Can in silico trials simplify pharma logistics?

The pharmaceutical sector is feeling the pressure on its Supply Chains due to COVID-19. This puts stability and reliability of supply at risk. It’s also making life-sciences companies rethink their approach to clinical trials. In the future, in silico trials could well be a solution.

To meet the current challenges in their Supply Chains, many pharmaceutical companies have already diversified their Supply Chains. They’re doing this by outsourcing to more countries and setting up additional distribution networks so they can deliver their prod-ucts to patients in a timely manner. But in the longer term, they’ll have to innovate even more. In the future, a solution could be in silico studies — cost-effective and completely virtual (!) methods of developing new drugs and treatments.

What are in silico studies?

‘In silico’ is the term scientists use to describe the virtual modeling and visualization of biological and medical processes. In silico studies are virtual, computer-controlled clini-cal trials that don’t require a biological subject. They make it possible to simulate and calculate the impact of a particular therapy, treatment, or drug. The advent of in silico trials is a logical result of the rapid advances in medical informatics in recent years.

The high logistic costs of traditional research

In traditional clinical research, Supply Chain costs are particularly high. Medical products in development are first physically produced and packaged, then distributed to hospitals through a (often global) network of warehouses.

That underlying logistical complexity should not to be underestimated. Because these years of intense development are so expensive — with no guarantee of results or approval of the new drug or therapy — life sciences companies are already showing increasing interest in in silico research.

Faster, safer, better?

Artificial clinical trials not only save time and resources, they can also significantly reduce the risk of adverse effects in humans and laboratory animals. What’s more, artificial research can be done more quickly, which can make for faster development and a shorter time to market for new medical products. But before that happens, there are a number of hurdles to overcome in terms of regulation, international cooperation, and consumer acceptance.

Also, the technology is not yet fully developed. But with the advance of artificial intelligence (AI) and ever better computer simulations and modeling techniques, a door seems to be opening for in silico studies. So while fully simulated clinical trials are not feasible at present, incremental advances will likely ensure wider application in the years to come. We expect that physical flows will be replaced by virtual ones to some extent in the future, with AI as a partial substitute in production processes, temperature-controlled warehouses, and global specialty logistics.

If you’d like to stay informed about developments in this exciting field, please contact one of our experts.