Darren Goodson is IT Director of Integration and API Management at AstraZeneca. In this article, he discusses how APIs support the democratization of FAIR data and drives business composability.
AstraZeneca is a pharmaceutical company driven by science and building on success across our markets and therapeutic areas by continuing to create genuinely innovative medicines and improving access to them. This way, we can deliver the greatest benefits to patients, healthcare systems, and societies globally. Guided by our values and behaviors, our people are empowered and inspired to thrive in an environment where they make a difference to patient society and our company. We have a bold company ambition, which takes us to 2030, and that is both to release and launch 50 new medicines and also be carbon negative, and that will make an even bigger difference to people’s society and the planet. Strategic priorities are founded around three areas: growth and therapeutic area leadership, leveraging our innovative science to create a more personalized, precise, and accessible healthcare experience, engaging with the entire healthcare ecosystem, and unlocking visionary partnerships that drive positive change in outcomes, creating industry-leading growth across our therapy areas and regions and continuing to implement our operations 2025 program.
In science and innovation, we’re creating the next generation of therapeutics using an array of drug modalities, for example, advanced biologics, nucleotide-based, and cell therapies, leading in the convergence of science data and technologies to advance our pipeline.
In people in sustainability, we’re continuing to make AstraZeneca a great place to work, making it easier to work across our group to deliver sustainable growth and sharing. We operate in the smartest way of increasing the speed of delivery of medicines to patients through our future work initiative. Also, harnessing the power of science and innovation in ways that positively impact patients, healthcare systems, and the environment, progressing our sustainability strategy across three integrated priority pillars: access to healthcare, environmental protection, and ethics and transparency.
Data digital and AI play a key part in achieving these bold ambitions, and we’re on a journey from doing digital to being digital. Our vision is of a future of integrated, individualized healthcare solutions focused on improved patient outcomes driven by science and digital technologies. Digital Transformation is sweeping across the whole organization. It’s empowering our people and our business commercially and operationally. It’s transforming our science and accelerating the discovery and development of our new therapeutic areas. It’s helping enhance our understanding of disease biology, discover new ways to target the drivers of disease to predict better clinical success pioneer new approaches to engagement in the clinic and beyond.
We’ve always put patients first and at the heart of what we do.
Digital reinforces our commitment to a patient-immersed culture in every aspect of our business, from discovery to treatment and ongoing care. We’re streamlining clinical trials and making them swifter, more convenient, and patient-friendly. We’re building sustainability into our science practice and processes, creating a new business model and value strategies, increasing the use of automation, improving the speed and quality of manufacturing the delivery and access to our medicines, outcomes, and support for patients support and value for our healthcare systems. Our belief in people, ideas, science, and technology drives this transformation, enabling us to shape the future of healthcare and better serve the communities we live and work in and the wider society as a whole. Growth through innovation strategy will guide our business to 2025 and beyond, supporting us in advancing our scientific knowledge to extend the possible and help shape the future of healthcare. We’re never complacent about scientific discovery and development, pushing our R and D productivity, searching for new knowledge and the next breakthrough. We’re committed to investing in and embedding four key areas to help us in our aspiration to create the greatest impact on disease.
We’re enhancing our understanding of disease biology to treat, prevent, and, in the future, even cure complex diseases, discovering new ways to target the drivers of disease to create the next generation of therapeutics, better predicting clinical success to make sure we accelerate delivery to get the right medicines to the right patients, and pioneering new approaches to patient engagement in the clinic and beyond, incorporating patient insights to improve their experience and outcomes. AI and machine learning have the potential to transform the way we discover and develop new medicines and informed diagnosis. We hope to be able to increase the probability of success and reduce timelines in our drug discovery and development processes, as well as improve the diagnostic journey by implementing advanced AI and machine learning approaches.
APIs drive business composability. It moves us from monolithic thinking and discussing system-to-system integration into reusable integration products. It shifts us away from connecting data and systems to sharing data and functionality. It moves us from IT-led to business-owned. APIs help us to move from a project mindset to a product mindset.
