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Pharma data management: Revealing breakthroughs that lie in darkness

Jennifer Sexton , Director/CAS Custom Services

Abstract circular data tunnel

Data-rich, information-poor: The reversible curse of the pharmaceutical industry

The pharmaceutical industry generates and retains abundant scientific and business information, from pre-clinical studies to sales. However, these documents are typically held in siloed sources and lead to substantial annual storage expenses, encompassing about 52% of a business’ storage budget .

Unaware of this dark data or how to maximize its potential, companies inevitably fall into the “data-rich, information-poor” or “DRIP” situation . This concept describes organizations with significant amounts of data but no processes to produce valuable information and gain a competitive advantage.

Thanks to the rise of digitalization, companies can implement advanced organizational tools that help them stop generating dark data and effectively transform currently latent information into evidence-based insights. However, cleaning, organizing, and exploiting massive data can become overwhelming. Engaging with an outside data expert offers a tailored, step-by-step approach to pharmaceutical companies ready to bring their knowledge management system to the next level.

Digitize and harmonize: Bringing structure to the dark data chaos

Pharma companies can retrieve and use dark data to direct R&D investment, optimize formulations, identify production bottlenecks, and assess quality systems and controls. However, the Nature article “Scientists losing data at a rapid rate” estimated that about 80% of scientific data becomes unavailable in 20 years or less, making proper information retrieval perilous.

Building up in binders, drawers, and unsecured virtual platforms, dark data can take many forms which are often disconnected. As years go by and teams evolve, a company’s knowledge can quickly become scattered and hard to retrieve. By digitizing your legacy documents and collecting all the information in a single knowledge management platform, you can increase data retrieval efficiency, reduce resource allocation towards data management tasks, and improve experience sharing within your organization.

A clear benefit is demonstrated through the launch of Pistoia Alliance Chemical Safety Library , which facilitates information sharing between scientists to improve laboratory safety.

Expertise can help digitize and harmonize data
Transforming latent data into searchable and exploitable assets requires expertise to perform proper document digitization, reliable quality checks, and safe integration into your company’s ecosystem. A good outside partner understands and masters every component to help create a unique data collection tailored to your need.

From abandoned drug development to market successes, your company’s past overflows with valuable lessons. By structuring and harmonizing this dark data, a data partner can help you transform latent information into evidence-based insights with endless opportunities for innovation.

Benefits of a data management partnership:

  • Properly digitized physical documents, including scientific articles, reports, lab journals, images, and videos into digital formats.
  • Harmonized digital content with consistent terminologies, abbreviations, and formats.
  • Confirmed data quality, accuracy, and integrity to ensure robust foundations for your knowledge management platform.
  • Custom designed search tools to improve data accessibility and retrieval.
  • Ensured long-term data maintenance and management by implementing tailored acquisition strategies.

Analyze and optimize: Finding patterns and opportunities in your data

Dusting off dark data and structuring your knowledge management platform can greatly extend your company’s value. By analyzing massive datasets, companies can identify previously unseen trends. Uncovering patterns in previous discovery R&D, formulation data, or manufacturing methods can significantly save time, improve processes across your value chain, and support critical business decisions.

A digital transformation effort of highlights how pharma companies can optimize the success of their unique internal platforms, databases, and workflows through the integration of quality curated data and technology. Through this initiative, updated its proprietary database to fuel its drug delivery AI engine, with an expected 70% reduction in resources allocated to molecular data acquisition and preparation.

As your knowledge management platform grows in accuracy and value, your team can confidently identify trends and start working toward their next discovery. Uncovering patterns becomes easier, quicker, and more rewarding.

How an outside partner can help pharma improve data analysis and insight generation
An outside partner will be an expert at designing comprehensive, fully-functional data platforms to offer companies a complete view of their data landscape. By teaming up with a data expert, pharmaceutical businesses can:

  • Establish a data foundation for analytics and insights with strong frameworks and data integrity.
  • Identify knowledge gaps and project opportunities to fill them.
  • Get support with data visualization and analytics to uncover patterns and trends.
  • Expand and supplement their internal data with additional content.

