PharmaStack, Life Sciences Trends, & Technology (Heads in the Clouds Podcast)

In this episode of “Heads in the Cloud”, James and Joe talk about 4IR Solutions latest product PharmaStack and other hot trends in the life sciences industry.

GI Griffin (00:10):
Welcome to another episode of Heads in the Cloud with James Burnand and Joe Dolivo, the superstars of 4IR Solutions. And this is a place where we talk about digital transformation, Industry 4.0, IIOT, and how to move your business forward to meet that future demand; moving into the future within digital transformation. And for this episode, we're going to be talking a bit about some of the topics surrounding life sciences, which includes CloudEMS from Grantek, as well as PharmaStack from 4IR Solutions. And I'm so excited because this is definitely a trend that's coming up right now, where a lot of people are getting excited, talking about life sciences and how to actually improve that industry. So did you guys want to go ahead and start this off and talk a bit about kind of what you're seeing going on in the life science industries?

James Burnand (01:00):

Yeah, I think the life science industry in particular is having a bit of a renaissance around adoption of technology. AI, cloud technologies, SaaS based solutions are something that were just not really heavily used in that industry for a long, long time. And now the, the benefits are certainly outweighing some of the detriments of it. What we're seeing is guidance from ISPE and other organizations around best practices and we're seeing companies adopting these technologies and gaining the value of them. It's forcing some changes, I think, too with the way that they do validation and some of the practices that are in place. They don't necessarily fit as well with some of these solutions and I think that's where we tried to find a sweet spot with PharmaStack.

Joe Dolivo (01:51):

I think it's super exciting as well because I think the industry has a reputation for being bureaucratic, let's say. And I think to be fair, there's a lot of good reasons for that. A lot of checks and balances that make sure that ultimately people and patients are going to be safe with the pharmaceuticals and everything else. Also, I think now that the industry's starting to come around, that also opens the door to newer companies, who have newer technologies that they want to start bringing in that wouldn't have really been possible five or 10 years ago before the industry was kind of opening themselves up to that. So there's a lot of incumbent players in this space who are kind of built around the very rigid, fundamental, old ways of doing it. And now we're seeing an appetite for something new and exciting, and that's just building on the messaging that we're trying to do for all industries in manufacturing, by bringing some of these new cool technologies that are very well established in the it space to manufacturing and now to life sciences. So I'm super excited to be to be a part of it.

GI Griffin (02:51):

Yeah, I love it. So, so speaking of new technologies and being innovative, can you talk a bit about PharmaStack and how that came about and even a bit about the collaboration with Grantek for their CloudEMS?

James Burnand (03:06):

Yeah, the idea for PharmaStack was actually the very first idea that 4IR came up with when we were thinking about the cloud PaaS solutions platform as a service solution. We realized that it was a challenge to make sure that all of the regulatory requirements would be met and we ended up actually releasing FactoryStack the, the non-regulated version first because the amount of energy and work that went into making sure we were “audit ready”  It was a substantial amount of work to get. there is the way the way it went down. What we realized was that there were some parts and pieces that we could provide the end customers and system integrator solution providers and OEMs as a part of the platform that would actually make some of the day-to-day tasks that are somewhat monotonous; things like when doing change control. So, I make an application change for an operating system in a qualified environment. There's a lot of evidence collection that has to be done  to document what that change was and what the purpose was with some of the tools that are available now. We're actually able to automate some of that evidence collection and make things easier for folks that are performing those actions.

Joe Dolivo (04:18):

Yeah, it's been super exciting. And I think one of the hard things about talking about a platform is that we're certainly solving some very major customer pain points, especially in life sciences. But other pain points like controlling actual operational equipment for example, is something that has to be tailor built to the end user. And so that's why we're really excited about collaborating on the CloudEMS product because it's built on top of the platform. So we're handling all of the security, all the authentication pieces, getting the software platform ignition up there in a way that's readily usable in this multi-tenant application environment. And then the actual specific functional requirements, let's say related to the environmental monitoring system piece, is being done by Grantek. So it's been a really nice collaboration. They could focus more on solving those problems while we're providing a lot of the underlying underpinnings. So it's been working out pretty well I'd say.

GI Griffin (05:13):

Beautiful. And Joe, I, I just now noticed it. You, you gave the giraffe headphones.

