Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What are the top three benefits of cloud computing for clinical trials?

We recently had a chance to sit down with Partnerships in Medical Device Clinical Trials partner company Clinovo to discuss some of the benefits of cloud computing for clinical trials.  Over the next few weeks, we'll examine our interview with Marc Desgrousilliers, the Chief Technology Officer of Clinovo.

Today, he answers the question:
In your opinion, what are the top three benefits of cloud computing for clinical trials?

Marc: The first one is self-service which is essentially the removal of IT dependency. IT can sometimes be slow to respond to new business requirements seeing that they spend 70% of their budget in maintaining current systems and applications. In addition, contracting professional IT services is very expensive. In the Cloud, clinical trial professionals are able to run their own studies without any IT intervention, nor high upfront investment. They are completely independent of IT to in conducting their own clinical studies.

The next benefit is pay-as-you-go. Today, the EDC vendor, or whoever is providing hosting services, charges you for development, customization, and study build. When the EDC system goes live, it is often the case that there aren’t any subjects yet enrolled in the study. A sponsor could be paying thousands of dollars per month while subjects are slowly being enrolled. With the Cloud, sponsors pay for what they use when they use it. If you don’t have any subjects enrolled yet, you don’t pay. I believe this will go a very long way to cutting R&D costs.

The third advantage is elasticity because with the cloud you aren’t required to keep buying and deploying your hardware and resources for every clinical trial. The cost of managing this hardware is very expensive and so the question is, what happens to this hardware when the trial is done? You probably want to re-purpose this hardware, but by the time your clinical study is over, technology will have evolved: CPUs are faster, the discs are denser and the networks are faster. When the clinical trial is over, you are either stuck with this dated equipment, or forced to purchase expensive new hardware for your new clinical trials.

If you compare this to the cloud approach, the first major difference is that you don’t need to buy the hardware. This is a huge benefit, especially for start-ups because there is no need for high capital expenditure. Also, you aren’t required to purchase extra resources for your increased demand. If you do need to add additional computing resources, the Cloud infrastructure will automatically allocate said resources. When demand shrinks, resources are automatically deallocated.

This is similar to managing a corporate car fleet. Suppose your company has five employees each working in five different territories and it gives a car to each of them to cover said territory. The company has the choice to either buy the cars, or rent them. Renting the cars is very similar to the Cloud approach. For example, if your company grows to 50 sales reps, a rental company can automatically increase the number of cars you need, you don’t have to buy 50 more cars. Also, if for some reason your sales force shrinks to 20, you can simply release those cars. Elasticity is key in order to grow and shrink the computing resources as demand requires.

You can download the audio and PDF to Marc's entire interview here.

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