Scientist in lab coat looking through microscope.If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught the world, it’s the importance of working together, particularly within the health and life sciences community. From the initial U.S. emergence of the coronavirus in early 2020, we’ve had the opportunity to partner with some of our industry’s top pioneering professionals at contract research organizations, or CROs. These are the vitally important teams of healthcare researchers, scientists, and technicians who collaborate with pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies to develop innovative new medicines, treatments, and equipment that improve patient outcomes. Advancements in medicine have accelerated despite increasing demands, due to the development of strong, enabled partnerships.

Accelerating scientific innovation

It’s been a privilege for Microsoft U.S. Health and Life Sciences (HLS) to work with CROs as they navigate COVID-19 disruptions and uncertainty, while staying focused on key industry imperatives to:

  • Accelerate scientific innovation.

  • Build operational agility.

  • Drive digital transformation.

  • Deliver a positive employee and patient experience.

The initial challenge was to help CROs continue accelerating scientific innovation while transitioning from physical worksites to remote work models—not only for employees, but for participants in countless research studies and clinical trials. CROs were able to quickly transition from on-site workplaces and labs to a secure, remote environment using Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft 365 capabilities. Equally important, these same tools allowed CROs to move from traditional face-to-face engagement with patients involved in studies and trials to a more inclusive, convenient digital experience. As a result, the pandemic has spurred many “aha moments” for CROs to make the remote environment the default for most clinical and research initiatives.

Expediting new life-saving medicines

COVID-19 demands also led CROs to reimagine the entire clinical trial process. By taking advantage of Microsoft Azure and other trusted cloud capabilities, CROs have advanced digital transformation to reduce trial times, increase accessibility for trial participants, and significantly improve R & D functions. Here are a few examples of how CRO leaders are building on our platforms and tools:

  • Calyx creates its solutions with Azure, Power BI, and Microsoft 365 for more than 60,000 trials leading to over 650 drug approvals, including 50 percent of recently approved breakthrough oncology treatments. The outcome: Calyx turns the uncertain into the reliable, helping the global biopharmaceutical industry bring much-needed treatments to patients faster.

  • In the pandemic’s initial phase, IQVIA pivoted its approximately 77,000 employees and operations in more than 100 countries to Microsoft Teams in just a few weeks. As a global provider of advanced analytics, technology solutions, and clinical research services, IQVIA also relies on Azure’s flexible, scalable, and compliant worldwide cloud capabilities for its data analysis work.

  • By leveraging Power BI, Power Apps, and Azure, Parexel is transforming its clinical trial operation reporting, which involves 1,500-plus external users. This large clinical research organization is using our low-code Power Apps and Azure products to create a centralized, integrated risk monitoring and management tool, avoiding labor-intensive risk management tracking on each project.

  • For Signant Health, Microsoft 365 enabled 2,000 employees, across 15 worldwide offices, to continue their work remotely, while Azure operational platforms supported clinical trials of critical COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutic drugs. Bottom line: Signant’s solutions make it easier for people to participate in, and for sites and study teams to run clinical trials.

These and other CRO efforts provide sponsoring pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical equipment companies the ability to expedite new life-saving medicines, treatments, and devices while fulfilling stringent regulatory requirements.

Empowering CROs

The HLS team is very proud to demonstrate our mission of empowering CROs to achieve more by accelerating the clinical development and commercialization of medical treatments that save lives and improve the health of all of us. As Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said in his 2021 shareholder letter, “For all the disruption and suffering that the pandemic has wrought on our lives and our communities, it has also been the catalyst for an unprecedented digital transformation that is driving massive technological and societal shifts that are creating important new opportunities for our customers and for Microsoft.” Nowhere is that transformation more evident than at CROs across the world—and we look forward to supporting more of this essential work going forward.