Connect and Innovate: Get the right information to the right people

Pharma companies gather many bright and knowledgeable individuals dedicated to revolutionizing healthcare. However, communication among the company's experts is often disjointed, jeopardizing growth opportunities and affecting innovation progress. In the era of digitalization, reports show that companies could increase workers' productivity 20 to 25% by using social technologies like data management.

From R&D, operations, and quality management to IT, marketing, and finances, departments must work hand-in-hand to provide patients with the best pharmaceuticals. Through a company-wide knowledge management system, you can provide your teams with a secure workspace to efficiently share data, past experiences, and best practices.

A cloud-based platform brings real-time collaboration to the next level, allowing researchers, engineers, and technical experts to search and retrieve information quickly, giving your teams the data accessibility and collaborative environment they need to make business-changing decisions faster.

How an outside data partner can help pharma companies connect and innovate
By partnering with an expert in high-level knowledge management systems, pharmaceutical leaders can:

  • Create a shared cloud-based knowledge management platform that is company-wide and suitable for all their teams.
  • Ensure data safety and minimize breaches by enforcing user access control and limiting third-party software use.
  • Facilitate secure exchanges of confidential or sensitive information through secure channels.
  • Promote interdisciplinary brainstorming and collaboration to multiply avant-garde visions and accelerate innovation.

Knowledge management and dark data: Essentials of the pharmaceutical innovators

While long considered “nice-to-have” in the pharma industry, a robust and secure knowledge management system now represents an essential breeding ground for innovative and collaborative work. Structured and harmonized in a company-wide interface, formerly unworkable dark data can quickly change into valuable insights for industrials seeking growth opportunities.

As digitalization continues gaining ground, leveraging dark data and cognitive tools in the pharma industry becomes necessary to stay on top of innovation in the drug development sector.

To learn more about digital transformation and data management, check out our case studies with CAS Custom Services. 

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Mars is calling, but how will Artemis fuel the journey?

Gilles Georges , Chief Scientific Officer

Successful rocket take off into the starry sky with the milky way

One of the most remarkable demonstrations of chemistry’s power is space exploration. From the first unmanned missions in the late 1950s to the space shuttle program and now Artemis, innovations in rocket fuel and engine technologies continue to advance the reach, capability, and sustainability of space exploration, showing in real-time how chemistry is powering this field.

Optimized rocket fuel is key to mission success

Rockets rely on various combinations of fuel and oxidizers to generate the tremendous power needed to overcome Earth’s gravity. Oxidizers and fuels are stable elements at room temperature, but when mixed and triggered by a heat source, they create an explosive reaction that provides the rocket’s thrust.

By adjusting the ratio of fuel to oxidizer, engineers can control various aspects of the rocket’s performance. Each combination provides a unique set of characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks, impacting performance measures like thrust efficiency, as well as other considerations such as toxicity, cost, and safety. As such, choosing the best propellant package for each voyage is a critical decision that depends on many variables related to the rocket’s mission.

Gaseous propellants, for example, are impractical for most long-distance rockets because of the large volume that would be required, but compressing and cooling these substances into their corresponding liquid phases provides an optimal volume-to-power ratio for large-scale rocket applications. Some propellants, however, have extremely low boiling points and require cryogenic cooling at temperatures below –150 °C (–238 °F) to liquefy. That can be a significant drawback to using these fuels for rocket propulsion, so the benefits must outweigh the costs and challenges of this requirement for a specific mission to justify their selection.

Two important performance characteristics of propellants, which are sometimes confused, are thrust and specific impulse. Thrust measures the propellant’s reaction force potential, or the amount of weight the rocket will be able to lift. Specific impulse (Isp) defines how efficiently a propellant can convert its mass into thrust, based on the time that a certain quantity of propellant can push a load. Engines using propellants with a high specific impulse tend to have lower thrust but use their propellant’s mass more efficiently. In short, they get greater gas mileage.

