Where does TCS sit within the Tata Group and what is the proportion of your business dedicated to life sciences?
Tata Group was established in 1868 and in many ways led the industrial revolution in India. Similarly, TCS - which was founded 100 years later - was at the forefront of the establishment of the IT industry in India. During the 32 years that I have been with the company, it has grown from 6,000 employees to over 600,000. About 50% of the business comes from the U.S. portfolio, UK and Europe take up 32%, and the remaining is concentrated across India, the Middle East and Africa.
In 2008, I took over as head of the life sciences group at TCS and since then, the unit has grown 10 times - becoming one of the fastest growing vertical sectors in the company. Today it contributes to more than 10% of TCS’ revenue. With the help of our physicians, biostatisticians, healthcare specialists, and research scientists, we support pharma and biotech companies globally across their value chains – from drug discovery to clinical trials, manufacturing and all the way up to marketing and commercials. We provide medical devices engineering services and are one of the largest implant designers in the world. We have deep Life Sciences research capabilities and have set up our own DNA sequencing lab in India to accelerate such research initiatives. In addition, we also provide the services for helping pharma companies with commercial growth through our specialized TCS Life Sciences Interactive unit. In a nutshell, our ultimate goal is to bring science, art and technology together to save patient lives by serving our customers.
In what sense does the industry need rewiring and how can technology make it more efficient?
The manufacturing landscape is changing, with personalized medicine and digitalization being the new tropes of the industry. The whole healthcare sector has become very patient centric in the last few years. This translates into the need to have cheaper products that are delivered faster, along with the vision to help patients through their entire journey. All these new benchmarks need a lot of process digitization and data analytics, and this is where we step in. Drug safety used to be a completely manual process but since AI offers much more precision, we have built an entire platform around it.
To give you a few examples of our work, Connected Clinical Trial is a system that provides real time data about the treatment scheme, adherence and health outcomes of a patient and uploads it to the cloud so as the caretaker and physician have instant access to it. This helps pharma companies make more accurate and faster decisions about the outcomes of trials.
As you can imagine, such a platform also comes in handy to monitor the adherence and taking care of patients with special needs, such as the elderly or patients with Alzheimer's who may often forget to take their medication on time. Another example is a special pill bottle technology that leverages the Internet of Things to send updates to a smartphone app every time the cap has been opened and a pill has been dispensed. These are the kinds of innovations we are bringing to ensure patients get the right care. There’s another example – one that leverages data, cloud and 3D printing for knee implants. An entire ecosystem has been created with our teams and surgeons to create highly personalized, 3D printed cutting blocks so that surgeries can be executed with utmost precision.
Today, engineers are the new doctors – combining the knowledge of the industry, science, and technology.
The pharma industry is surrounded by controversies, especially regarding drug pricing and accessibility – is this perspective shifting?
Misconceptions about the industry are caused by the public not comprehending how many financial resources are actually needed to develop new medicines. The truth is that it takes more than $1 billion dollars and 10 years to develop a blockbuster drug. And we need breakthrough drugs to save lives. Recently we saw how the pharma industry developed new Covid-19 vaccines in record time to help control the pandemic.
That being said, we can make it even better and more carefully orchestrate the steps from inception to delivery.
Thanks to all the tech resources that we own, we have the responsibility to help our customers reduce drug development time, as well as find ways to lower their market price.
There are tools like digital twins, AI and simulation schemes and many others that stand to make a difference.
What is the most exciting achievement that you are looking forward to in the next five years?
In the following years I would like to see a cure for cancer, thanks to all the advancements that are now being made in gene therapy and DNA editing. We at TCS are also making investments in this space. For example, the recovery rate in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia in Western countries is around 90%, while in India it is only 65%. Seeing this dire statistic, Tata and TCS made a consistent investment in cancer research and four years ago established the Tata Translational Cancer Research Center. The outcome of the project was extremely positive, and we managed to raise the cure rate to 80%, while cutting the cost of treatments in half. Our aim is to ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and help doctors offer personalized treatments based on data and insights. We are confident that with the research power garnered by the industry, most types of cancer should become treatable in the near future.
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