A well-managed API approach can help create the right fit between rigidity and complexity by standardizing what we have by making them available for people to use, innovate, and drive new value on.
Business composability is made of two pillars –
- Systems and applications
Benefits of APIs to systems and applications
- It fosters internal innovation and collaboration, providing managed APIs over access to data, functionality, and services. It means that it’s easier to collaborate internally.
- It expands the platform’s reach to other channels and devices, increasing adoption and exploiting existing investments.
- APIs enable third-party integrations, providing opportunities for partnerships, collaborations, and interactions with research organizations and regulatory authorities.
- It improves the patient, scientist, and HCP experience, creating a more seamless and connected experience allowing different systems to share data and provide personalized and contextually relevant services.
- It maintains the long-term agility of the company by shifting away from monoliths. It allows us to decompose some of the organization and pivot and change with the ever-increasing pressures we see in doing business today on a global scale.
Putting data at the heart of our strategy
To be successful, we have to industrialize our data foundations and power capabilities at scale. So those are two things. One is how we look after the data, how we govern it, how we manage it. And then the second part is how we leverage that data to get insights faster to be able to improve our decision-making lifecycle. Underpinning all of that is how we make data fair and trusted.
If we think about FAIR, that’s about how we govern the data, ensuring it’s in a place where people can find data quickly. It’s accessible and interoperable. So, we use one language across all the access points to get access to that data. It’s got to be reusable. Data has to be trustworthy, reliable, unified, secure, and transparent. We will then need to use data and AI aligned to our business outcomes, enable the right governance, have a modern platform to process and manage data, and have the right skills in the operating model.
Data Driving Business Composability
If we then leverage APIs around those FAIR data principles, we contribute to the maturity of those products. It helps improve the ease at which we can find and get access to critical data. It helps our business data offices apply the rigor around the regulations, compliance, and policies that affect our data. It allows us to connect data across the organization in support of use cases around AI data science and driving insights around that common language.
When we think about using data, there’s a defensive side and an offensive side to how we look at data. On one side, it’s about driving the value against the business strategy, and on the other, it’s about minimizing risk to the organization.
External laws and regulations and the business data strategy are the keys to a governance and API framework. If we don’t have a good understanding of the data strategy and the laws and regulations we are working with, it may put our business at risk, and we won’t be successful. We’ve then got to turn those regulations, laws, and strategies into policies and procedural standards. It then drops into accountabilities and various areas we need to govern. This feeds into our critical data products, models, and the underpinning technology.
To understand integration, we must look at the actual movement and flow of data. We need to be sure of the consumers and users of data. To get better control over data, we need to focus on data access. This is where the API serving those data products can act as a governance and assurance step within your process. We know that if APIs have the right process policy and it is aligned with the regulations and standards within the company, people consuming that data are compliant. It allows data owners to approve or reject access to certain data products based on who the consumers are. APIs play a key part in data loss prevention, with API security, including all the threat protection underpinned by identity and access management.
In the data discovery aspect, we’re establishing an API marketplace, which will be integrated with our enterprise data catalog. To help data consumers find data in seconds and access data in minutes. It also helps in data product readiness. API management services allow us to manage the data across the lifecycle of data consumers and track value creation and realization. It also plays a key part in data standardization. Having contracts in place, understanding where those trusted sources are, and building the APIs across those trusted sources will start to drive future compliance into using those critical data assets.
Historically, APIs and integration have been very tightly coupled. We often find we’re building interfaces against back-end systems as a part of the integration demand. We need to flip that and start thinking about APIs as products and consider them another replacement for a screen and keyboard. It will allow integration teams to find and discover those APIs to build those integrations. We’re looking at opportunities to create distinct teams that lock in the creation of those package business capabilities and separate teams that deliver those projects and make use of those readily available APIs. It will require comprehensive governance and control capabilities to be built, providing capabilities to those application and system teams to secure their APIs, promote them into a catalog, and provide secure access to potential consumers and innovations.