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P25: Digital Transformation of the Drug Development Workforce

Poster Presenter

      Maria Florez

      • Senior Consultant
      • Tufts Center For the Study of Drug Development, Tufts Univers
        United States


To learn about the potential steps that drug development organizations can take to advance existing staff, attract new talent and shape corporate mindset and culture as the industry enters the digital era.


In December of 2019, in NYC, the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development convened a roundtable of 60 drug development executives and thought leaders to discuss the preparedness of the drug development workforce for the rapid evolution of digital technologies and their use in the R&D process.


Our study uses a qualitative approach. We asked drug development thought leaders and executives to provide their perspectives on the following questions: What challenges will the industry face as It adapts to the digital era? What are the key trends shaping the industry’s future workforce? What skills and competencies will be valued by the industry? What roles are expected to emerge? What can the industry do to meet human-resource needs? What can drug development organizations do to shape corporate mindset, behavior, and culture? Our findings from this expert roundtable showed that the three main challenges that drug development organizations face as they adapt to digital technologies include: (1) the need for overarching data strategies and governance frameworks, (2) competition with the technology sector for talent, (3) an increase in the cost of data management. Our findings also show that the key trends that are shaping and will continue to shape the future of the drug development workforce include: (1) rapid changes in the job markets, (2) growing demand for individuals with blended backgrounds and expanded skillsets, (3) and an increasing need for the convergence of clinical research and clinical care. Regarding the skills and competencies that are and will continue to be valued by drug development organizations, our findings show that the industry’s nascent patient-centric approach is requiring a different type of professional: one who can easily adapt to rapidly changing conditions. In the near term, as the impact of digital transformation becomes evident, drug development organizations must retain flexibility to act quickly and redeploy or reconfigure the workforce. The following roles are expected to gain greater currency in coming years: data scientists, AI systems trainers, sustainers, translators, patient and provider navigators, and technology navigators.


The rapid pace and broad scope of digital transformation requires individual companies, and the industry as a whole, to be adaptable, resourceful, curious, agile and open. Senior leadership and HR will be instrumental in guiding organizations through this transformation and in establishing and executing strategies, policies, and procedures. Industry must work together to develop a set of digital-thinking principles for drug development These principles should have a particular focus on workflow, understood as the sequence of research, development, manufacturing, and administrative processes that constitute the drug development pipeline from initiation to completion. Additionally, a harmonized understanding of the concept of “digital drug development professional” must be developed. To achieve this, a thorough industry-wide “Comprehensive Needs Assessment” must take place. At the organizational level, senior management must continue to focus on building dynamic cultures and developing feedback loops within and across teams. Intra-company community building is perceived as an important part of digital transformation. This can be achieved by motivating with higher purpose that staff members find personally meaningful and that encourages outsiders to join the industry. This can also be achieved by taking a proactive approach in the training of existing staff and incoming recruits. Specifically, offering individualized mentorships and training programs geared to individual needs are proven to deliver value, particularly when they address deploying and implementing new technologies, methodologies, or applications. Creating an environment that fosters and rewards constant self-learning is of paramount importance.