Transforming operational data into trusted insights at Astellas Pharma


Keeping R&D operations on pace to meet the needs of patients globally

Astellas Pharma, a Tokyo-based, global pharmaceutical company, puts research and development at the heart of its mission. On the forefront of healthcare change to help turn innovative science into value for patients, the company sponsors clinical trials around the globe.

To keep pace with emerging global health needs, Astellas has been partnering with contract research organizations (CROs) to help run its growing number of clinical studies. In 2018, the company saw the opportunity to develop a more consistent and dynamic view across its extensive trial portfolio. To achieve that, however, Astellas required better information on its research partners’ performance.

Astellas had initially engaged PwC to help improve and streamline its CRO partnership and governance model. In the process, both teams realized that the lack of integrated data in the drug development portfolio impeded timely insights crucial to decision-making. Each Astellas query had to be manually curated from internal and external systems — a time-consuming and error-prone process.

To tackle this bigger issue, Astellas went beyond optimizing its CRO partnership model, enlisting PwC to help automate and consolidate independent source systems into one dependable, real-time repository. To date, the integrated platform has harmonized data from forty-eight independent source systems.


A one-stop hub for actionable insights

Envisioning a single source of truth for its R&D operations, Astellas applied PwC’s human-led and tech-powered approach. Putting itself in the shoes of its data analysts and decision makers, Astellas worked with PwC and Microsoft to conceptualize and build an integrated data environment on the cloud, one resulting in faster data delivery, improved analysis and sounder decisions.


Real-time data for high-impact decisions

As keeping its drug development pipeline on track is crucial to its purpose, PwC helped Astellas create dashboards for its analysts and decision makers to generate instant, customizable reports by pulling data in real-time from a central platform. Prior to that, manually collecting and cleaning such information could take months. Now the company can use self-serve tools to quickly pinpoint a bottleneck, estimate the long-term impact and take speedy action — for instance, by bolstering CRO oversight, deciding which trials to keep or reducing spending where it makes sense.


Reducing complexity to facilitate key actions

Improving long-term outcomes for patients takes patience. But that doesn’t mean clinical trials should be harder or more costly to run than necessary. By industry estimates, a 10-year trial can cost a billion+ dollars, meaning that an unresolved problem in year two can have an exponential impact down the line. Today, getting the right information to detect and correct issues has never been easier for Astellas, thanks to rich data visualizations highlighting the most critical information, like low participant recruitment or study delays. Plus, it’s easy to share with executive committees. Users can also effortlessly layer on statistical analyses and advanced analytics algorithms, generating valuable insights about ongoing trials for better health outcomes.


Integrating data on the cloud, fast and flexibly

Realizing the project’s complexity, Astellas knew that its magnitude went beyond tech, involving support and infrastructure as well. This was to be the first large-scale pharma clinical operations solution built on Microsoft Azure. While an IT transformation of this scope generally takes years, a unified team and seamless technology helped deliver the initial production platform in one year on Microsoft Azure. Together we achieved that goal by vastly improving operational efficiency through automating and consolidating many of Astellas’ internal systems and CRO data-reporting repositories in one place. This positions Astellas to gain benefits from predictive and prescriptive analytics. And, because Azure’s flexibility lets new features roll onto the platform quarterly, it can scale swiftly to support more-advanced analytics as needed.


Exponential value for Astellas and healthcare

With Astellas’ integrated and automated data environment, the company accelerated R&D insights and issue resolution through data analysis and operational decision making. That includes decisions about reducing the cost of contract research vendors, whose performance Astellas can now clearly assess.

Most importantly, the pharma company’s decision makers have a more dynamic view of its trials and can rapidly act on improving long-term outcomes for the health of both the business and people overall.

Fast-tracking long-term outcomes is especially crucial during the pandemic, which affects timelines of clinical trials around the world. Decisions made around operational data can translate into hundreds of millions of dollars over just a few years. Today, Astellas has up-to-date validated and non-validated information to make these vital calls. 


Month to integrate 4 data systems vs 9 months to integrate just one


Savings in curation of operational data


 Day turnaround for data queries and dashboards vs 3+ months

We have introduced new depth and significant improvements to our insight-driven culture. With PwC’s industry expertise and the flexibility of Microsoft Azure, we can uncover new value from our data to make insightful business decisions as we continue to deliver value for our patients.

Deep Vaswani

Senior Director Information Systems, Astellas

Together with PwC and Microsoft, we took an agile approach to design and build a unified data analytics platform focused on delivering business value. Astellas has streamlined operations and productivity, translating to an estimated $45M of savings and efficiencies over the next 5 years.

Emily Gros
Executive Director Business Information Reporting & Analytics, Astellas

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