Table 1 compares the key properties of common rocket fuel packages. The RS-25 engine employed by NASA’s Artemis Space Launch System (SLS) rocket uses the LOX/LH2 propellant package. However, rockets being developed by some commercial organizations, including SpaceX’s Raptor and Blue Origin’s BE-4, are powered by the Liquid Methane/LOX package.

Among modern rocket propellants, LOX/LH2 exhibits the highest Isp value. That efficiency and a track record of reliability are the primary reasons why the LOX/LH2 package has been commonly used as a rocket propellant for the last five decades, in spite of both atoms requiring cryogenic cooling. Also, while other propellants release large quantities of polluting chemicals and greenhouse gases after combustion, the primary by-product produced by the combustion of LOX/LH2 is water, making it a more sustainable fuel.  

Liquid Oxygen LOX/Fuel Propellant
Table 1. Propellant packages: properties of LOX and various fuels.

Note: *RP-1 (Rocket Propellant-1) is a highly refined form of kerosene and is widely used in liquid rocket engines (i.e., the Saturn V rocket engine).

Radical reaction chemistry of LOX/LH2 rockets

Hydrogen and oxygen are stable elements that will not spontaneously react when mixed at room temperature. For a reaction to occur, H–H and O=O covalent bonds need to be broken. When enough energy is supplied to overcome the H–H and O=O bonding energy, a chain reaction will occur until water is formed. This reaction toward water’s stable structure releases large amounts of energy during H2 combustion with O2.

Figure 1. Main radical reactions involved in H2 combustion in O2

Despite this reaction’s apparent simplicity, H2 combustion with O2 is complex and involves several intermediary reactions with H and O radicals. The main reactions leading to the formation of water are listed in Figure 1. Chain-branching reactions occur when one radical generates two or more radicals (Figure 1, reactions 3 and 4). Because these reactions produce more reactive radicals than they consume, they accelerate, explaining the explosive nature of the reaction.

These radical reactions don’t always happen in the exact order displayed in Figure 1, and other radicals not mentioned here may be formed through other chain reaction schemes. Propellant mixture, pressure, and temperature also influence H2 combustion kinetic mechanisms.

Advancing engine design to power Artemis

In addition to fuel optimization, rocket engine design is equally critical to maximizing the power of modern rockets. Today’s rocket engine designs leverage foundational innovations developed during Germany’s World War II V-2 rocket program. The availability of new materials and other technological innovations have allowed engineers to advance these designs to increase the power, durability, reliability, and efficiency needed to power modern space missions.

Designed in the 1970s by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the RS-25 engine was originally developed and used for NASA Space Shuttle missions. Five generations of innovation later, the RS-25s that power Artemis’ SLS rocket are sophisticated cryogenic engines that incorporate decades of technology advancements and design optimizations, making them some of the most efficient and powerful rocket engines ever produced.

To create a powerful and consistent thrust, rocket engines need to be fed with a large volume of high-velocity liquid propellant via the turbopump. The first version of the turbopump (Figure 2) was developed by V-2 engineers in the 1940s. It was revolutionary in its design and performance, with one steam turbine rotating at 4,000 rpm to drive centrifugal pumps for both the fuel and oxidizer. More than 60 years later, the modern turbopump is still one of the most critical and complex components responsible for the performance of modern rocket engines.

U.S. Manned Rocket Propulsion Evolution

Figure 2. Cross-section of a V-2 turbopump provided by 


The RS-25 engines in the Artemis rocket utilize the LOX/LH2 cryogenic propellant package based on its superior specific impulse. However, a significant difference between the densities and flow rates of LH2 and LOX prevents the RS-25 from operating on a single turbopump. Hydrogen’s density is extremely low (71 g/L), which means that it will take 2.7 times as much LH2 to proportionally match the LOX quantity for efficient combustion to happen. To accommodate these very different cryogenic liquids and their physical properties the RS-25 uses two separate turbopumps.

These modern high-pressure turbopumps are feats of engineering. Their turbines contain dozens of blades that are only the size of a quarter. Rotating between 28,000 and 35,000 rpm, each blade provides more power than a Corvette engine, allowing these turbopumps to generate tens of thousands of horsepower.

