do a better job of connecting the dots between tech innovation and the opportunity in life sciences.”