Joe Dolivo (05:21):

Now that you mentioned it, why didn't anybody say this? It looks like it's not, it was sitting on the poor guy's ears.

GI Griffin (05:28):

So he is DJing. That perfect. Haha

Joe Dolivo (05:30):

There, there you go. Okay. Now his mouthpiece is there if he needs to try MI a little bit, but yeah. Just, I noticed that it wasn't set up.

James Burnand (05:37):

Are we going to have Geralt the giraffe have his own LinkedIn page or maybe at least an Instagram page? I feel like that may need to be a marketing thing.  

GI Griffin (05:45):

I think so. I think he'd be a hit a DJ and have his own little brand. Maybe we could even set up petting for people to pet him.

James Burnand (05:53):

Well, maybe anybody who watches this, if you'd like to see us actually set up some social media for our giraffe Garolt or Geralt, please comment down in the comment section. Because we'd love to hear that someone's actually watching this and interested in seeing the life and times of Geralt the giraffe.

Joe Dolivo (06:13):

I'm getting a lot of pressure to bring him up to the Ignition Community Conference coming up in a few weeks. And so I I've been really pushing back, but let's say if there's enough interest, then maybe I can leave something else behind and bring the giraffe so he could sit in the passenger seat or the trunk or whatever. Whatever's going to create less suspicion from other folks on the road.

GI Griffin (06:32):

You have my vote, as long as he's wearing his seatbelt, you’ve got to look after him.

Joe Dolivo (06:36):

<Laugh> Okay.

James Burnand (06:37):

No, make sure you can use the HOV lanes if you have a giraffe in the passenger.

GI Griffin (06:40):

I've done that, I'm not going to lie. <Laugh> yeah, but back to it... I want to know more about the automation. I love anything automation. I love making things more efficient and just the opportunity that life science and manufacturers have to actually automate a lot of their processes using what you guys are using. I want to hear more about that.

James Burnand (07:03):

Yeah. I guess I'll start off with just talking about automation in general with what we're doing and when we say automation again, I think we mentioned this in one of the previous discussions, was that we're not talking about necessarily factory floor automation, PLCs, servos, that kind of stuff. What we're talking about is automating the process of actually managing, deploying and maintaining the infrastructure that we create. So fundamentally the infrastructure that we deploy for every one of our clients is the same. So PharmaStack, whether you're deploying a one plant monitoring system or a 10 plant OEE system, it's fundamentally the same under the hood and uses the same code base. So we're able to, number one, be able to manage it at scale. But number two, be able to have a very consistent deployment and very consistent management mechanism around the core of how the platform is built when it comes to kind of blending the automation of infrastructure. It also means we can spin it up very fast. We can make changes to it that are consistent across the subscribers. And we can, for our own purposes, when we perform testing; it's applicable across the entire subscriber base. Some of the automation that we've built into the platform itself for the users, maybe Joe, if you want to talk about that a little bit, we we've been using Git as kind of the center piece for that.

Joe Dolivo (08:25):

Yeah. And it's nice because it's kind of twofold, right? It's the automation like James was talking about that we're doing internally in developing the platform itself and deploying the platform. And then of course, as we mentioned is kind of the PaaS versus SaaS, then there's actual software that rides on top of that. And part of the solution is enabling automatic change capture of changes that are made at that application level, namely Ignition. And so, somebody who's used any kind of development environment before, whether it's SCADA, whether it's ignition specifically with our approach, you kind of go in there, you make your application changes just as you would normally. And in the background without you having to do anything yourself, those changes are being automatically captured and versioned. We're using Git, which is kind of an industry standard that has fallen out of the software IT world. Equivalence of that have been around for a very, very long time, but you're kind of getting that for free and there are other there's other tools in there, including one that we provide, which is a front end for it. It's a UI for that, that will actually show you visual DIFFs as they call them. But show you the, the old version and the new version, and show you what's changed there. That all comes for free. And then where that relates to life sciences specifically is when you have to be able to provide evidence of these changes, but because we're tracking all of this automatically, we can show you what these changes are and you can take those changes as kind of a unit; an atomic unit and migrate those between your different environments. So if you have a dev system, a test system, staging production; you can take those changes through an approval process where you have different folks who have different permission levels or different roles within the organization who can run their tests and can verify that a proposed change is valid and something they want to be able to migrate between systems and with some button clicks. They're able to migrate that over and have those changes automatically under control, but they're able to be migrated over to a production environment in some cases with no downtime, which is incredibly powerful and something you would never think of in most industries let alone in life sciences.