Space aspirations driving innovation across industries

Rocket fuel and engine technologies are obvious areas of innovation driven by the space program. However, the current focus on returning humans to the moon and eventually reaching Mars also serves as a catalyst to accelerate new research across a wide range of industries including medicine, material science, communications, electronics, and even agriculture. Many of these innovations, in addition to enabling space missions, result in improvements to products that benefit all of us here on Earth as well.

Interested in other new technologies being developed for the Artemis mission? Read more about innovations in food science that will nourish astronauts heading to the moon and beyond.

Digital transformation in pharma: Improving R&D through digital solutions

Jennifer Sexton , Director/CAS Custom Services

Futuristic Technology Background. Outer Space, Alien Technology And Spaceship Concept

Maximizing digitalization ROI: A challenge for pharmaceutical businesses

On average, drug companies spend 10 to 15 years developing, validating, and marketing a new product. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic and successful, lightning-fast mRNA vaccine development shed light on the potential of digital tools to accelerate processes. This major event deepened the pharmaceutical industry's interest in undergoing digital transformation and implementing cognitive tools into their processes. However, digitalization can be complicated and difficult to achieve.

About 55% of pharmaceutical firms report using digital technologies to some degree. However, a lack of expertise in knowledge management and experience with digital tools often transforms this smart initiative into a debatable investment. With roughly 70% of digitalization programs failing, pharma companies need to reevaluate where to invest their digitalization dollars and optimize their deployment strategies to unlock competitive advantages and generate life-changing pharmaceuticals.

With a deep understanding of robust knowledge management, cognitive tools, and how they intertwine, pharma companies can revolutionize their processes at all levels and breed better global healthcare.

Digitization and knowledge management: Facilitating company-wide data access to accelerate innovation

Pharmaceutical companies generate massive volumes of information, from ingredient information, formulation, and clinical trial data to processing time, production, and quality control reports. These new documents quickly pile up when using existing legacy information sources and siloed databases, making search and retrieval challenging. Unstructured and unharmonized, past experiment results get lost in the “dark data” realm, accounting for an estimated 55% of all organization knowledge.

Without easy access to historical data across departments, pharmaceutical companies are likely to repeat previous mistakes or investigate questions that already have answers. To accelerate innovation and significantly shorten product time to market, digitalization is key.

Pharma companies are transforming historical documents, such as lab journals, datasets, and reports, into searchable assets in a connected knowledge management platform. This allows individuals throughout the organization to access ingredient-level information, supplier details, regulatory guidelines, and other scientific and business intelligence. These companies are taking this a step further by introducing an online user interface to connect teams in different departments and regions.

Through thoughtful digitalization, pharma companies can further facilitate, streamline, and expand R&D, manufacturing, and commercialization while promoting interdisciplinary work and international collaboration.

Streamlining drug development: Accelerating therapeutics innovation with cognitive tools

The age of digitalization is transforming the pharmaceutical industry, providing researchers with revolutionary tools to improve time to market and safety.

The development of COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year propelled Pfizer into the center of the pharmaceutical scene. While Pfizer’s workforce efficiency is indisputable, the company’s unprecedented response time and competitive advantage are rooted in well-established pipelines implemented long before the pandemic. A pioneer in digital strategies, Pfizer understood the transformative potential of knowledge management, data analytics, and AI initiatives for the pharmaceutical sector and incorporated them into its daily operations.

With decades of expertise and research data available, pharma giants can narrow lead candidates to the best, safest options. For instance, AI-driven algorithms combined with previous clinical data allowed researchers to design and supervise extensive clinical trials with real-time predictive models of COVID-19 attack rates. Pushing the boundaries beyond the laboratory’s doors, knowledge management strategies and AI models enabled inventory prediction and supply chain monitoring, streamlining vaccine development, distribution, and accessibility.

