July 2010

“SAS plays a leadership role in business analytics”

Ashit Panjwani
Executive Director – Marketing, Sales & Alliances
SAS Institute (India) Pvt Ltd

Established in 1997 as a wholly owned subsidiary of SAS Institute Inc., SAS India offers superior software and solutions for analytics across various industry verticals.

In conversation with Divya Chawla from eHEALTH,  Ashit Panjwani, Executive Director – Marketing, Sales & Alliances, SAS Institute (India) Pvt Ltd, shares insights into the business of health and life sciences vertical of SAS .

What are your views on the health IT market in India vis-avis the global market?

The health IT market in India is reflecting a good growth rate and the growth trends of India and the western countries are almost comparable. Some of the challenges thatthe health and life sciences industry face include pricing, pipeline  pressures, date of expiry, and soaring drug development costs, among others. Also, intellectual property rights pose as a major challenge for these organisations. As a result of these challenges, these organisations have been key adapters of information technology to overcome these challenges. So these are really exciting times for health IT vendors, especially SAS as most of the healthcare organisations within the top 500 fortune companies work with us. These healthcare organisations see tremendous amount of value involved in the solutions we offer. There is a great opportunity in this market for the kind of solutions that we offer, especially for business analytics and we are seeing some excellent growth rates.

Please provide an overview of SAS and its presence in the healthcare vertical in India. Do you feel growth in the healthcare vertical is as dynamic as in other verticals?

SAS is the number one privately held company and the leader in the field of business analytics. We serve more than 45,000 customers, worldwide. In India, we have been present for the last 10 years and play a leadership role in the field  of analytics, here as well and account for more than 50 percent of market share in this area. Health and life sciences is one of our key verticals and we have been working with major customers in this area, both globally as well as in India. We  cater to various  verticals or sectors within the life sciences sector including pharma, clinical research organisations and health insurance providers, among others. SAS has been extremely excited to work in this market and the kind of  response that we have got from this market is extremely encouraging. In terms of analytics and data management, every   ertical has different drivers for adopting our solutions. For instance, banking and finance vertical may have risk- anagement as a motivating driver. As far as health and life sciences space is concerned, it has a number of motivating factors for adopting  our solutions. First is that with our solutions, these organisations are able to drasticallyreduce the drug launch time. Secondly whatever submissions they make through us are all FDA compliant. Also, the kind ofanalytics  we have, helps organisations derive great amount of insights with the huge clinical data that is generated. Please tell us about the solutions you offer for the health and life sciences space.

The health and life sciences industry faces key challenges and one of them is the time taken by a drug manufacturer, right from the clinical trials phase to the time it is launched in the market. The reason why this process is so time consuming is because the result analysis involves huge amount of data management and analytics. To be able to compress this time cycle, the data management process must be highly efficient, as data management takes more than 65 percent of the trial time. By compressing this cycle, drug manufacturers can launch their product sooner in the market sooner, which results in a quantifiable advantage for them.

The second challenge is how to automate the entire drug discovery process, which can be addressed through our solutions. The third area is physician targetting, which is another challenge faced by the organisations. SAS forms a channel for FDA submissions, which  considerably reduces the time taken for organisations to launch their products. We  lso support various compliance standards like CDISC—Clinical DataInterchange Standards Consortium,which is a standard for clinical data management.

Do you have plans to venture into the hospitals and diagnostics space, as well? 

We certainly have plans to extend our solutions beyond the life sciences and the clinical research verticals. One of the key areas is health insurance, which is extremely interesting and we are planning to get into this segment for sure. Please enlist some of your major clients in India.

We work with a number of customers in India such as Clinigene, Novo Nordisk, Novartis, Wyeth, GSK Pharma, Ranbaxy, QED Pharma, and several others. We work with both global clients as well as Indian clinical research organisations. The level of IT penetration in healthcare in India is still catching up. Please share your views on the scope of growth of solutions like PheedIT in India. PheedIT solution is a flagship product for clinical data management. IT penetration in healthcare in India is low, however, IT penetration within the clinical part of an organisation is extremely crucial because there is no other alternative for managing data. With IT, the entire process of data management and analysis is going to be extremely time consuming. SAS is already an able organisation that creates data in FDA format, which reduces the cycle time. Time is extremely important while launching a product in the market, as  other drug manufacturers might be   anning to launch a similar product in the market. The advantage that SAS offers is that it not only helps organisations indata management, but it also does highend analytics, which is an integral part of launching a drug in the market.

Please share your experiences on the recent deployment of PheedIT at Clinigene.

Clinigene is a very valued customer of SAS and they use our solution PheedIT for complete end-to-end clinical data management. When a drug goes through various processes of a trial cycle, a huge amount of data is generate, which needs to be analysed and this is the kind of challenge that Clinigene was facing and by deploying PheedIT, they have been able to  vercome this challenge to a huge extent. Other challenges that Clinigene was facing were patient recruitment and motivatingpatients to come back for clinical trials, how to manage data and how to use these  results for deciding the launch cycle. With PheedIT, Clinigene not only reduced the trial time, but also overcome various other challenges attached to launching drugs in the market.

“We plan to keep the right focus with customers and offer the kind of analytics that can benefit our customers. We want to help our clients in their journey towards embracing our solutions.”

What is the approximate investment required to adopt your solutions?

The amount of investment depends upon what exactly the organisation wants, the stage at which they are and what exactly they want to do. Our team works with these organisations to analyse the amount of work required. We work  with both aspirational organisations and organisations that have established themselves. So there is a value proposition  of an emerging organisation and an established organisations.

What strategies do you follow to maintain your footprint in the health IT space?

Our focus has always been on the customer and we will continue to do that. This approach, we believe, will itself take care of the competition. what are the major  opportunities and growth prospects do you see in the Indian market?

A great opportunity is generating an enterprise-wide solution for health and life science customers. Another opportunity that we see is in the area of  drug development and how our solutions get deployed for drug development processes. Third area is clinical data integration as a lot of data gets generated during various processes and how this  data can be integrated for analysis.

What are the major challenges in the field? 

We have been fortunate enough to not encounter any major challenges. But some of the basic problem faced is the culture of the organisation, which is extremely important. Converting a manual process to an automated process is difficult and requires some amount of  cultural change. Secondly, maintaining the quality of data is a challenge and thirdly, the source in which the data exists may pose some difficulties, but all these can be overcome.

What is the importance of regulatory standards in this space?

There are various global regulatory bodies and all the pharma companies are following the standards laid by these bodies. There is FDA and CDISC—which looks into the technological aspect and ensures that the clinical data provided is in the right format. These bodies on the whole ensure that the data provided is accurate enough to be used for drug development. Best part about SAS is that whatever we do is compliant with  the standards laid by all these regulatory bodies.

What are your plans for future growth?

We plan to keep the right focus with customers and offer the kind of analytics that can benefit our customers. We want to help our clients in their journey towards embracing our solutions.

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