The innovation team at top global pharma company, AbbVie, built a MarkLogic-based collaboration platform that enables research and development (R&D) teams to communicate nimbly with their colleagues throughout the process of discovering and developing new life-saving drugs.

In the ultra-competitive, highly complex world of pharma, collaboration, agility and information security are equally important. Derek Debe, director of innovation and emerging technologies at AbbVie, spoke to me about how his team built Ethos, a collaborative data platform designed with the needs of R&D end-users in mind.


Ask “What’s Next?”

Derek is a leader in Business Technology Solutions at AbbVie, which supports all of the company’s business divisions across the globe, including R&D, manufacturing, commercial and corporate. In this role, Derek is always asking, “What’s next?” for his division and organization. “What’s next?” includes the cultural aspects of leading employee adoption of new productivity tools, as well as the technical aspects of evaluating and readying the business to deploy emerging technologies that will help diverse AbbVie teams get products to market faster than competitors.

The challenge is that pharma involves a broad range of experts in science, manufacturing, supply chain, marketing, sales and more. “Developing and discovering a drug is your original moonshot, so you have massive collaborations among people, as in some other industries, but not as profound as in pharma,” Derek said. “We needed to address collaboration issues much more nimbly and agilely, and in a self-service fashion, so we can keep pace with the speed that drug discovery and manufacturing need to proceed.”

Building a Collaboration Suite

With these mandates top of mind, Derek and his team created Ethos—a no-code collaboration platform designed to help scientists work more efficiently to get products to market faster than ever before. Ethos was created with two principles in mind: self-service and eliminating redundancy.

“A big opportunity in the B2B/corporate space is for tools to get much easier to use—to the point that they are as self-service as the tools we use in our consumer lives. We saw an opportunity to build that, something that hadn’t been achieved before,” Derek said.

Today, the Ethos platform is broad in scope, covering all major collaboration styles and catering to numerous and diverse audiences. There are three applications within the Ethos suite:

  1. Knowledge Notebooks that users configure to handle their team’s specific task and knowledge management needs;
  2. Dash, a drag-and-drop communications site building tool; and
  3. Buzz, which combines team chat and newsfeeds all in one.

Ethos integrates and personalizes the experience across these tools, putting it well ahead of commercial offerings, where integration and interoperability are spotty.

Selecting a Data Platform for Buzz

The latest addition to the Ethos suite, Buzz delivers macro and micro industry-specific news, while allowing for optimally secure data sharing. Derek and his team selected MarkLogic® as the data platform for this tool, based on requirements for performance, flexibility, scalability and enterprise-level security.

Buzz’s social interaction and newsfeed platform provide highly targeted information delivery that caters to users with many different goals, from drug development to competitive monitoring and acquisition targeting. “We couldn’t do this with other technologies,” Derek said. “We’re delivering these capabilities to our customers in ways that are wickedly performant.”

Performance is, in fact, key to the widespread employee adoption of this bespoke, commercial-quality software platform. According to Derek, the Ethos platform “allows for only one person to support six thousand users because it is so easy to use and self-configured.”

Hear Derek Debe and his colleague, T.J. Tang, speak more about Ethos, as well as other MarkLogic use cases, at MarkLogic World in May in Washington, D.C.

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