Robust data foundations and cognitive tools deployed throughout their value chain gave Pfizer a definite head-start in the COVID-19 vaccine race. From initial drug candidate selection to treatment monitoring, the power of cognitive tools in accelerating drug development has been proven. However, AI predictions only reach their full capabilities if properly trained with clean, curated, and protected datasets. To launch or optimize AI in pharma R&D workflows, you must first evaluate the quality of your data and knowledge management infrastructure.

Digitalization and data security: Protecting proprietary information, patient privacy, and research integrity

Through extensive drug discovery phases and clinical trials, the pharma industry has access to critical manufacturing processes and patient health information. This is precious data for competitors and malevolent individuals. With the growth of cyberattacks (nearly 1 every 39 seconds) and medical identity theft (35% in 2019), implementing robust security strategies in the pharma industry is now an urgent matter.

Reports define pharma companies as prime targets of cyber attackers, with 53% of privacy breaches resulting from malicious activity. Confidential information spread across different departments, platforms, and software makes it challenging for companies to guarantee data protection and a secure environment. Implementing an organization-wide knowledge management interface can enforce strict user access control while eliminating data breaches. Cloud-based collaborative platforms with secure channels where researchers and clinicians can safely share sensitive information and avoid risks of device corruption are becoming more common in the pharmaceutical industry. However, transitioning from siloed on-premises legacy solutions to cloud-based platforms or custom hybrid versions is complex and slow to adopt. To streamline the transition to updated knowledge management ecosystems while safeguarding data, pharma companies should look to digital transformation partners with knowledge in their field.

Digital transformation in pharma

Digitalization has the potential to drastically transform the pharmaceutical industry, allowing for better knowledge management, accelerated innovation, and improved data security while reducing drug time to market. However, an ill-conceived digital transformation strategy can result in wasted resources and increased risk.

As pharma’s digital transformation continues to evolve, digital technologies and cognitive tools are finding their way into all aspects of the industry, allowing for faster drug development and expanded treatment options for a growing number of conditions. Digital transformation strives to bring innovative healthcare solutions in a sustainable, responsible, and accessible way.

To learn more about digital transformation and data management, check out our case studies with CAS Custom ServicesSM.

Multifunctional Cosmetics: Developing a Product That ‘Does It All’

CAS Science Team

Colorful background with laboratory utensils, samples of cosmetics and glass vials on pink background.

Gone are the days of a countertop full of products and long-winded cosmetic routines. In today’s fast-paced society, consumers are looking for that one product that can do it all.

Enter multifunctional cosmetics.

Whether it’s a skincare product offering hydration, anti-aging, and blemish treatment properties, or an anti-frizz, strand-repair, in-shower conditioning hair mask, consumers are demanding more of their cosmetic products than ever before. This demand, however, puts pressure on the cosmetics industry to keep formulating products that tackle multiple concerns at once.

By keeping track of the latest developments in multifunctional ingredients, including chitosan and lignin, as well as novel delivery systems, such as the use of nanotechnology, formulators can continue to deliver innovative products to this fast-moving and high-demand market.

Hero ingredients

Organic, bio cosmetics healthy concept with Petri Dishes with natural plants and beauty products

One of the great tools the cosmetics industry can use to formulate multifunctional cosmetics is so-called ‘hero ingredients.’ These ingredients offer multiple benefits simultaneously, enabling formulations with only a few ingredients to tackle multiple concerns.

Some common cosmetic hero ingredients include:

Ingredient Hero properties
Shea butter Anti-inflammatory 
Coconut oil Repairs the skin barrier
Wound healing
Niacinamide Anti-inflammatory
Caffeine Stimulates hair growth
Improves microcirculation
UV protective
Propolis Antiseptic
Wound healing

With greater consumer interest in slimmed-down ingredient lists and ‘clean cosmetics’, hero ingredients are an easy sell to people looking for a single-ingredient answer to all their cosmetic needs. Not only do these ingredients help with formulation, but many are viewed as ‘natural’ or ‘clean’, providing a clear marketing advantage.

