Integrated Knowledge Management; Make Your Life Sciences Company More Competitive - Part 1

This post is part one in a series that will examine how implementing a corporate knowledge production system will drive organizational efficiency, reduce development time and increase competitiveness at life sciences companies.

What do life sciences companies really sell?

Life sciences companies are complex businesses that often serve multiple “customers” that include corporate collaborators, regulators and patients.  Most often, the first product that a life sciences company “sells” is to corporate partners and regulators, not patients.  This product is not a drug, but rather the company’s unique knowledge about a disease pathway, therapeutic target or new molecular entity.  Therefore, long before a life sciences company is seeking approval to sell a new therapeutic product, it must first create and “sell” its knowledge products.  In this context, a knowledge product is defined as corporate content that provides differentiated insight and enables an action that advances a business initiative.  Examples of life sciences knowledge products include regulatory submissions, patents, study reports, corporate presentations, project charters, scientific publications etc.  The creation of differentiated and valuable knowledge products is what enables companies to attract partners, scale capital and advance research and development (R&D) programs.  In addition, knowledge products are assets that don’t walk out the door at the end of the day and consequently, in aggregate, form a corporate brain that never forgets a company’s most important learnings.

Reducing time to key milestones

In most life sciences companies, corporate knowledge is produced through an iterative combination of experimentation and non-experimental analytic activities.  It’s well known that life sciences R&D is complex, long and capital intensive.   As a result, companies are always searching for strategies that shorten the time required to achieve research milestones and bring therapeutic products to market faster.  Unfortunately, the timelines dictated by experimental activities are largely immutable.  Cells only grow so fast, animal models require certain timeframes to demonstrate effect and clinical trials are conducted with treatment and follow-up periods that are prospectively defined, often spanning more than a year.  For these reasons, the opportunity to compress timelines that result from in vitro, in vivo and clinical trial experimentation is quite limited. 

However, a significant percentage of the R&D cycle is not consumed by experimentation, but rather by the process of identifying, obtaining and analyzing critical information resources required to fill knowledge gaps.  Highly skilled employees synthesize key findings from internally generated data and externally acquired information to produce unique insights that contribute to the creation of knowledge products.  The opportunity to compress timelines associated with the non-experimentation component of knowledge production is quite large and could shave years off the overall cycle. 

Signs your knowledge production strategy needs improvement

Given the opportunity to increase corporate value and decrease time required to achieve key milestones, one would think that all life sciences companies have finely tuned knowledge production strategies.  However, when asked the simple question “What is your knowledge production strategy and how does it align to business objectives?” the answer we most often hear is “we don’t have one.” 

In the absence of strategy, and technology to implement a solution, an ad hoc approach to corporate knowledge production develops organically.  Individuals and departments piece together workflows and tools that aren’t designed for the task, don’t scale to modern life sciences information loads and aren’t networked across the organization.  As critical data and information accumulates over time, it becomes harder to efficiently find and use corporate resources that are critical to deriving unique insights about a disease, target or molecule.  As a result, information silos develop, collaboration slows and corporate knowledge can be lost through employee turnover.  The largest downside, however, is the missed opportunity to work faster when creating the very corporate knowledge that can be monetized to move a business forward.

Life sciences companies that aren’t managing their knowledge production and integrating resources across their organization often experience:

  • Long delays when preparing documents needed to advance discussions with regulators, partners or investors
  • Difficulty finding and using existing corporate resources that advance workflows
  • Inability to effectively use external resources to fill knowledge gaps
  • Poor utilization of purchased resources
  • Ineffective collaboration with colleagues and partners
  • Failure to differentiate scientific insights from competitors

The problem will only get worse

It may be tempting for decision makers to ignore the signs of an underperforming knowledge production and management system while kicking the can down the road.  However, we are in a golden age of industry wide data and information generation, so the opportunity has never been better to derive unique insights about diseases, targets and molecules.  Modern instrumentation and improved reagents are enabling scientists to pump out data (figure 1) and publications (figure 2) at an unprecedented rate that shows no signs of slowing.  Delaying the decision to pursue a knowledge production and management system today will not only ensure a heavier lift is required in the future, but it will also create a period of time when an asymmetric information edge has been ceded to competitors.

Figure 1

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Source: Su et al., Nature, Catalytic Data Science

Figure 2

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Source: NIH, NLM and Catalytic Data

Strong knowledge production and management strategies create competitive advantage

Some senior leadership teams fundamentally understand that they are in the business of creating and selling knowledge products well before they ultimately sell therapeutic products.  These companies intentionally engineer a knowledge production and management strategy that creates a competitive advantage by accelerating knowledge creation, reducing time required to find, access and use key resources, expediting analysis, streamlining sense-making and driving collaborative sharing.  Investing time and capital to build a world-class knowledge production system will maximize the probability of creating differentiated insights and generate R&D ROIs that far outpace competitors.  Given the significant amount of capital spent generating internal data and acquiring external resources to fill gaps, its irresponsible not to maximize the value of those allocations by building an integrated corporate knowledge management system that scales across an organization. 

Next up

In coming posts, we will continue to write in detail about the knowledge production frameworks, knowledge production environments and technology implementations that will enable life sciences companies to deploy a world-class system that decreases the time to reaching milestones on the way to commercialization.  Part 2 of this series discusses the benefits of great information architecture and how it drives organizational efficiency in life sciences companies.  By more efficiently using both internally generated knowledge, and publicly available resources, companies can significantly accelerate R&D cycles bringing products to market faster.  

If you would like to learn more about Catalytic and how we are helping life sciences companies be more successful in driving competitive advantage, please contact us here or request a demo of the Catalytic platform.

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