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‘Technology can help reduce the cost of drugs’

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Sandeep Lodha, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Tyrone Systems talks about importance of HPC (High Performance Compute) to the pharma industry, in discussion with Sachin Jagdale

Explain HPC (High Performance Compute). Do pharma companies require to make special arrangements/ infrastructure for the same?

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Sandeep Lodha

HPC is interchangeable word with super computers generally. These are used for computation of large data in parallel to do the necessary work in shorter period of time. It is usually used either for running complex simulations or computations.

Pharma companies opt for a dedicated HPC infrastructure if they think they can ensure optimal utilisation. But this is not always the case. There are specialised on cloud HPC services, such as Tyrone Edra that can be used by pharma companies almost as if it is their own but on a pay per use basis.

How will HPC speed up the drug discovery process in India?

Today, humans are facing a tremendous challenge in the form of new diseases. While we are yet to find cures for them, we are also troubled by older diseases. It has become evident that, going forward, we will need to hasten the pace of development and decrease the costs so that patients can be benefited. HPC or supercomputing is one of the technical tools that can achieve both these objectives. Every stage of the pharma process uses HPC in some way or other. While certain processes like clinical trials and regulatory related processes cannot be hurried, the discovery process can be significantly reduced. The discovery phase accounts for almost half the time in the entire process in most cases. Hence, judicious usage of HPC can help companies to cut the drug discovery process by half. Every day you spend discovering drugs adds to the cost and any reduction in time has a direct impact on the expense incurred. Many drug discovery projects have been shelved after several years of development because of side effects in animal testing. One solution offered by HPC is profiling the products and taking more probable molecules in the first place – this can save tonnes of green bucks. Before the pre-clinical development, HPC can help in the identification and optimisation of new molecular entities by computational methods. By focusing on the probable molecules, the success rate of wet lab investigations increases substantially. As a result, what took weeks or even months before can now be achieved in a matter of days if not hours.

Give details of ‘Pay as you use’ model for the SME pharma companies

While HPC promises many benefits, there is one issue- acquiring a HPC facility would require core competency that is different from the traditional expertise that a pharma organisation possesses. It will also require investment in an infrastructure which gets obsolete quickly. There are also challenges in terms of managing the power and cooling requirements and a trained workforce is required to maintain and oversee effective utilisation. HPC on cloud based solutions eliminate a lot of management problems and shift spending from a capital to an operational model. These solutions are available on demand and with flexible pricing and are available to both enterprises and individual customers. The service can be used for few hours or even for months and is accessible anytime, anywhere .These may also be available as personalised services having an infrastructure and human interface customised to the customer’s requirement.

Is this model applicable only to SMEs ? Are big size pharma companies also eligible for the same scheme?

As any other technology, HPC is a great leveler. It brings large and small companies both in a level playing field. Hence both can use it and get benefited from this.

Does service price chart vary depending upon the size/turnover of the company?

Price structure is very simple and pricing is dependent on resource usage and extra services one wants

How many pharma companies in India have till now used your services? What is the user ratio between SMEs and big pharma companies?

Our HPC on cloud service is under a year old. We have received very good response and are thinking of expanding this service. However, we do have very few pharma companies from India using this until now. We do have some bio-informatics firms who do work for their pharma using our HPC on cloud service.

What percentage of your revenue comes from the pharma business? What was your turnover in India during the last financial year?

Pharma presently constitutes a small percentage of our total turnover. We did about Rs 100 crore turnover in the last financial year.

What do you see as challenges in the Indian market as far as pharma business is concerned?

We believe that India needs to leverage its knowledge industry to develop new drugs speedily and in research of other healthcare ailments affecting our population. Technology can help reduce the cost of drugs as well its availability, if pharma companies embrace new age technologies easily available locally in our country.

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