Novartis is a global Fortune 500 company, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, and a leader in the life sciences industry. Novartis produces innovative medicines and generics to improve and extend people’s lives. 

On the latest episode of our Rise of the Data Cloud podcast, we were joined by the head of Novartis’ Business Analytics Center of Excellence, Loic Giraud, who described how the company uses science and data to accelerate drug development in a rapidly changing industry.

In its quest to reimagine medicine, Novartis ranks among the world’s top companies investing in research and development. Its portfolio includes pharmaceuticals, gene therapies, and innovative treatments for fighting cancer, which together reach nearly 800 million patients worldwide.

Loic explained that digital technology has become much more important in the day-to-day operations of healthcare companies, and Novartis is in the midst of a transformation that will allow it to make greater use of cloud and data technologies to better understand what medicines are needed by society and accelerate their development.

Until a few years ago, the company was using a largely on-premises infrastructure for its data analytics and data science, but this created too big of a gap between the needs of the business and the speed at which teams could conduct tests and bring new products to market. Novartis adopted Snowflake in 2017 as part of a broader effort to digitize every aspect of its operations.

One important area where it expects to see a big impact is in the time it takes to develop new drugs. Typically, Loic explained, from initial research through manufacturing, trials and distribution, it can take around 12 years to bring a new drug to market. By applying data and artificial intelligence to these processes, Novartis believes it can reduce that time to nine years, Loic said, and also bring new drugs to consumers at lower cost.

Its data use extends beyond just drug development. In the podcast, Loic discusses how Novartis is developing new products and services for healthcare providers to personalize treatment for their patients, and for patients to help ensure they take their medicines regularly and on time.

“We want to reimagine medicine for the age of digital technology, and we want data and data science to be the center of this transformation,” Loic said.

Medicine has changed a lot since Loic began working in the field two decades ago. According to Loic, for the first 10 years it was hard to do anything useful with the data generated because there was insufficient computing power to process it all. Novartis moved to the Snowflake in part because it provides the elastic scale that’s needed to process and analyze all that data, and because it makes it easier to share data inside and outside of the organization.

“We would never be able to get access to this data in a timely manner with any other previous technology,” Loic said.

According to Loic, organizations are just starting to understand the value of the data they collect. In the future, he believes data will be shared far more widely within industries, which for healthcare will lead to much better outcomes for both drug companies and patients.

Rise of the Data Cloud is a podcast hosted by award-winning author and journalist Steve Hamm. For each episode, Steve speaks with a data leader to learn how they leverage the cloud to manage, share, and analyze data to drive business growth, fuel innovation, and disrupt their industries. You can listen to more episodes here.