Merck, Accenture team with Amazon to develop a research platform for early-stage drug development

By Melissa Fassbender contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Rick_Jo)
(Image: Getty/Rick_Jo)

Related tags: Merck, Accenture, Drug discovery, Drug development, Research, Research and development

The platform will be designed to help life sciences organizations improve productivity, efficiency, and innovation in early stage drug development, says Accenture executive.

Accenture and Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada) are collaborating with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to launch a cloud-based informatics research platform.

“Ultimately, we are trying to help our customers use technology to improve productivity, efficiency, and innovation in drug discovery in research,”​ Brad Michel, managing director of Accenture Scientific Informatics Services told

Michel said the platform will enable pharma to deploy solutions that help researchers generate, aggregate, manage, and analyze data to advance drug discovery. It will provide researchers with access to third party software, content, and services providers through an AWS-hosted environment managed by Accenture.

Additionally, Michel said it will make it easier for researchers to benefit from new technologies and innovation, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

“For years, pharmaceutical companies have been faced with challenges related to legacy IT systems and disparate approaches to data management, and barriers in the implementation of innovative, new solutions as a result,”​ he explained.

“At the same time, recent scientific innovation and advances have led to an explosion of available data and new data types within the scientific research process, and have struggled to onboard new technologies that could fully function within the legacy environment,”​ Michel added.

Accelerating drug discovery and development

According to Michel, Accenture and Merck saw an opportunity to accelerate the discovery and development of new drugs via research computing and informatics.

The companies are taking lead from successes in other industries and leveraging industry-standard application programming interfaces (APIs).

“By creating a common underlying cloud-based platform, we can free up resources to focus on new breakthrough innovations,”​ said Michel, such as AI solutions, “that can take advantage of the platform architecture and data contained within.”

Due to the open standards, third-party providers will have a lower barrier to entry, he explained, which will make it easier for new software players to introduce technology – and for established ones to advance new capabilities.

“This will create a two-sided market for the technology providers and pharma and biotech users of the solution, establishing an ecosystem for the delivery of innovative solutions that can be accessed and implemented quickly,”​ said Michel, noting that the open nature of the platform is critical to enabling this.

Accenture also is forming a pre-competitive coalition to further advance the platform’s capabilities.

“The coalition model will allow pharma and biotech companies to collaborate on the development of the platform and share in technology investments, allowing them to focus their time and energy on what really matters: their science and developing better drugs that lead to better outcomes for patients,”​ said Michel. 

“The end result will be a better, more advanced solution than any one company could create on their own.”

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