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Accenture To Buy 250-Person Life Sciences Consultancy To Use Technology For Faster Scientific Discovery

Michael Novinson

Accenture plans to purchase an enterprise science data consultancy to better assist life sciences firms with capturing, managing, integrating and analyzing complex research data.

The Dublin, Ireland-based company, No. 2 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, said it plans to combine LabAnswer's 250-person staff with Accenture's existing 50-person R&D information sciences task force. That will create a standalone practice focused on leveraging automation, artificial intelligence, analytics and the cloud to help identify new and more effective treatments for patients.

"This [life sciences] space is pretty significantly behind where you might expect it to be, and where the technology is in other industries," Brad Michel, a managing director in Accenture's life sciences practice, told CRN.

[Related: Accenture Investing $900M To Retrain 200,000 Employees In Next-Generation Technology]

Accenture pursued Sugar Land, Texas-based LabAnswer to gain deeper business domain knowledge to keep pace with the rapid pace of change in the life sciences industry, according to Kevin Julian, who leads Accenture's life sciences practice in North America.

"We were not at the scale we would like to see in the research and laboratory parts of that business," Julian said.

Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in 30 to 45 days, were not disclosed.

Quantum leaps in technology mean that scientific research nowadays in just as likely to take place sifting through reams of data on a computer as it is in the lab, Michel said. Targets and biomarkers have resulted in an explosion in the amount of data available to researchers, Michel said, while dramatic reductions in the cost of sequencing genomes have much that possible at a much greater scale.

But this has put pressure on the custom, home-grown systems used by many life sciences companies, Michel said. Most research organizations still operate on client-based systems with hundreds of research applications that are unable to talk to one another, he said.

The problems have only intensified as large molecule research becomes more pervasive, Michel said, forcing organizations to create additional custom databases that can handle the new types of data coming from the research.

Life sciences firms should instead rethink their workflows for efficiency, Michel said, bringing in scalable cloud solutions and generating new experiences that use cloud, analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide researchers with more access to data at their fingertips.

Straight IT solutions often fail in the life sciences space since clients expect their consultants to come in with specific scientific application knowledge, said Mark Everding, LabAnswer's CEO.

"We need to be the translator for how we can bring that technology into the [life sciences] industry," Everding told CRN.

And for LabAnswer, having Accenture's global reach will make it much easier for the company to serve existing multinational clients. Roughly 85 percent of LabAnswer's clients are Fortune 1000-type enterprises in the biopharmaceutical space, Everding said, with the remaining 15 percent coming from the consumer goods, resources, chemicals, energy and government spaces.

Accenture plans to start by targeting LabAnswer's capabilities at white space in the U.S. market, Julian said. From there, Julian said Accenture would target the European market by hiring folks to represents the company's new information sciences practice in the region.

Finally, Julian said Accenture would add information sciences capabilities to support its global services delivery network in India and other locations.

"There's a clear opportunity to take this thing global," Julian said.

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