Herculean hydrators

Cream smear and transparent drops of face serum with nourishing and moisturizing ingredients

Hydrators are among some of the most versatile cosmetic ingredients. These ingredients often provide hydration for skin, hair, and nails and can be used to develop multipurpose products for all of these applications. Hydrating serums and oils are now being marketed as a single replacement for a collection of products, including hand creams, face moisturizers, body moisturizers, and hair conditioning masks.

Hydrating ingredients can do more than target multiple body areas. They can be used in multifunctional cosmetics, which also provide anti-aging, antioxidant, and antimicrobial benefits. Plant oils, including shea butter and coconut oil, are common candidates within the cosmetic industry. However, new research has identified chitosan as a novel contender.

Chitosan can be used on skin and hair, where it can hydrate and protect. The benefits of chitosan are thought to include:

  • Humectant properties
  • Emollient properties
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Skin conditioning
  • UV protection
  • Antioxidant properties

Amazing antioxidants

Organic, bio cosmetics healthy concept with Bottles with natural plants

Chitosan, as an ingredient with antioxidant properties, will join other cosmetic staples such as shea butter, coconut oil, niacinamide, and propolis. Each ingredient brings its own multifunctionality, creating a range of options when formulating cosmetics with antioxidant activity.

Another recent candidate for antioxidant cosmetics is lignin. Derived from natural sources including sugarcane, lignin has distinct antioxidant activity, which could be harnessed for cosmetic applications. In a 2023 study, lignin was shown to have the same or slightly greater ability to scavenge for free radicals as the cosmetic standard. The study also showed that lignin can be used as a natural cosmetic pigment as well as UV protection, highlighting its potential as a hero ingredient of the future.

Spectacular sun protection

Summer time on the beach with sunblock

Lignin’s potential in UV protection arguably surpasses that of its antioxidant properties. Shown to be a potent UV-blocker both in vitro and on human volunteers, lignin presents an exciting opportunity for the future of UV-protective multifunctional cosmetics. With increasing advice about sun protection, consumers are looking for SPF products that also target other skin concerns.

Another avenue of research is the addition of rosmarinic acid to sunscreen formulations, which was shown to increase the SPF by 41% as well as adding antioxidant properties. A key barrier for SPF containing multifunctional cosmetic formulations is that any new ingredient cannot compromise the sun protection of the product, making ingredients like rosmarinic acid, which can enhance SPF as well as bring other benefits, an exciting opportunity for formulators.

Tremendous blemish treatments

Group of pipettes with serum and oil for face


Blemish treatment products often need to have more than one function, including skin hydration, wound healing, and antioxidant properties. Ingredients that are anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial can help fight the causes of acne blemishes, and those providing wound healing and skin barrier repair can reduce scarring. In this way, blemish treatment ingredients need to provide versatility even within their main function.

With a wide range of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory ingredients in use within the cosmetics industry, formulators have their pick of active ingredients. Aloe vera, witch hazel, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinol are all common choices for blemish treatment, providing antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties to products like moisturizers.

It’s not just the hero ingredients themselves, though. Innovative delivery methods for the ingredients can increase their efficacy and longevity. Recently, a system for nano-based delivery of cosmetic anti-acne ingredients was developed to release the active ingredients slowly once in contact with skin and showed increased antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

The ultimate formulation

A bottle of serum in the rays of the sun and beautiful highlights

The cosmetics industry is facing the challenge of creating more advanced and versatile formulations than ever before as consumers continue to slim down their cosmetic routines. Making full use of hero ingredients to pack more functionality into cosmetic formulas can help developers achieve this goal and keep their products at the forefront of this new wave of multifunctional cosmetics.

Investing in up-and-coming hero ingredients like chitosan and lignin can help formulators push forward in their product development, and the adoption of novel delivery systems using nanotechnology can get more functionality from existing ingredients than ever before. Staying up to date with the latest research in multifunctional cosmetics will continue to support innovative development and break the boundaries of what consumers can expect from their cosmetic products.

Read more about how CAS can help you create the ultimate formulation by learning how we partnered with Citrine to predict deformulations using AI.

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