Q1 2017: A Note from the Editor 

One of the most memorable compliments I received in my 14 years as editor of Speciality Chemicals Magazine came from an American executive at a trade show. He told me he had boarded a plane with a pile of about 15 chemical industry magazines and when he got off, he binned all but two — of which mine was thankfully one. I’m not telling you the other one. I’ll never hear the end of it if I do… If anything, the pharmaceuticals industry has even more written about it than the chemicals industry. I, too, come back from every show with a pile of rival magazines about 20 deep that it takes me three weeks to digest. And I have an essential need to keep up with what’s going on and with what the competition is doing. For those who have days filled with meetings and projects, the information challenge must seem insuperable.

Indeed, information overload may be the biggest issue of our time. It is likely this will only increase. As Nigel Walker notes in this issue’s lead feature on ‘big data’ in the pharmaceutical industry, the world’s technological percapita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s, is now doubling every 18 months and, by 2020, it may be doubling every three months.

The concept of big data itself generates, well, big data. Googling ‘big data’ plus ‘pharmaceuticals’ itself yields over 1 million hits, as we found when compiling the article. Huge amounts have been written and said about this. The challenge is so mind-boggling that burying your head in the sand is an understandable response. But that response simply won’t do.

The pharmaceutical industry faces as great a challenge as any from big data. The reasons for this, put very simply, are that no industry is so awash in and so reliant on data, not least to satisfy evermore stringent and complex regulations. Big data touches every corner of what the industry does, and the savings potential from coming to grips with it is immense. Yet at the same time, pharma is years behind most industries of comparable sizes in how it manages this data.

Our own commitment to helping you through the morass of information out there remains unchanged. That’s Nice, the publisher of Pharma’s Almanac, has at its heart a giant research operation. Every year the Nice Insight annual surveys go out to thousands of companies in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and related sectors to reveal what they are seeking from suppliers in multiple fields. 

Pharma’s Almanac also seeks to bring you real insight into the most important emerging trends and technologies by speaking to those on-site. In this issue, we look at continuous manufacturing for both drug substance and drug product, asking why it has taken so long to emerge and if things really are different this time around. The word count was a bit higher than expected but, hey, it’s a fascinating subject and this is the age of big data, after all.