So that's, that's super exciting, super big differentiator. And it comes, I'll say for free as a part of how we've architected the platform using some of these technologies from the software and IT worlds.

GI Griffin (10:37):

I love it and I'm excited about that as well. And I know something that other people are excited to hear just your own input on, in terms of where you think that the life sciences industry within manufacturing is going, like what new trends or what direction do you feel that it is actually going in right now?

Joe Dolivo (10:58):

I'll start with that one. And I'll say the thing that gets me excited. And it's really exciting to see it starting to be even talked about in the industry is using AI and machine learning specifically with regards to things like drug discovery. So we've seen Folding@ Home, is an application that I've been running for years on my dusty graphics card which was used for protein folding. We're seeing a lot of these algorithms that are now starting to being used for discovering new kinds of drugs and finding relationships between different variables that a human may not even be able to or attempted to think about and finding these correlations that are really new and interesting and novel. And what we're seeing from the industry is they're starting to put together guidance.

You look at something in life sciences that is very, very structured around what is okay to do having these validated processes. And now you take some of these machine learning algorithms, which are effectively black boxes. There are tools for giving you deeper visibility into layers of neural networks and things like that, but they're effectively a black box where you put in inputs, you get outputs. How do you do that in an industry that requires a lot of structure and rigidity and transparency into how tests and things are doing. And we're starting to see guidance from that, which is incredibly exciting. And I look forward to seeing where the industry goes. I will say that the enabler for any type of machine learning is data. And so the fact that we're putting in systems that are collecting data that are adhering to principles that everybody cares about, especially life sciences, like data integrity is super exciting and it's going to enable those algorithms to do some really cool things that frankly folks today have not even thought about yet. So I’m very excited to see where that goes.

GI Griffin (12:44):


James Burnand (12:46):

Yeah. And, and I would just not add too much to that, but I would just say that some of the guidance around and some of the sessions from last year's ISPE conference and some of the stuff that I've seen coming out of is, ISPE in particular, has been really exciting around guidance, documents, best practices, examples from companies that are already using AI and ML in different forms for more practical, pragmatic plant floor things, as well as for some more deep learning activities, like Joe described with a more drug discovery kind of thing. So, yeah, I think the industry at large has identified the opportunity is there. And if, if there is no pragmatic, you can't allow the way we did things before to prevent us from innovating in the future. And, and I think that that message has been loud and clear from the folks in the industry. And, and it's exciting because I've worked in life sciences for a long time and, and the rigidity has always been there. And you know, you're seeing things change at a very rapid pace specifically for that industry right now.

GI Griffin (13:50):

I completely agree. I think not just within this industry, but industries in general, you need to be agile. You need to be able to adapt quickly and that way you can respond to those changes and make sure that you're in the forefront; that your competitors aren't taking those opportunities while you're missing out.  

So this is about the end where we're going to wrap it up, but I think that we're going to end up having to have a part two of the PharmaStack as well as the life sciences industry and even a bit about CloudEMS from Grantek. So is there anything else that you guys wanted to say?

James Burnand (14:26):

No. Thanks for listening.

GI Griffin (14:27):

And the giraffe?

Joe Dolivo (14:29):

He's silent. But he agrees and he's nodding his head haha. So we're super excited about this. We're going to be at a couple of industry events coming up, notably Ignition Community Conference which will be a week or two out from this, depending on, I guess when the audience hears it. But come talk to us, we're excited to talk about this kind of stuff and be able to showcase it and demo it. And we've got some great conversations that we're having with folks around it, so come be a part of it.

GI Griffin (14:52):

Thank you. You guys are here listening to the Heads in the Cloud podcast with James Burnand and Joe Dolivo from 4IR Solutions.


Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51h5tY5S7ew

Audio Podcast: https://spotifyanchor-web.app.link/e/gzLK3xcPMsb

Blog: https://www.4ir.cloud/blog

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