Digital transformation at GlaxoSmithKline: analytics, AI and blockchain

Healthcare is one of the prime sectors impacted by digital technologies. Modern trends like data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain can enable digital transformation across multiple verticals in healthcare sector including patient care, clinical trials, pharma, insurance and more.

GSK HQ: photo by

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a leading pharma business, is one of the companies leveraging digital technologies exhaustively to accelerate speed-to-market, improve products and enhance customer experience.

For long, GSK has been leveraging big data to improve drug discovery and shorten development time. To bolster its data-centric strategies, GSK appointed Mark Ramsey as its first chief data officer in 2015.

The data flow barriers caused by data silos were the biggest challenge, Ramsey said, as it would prevent the company from pursuing its digital transformation goals, be it through artificial intelligence, machine learning or deep learning,

GSK built its analytics platform on Cloudera Hadoop, but the stack also includes Kafka and Spark, along with an array of technologies from multiple vendors.  StreamSets, a Cloudera partner, provides data ingestion technology while Tamr provides machine learning data curation. GSK also uses AtScale virtualization technology and Zoomdata for data visualization.

Recently GSK integrated Cloudera’s analytics technology with GSK R&D Information Platform. After implementation, the company reduced the time taken to assemble and analyze data from across multiple clinical trials from several months to a few minutes.

With greater efficiency and faster processing across R&D, GSK expects to improve time to market, bringing new drugs and vaccines to market more quickly and less expensively to help patients, company officials said.

“We’re able to harness the insights across various clinical trials that give us a different perspective on the overall equation of a single therapeutic area or multiple therapeutic areas. What this does for us is help make the lives of our patients better, leading to different kind of avenues of discovering medicine,” said Ranjith Raghunath, director, Big Data Solutions, GSK.

As part of the company’s ongoing strategy to improve drug discovery and speed to market, in July, GSK appointed computational drug design expert Dr. Kim Branson as the company’s global head of artificial intelligence and machine learning. In his new role, Branson will oversee projects which use AI to identify novel targets for potential medicines.

Further, GSK also joined IBM and others to form a blockchain network aimed at improving supply chain management.

The new blockchain network called Trust Your Supplier is built by Chainyard, a blockchain specialist firm, using IBM’s blockchain platform.

Supply chain management is one of the promising areas benefitted by blockchain technology. By using a decentralized approach and an immutable audit trail built on blockchain, the network would eliminate manual time consuming processes and help reduce the risk of fraud and errors, the company said.

Marie Wieck, general manager for IBM Blockchain, said blockchain-based supply chain process could enable 70 to 80 percent reduction in the time taken to get new suppliers on board and 50 percent reduction in administrative costs.

Commenting on the company’s pursuit of leveraging modern technologies GSK CEO Emma Walmsley said to Bloomberg, “The most impactful way any company will change its performance is making the timelines shorter, the costs lower and the probability of success higher.”

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