GSK accelerates data analytics for clinical trials

CDO Mark Ramsey is helping the pharmaceutical giant turn decades of data into a drug-discovery asset, thanks to a homegrown big data analytics platform that processes petabytes.

GSK accelerates data analytics for clinical trials
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GlaxoSmithKline is dreaming big with its big data. By tapping decades’ worth of clinical trial data, the pharmaceutical giant aims to deliver drugs to market more quickly. If it succeeds, it could seize an advantage in an industry oft-maligned for its plodding pace.

That's the chief goal and challenge for GSK Chief Data Officer (CDO) Mark Ramsey, who admits that GSK a laggard within a lagging industry in its approach to leveraging data. GSK hired Ramsey in 2015 to turn that trend around. "Pharmaceuticals, in contrast to financial services, telecommunications or retail, has not progressed in using data as strategic asset," says Ramsey, who joined GSK after a stint as Samsung Mobile CDO and several data analytics roles during his 18 years at IBM. "Our No. 1 goals is how to execute clinical trials more efficiently and effectively to accelerate drug discovery."

Big Pharma is not alone in letting potentially rich data lie fallow in vast siloes. Companies are looking for leaders to help unlock advantages and operational efficiencies from these troves, as 90 percent of large companies are expected to have a CDO by the end of 2019, according to Gartner. By 2020, 50 percent of leading organizations will have a CDO with similar levels of strategy influence and authority as their CIO, according to Gartner analyst Doug Laney. CDOs can establish a leadership role by aligning their priorities with those of their organization. That’s what Ramsey is working toward.

Following is a look at Ramsey’s efforts to overhaul GSK’s data strategy.

Laying the data foundation

Pharmaceutical companies, many of which are decades or even centuries old, collect and store vast troves of data from their clinical trials. However, most simply sock the data away in various repositories, which accumulate more information with each clinical trial. GSK, which is more than 300 years old, maintains petabytes of such data in more than 2,100 siloes, many of which can potentially be mined for pharmaceutical insights, says Ramsey.

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