I am a strong advocate of using the Cloud Computing in scientific research. Even though my emphasis was on academia, I have also written about how Biotech and Pharma companies are taking advantage of the Clouds in their operations. The security and privacy questions are still lingering in the minds of these companies but they are slowly warming up to the idea of tapping into the Clouds. Part of it is economics but a major factor is the speed of deployment.
Chemical and Engineering News has a cover story on how traditionally conservative drug companies are embracing the Cloud Computing to their advantage. One of the highlights of the story is how Cloud Computing saves lot of time for these companies benefiting their research in dramatic ways. Even if we take economics out of the Cloud Computing for enterprises, the time savings itself is a huge advantage. It not only saves tons of money for these companies, it also helps them reach the markets faster beating out other players in the competitive marketplace.
In this post, I am going to highlight two interesting titbits that highlights the role played by Cloud Computing in biotech and pharma research. Such advantages are not just unique to biotech industries alone and other industries can also benefit in similar ways. The first is the story about Eli Lily’s use of Clouds.
And Lilly has demonstrated the viability of cloud computing in
pharmaceutical R&D, according to Dave Powers, the firm’s associate
information consultant for discovery IT. “We were recently able to
launch a 64-machine cluster computer working on bioinformatics sequence
information, complete the work, and shut it down in 20 minutes,” he
says, describing a project the firm executed using Amazon’s Elastic
Compute Cloud (EC2) service. “It cost $6.40. To do that internally—to
go from nothing to getting a 64-machine cluster installed and
qualified—is a 12-week process.”
The second example comes from Pfizer and their Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation center used Amazon Web Services to model antibody docking.
“We use the cloud to shorten the process to two to three hours from two
to three days,” Day says. “One run costs us $300, which is a small
price to pay for the time savings it generates. But what really
interests me is that it changes the way we do our science. Using the
cloud lets us work in a more iterative way and keep the momentum of the
research project going.”
In fact, apart from the cost and time sharing, the use of Clouds helps drug companies share data and other research related information with other companies (partners and competitors). I am sure the pace of Science in these companies will accelerate further as they embrace Cloud Computing more deeply in the future.