Our common global enemy is disease, so we built a system for pharma that uses data to accelerate development of drugs to fight emerging diseases,” says Donna Conroy.
Donna Conroy, M.S. is CEO and Founder of SciMar ONE, LLC, a clinical data analytics technology company. Throughout her career, Donna has focused on two passions: translating complicated science to evolve drug development and building work environments that support women – especially working mothers, a mission close to her heart.
Donna oversees SciMar ’s day-to-day business and uses her extensive scientific background to support the clinical team. Through her leadership at SciMar, Donna was named one of New Jersey’s Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and was accepted into the prestigious Women in Cloud Microsoft Cloud Accelerator, 2020. Donna credits participation in Microsoft’s Women In Cloud Accelerator for stimulating key ideas and providing access to opportunities to catapult SciMar to where it is today.
The Problem with Clinical Data
As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, there is a global challenge in managing tremendous volumes of clinical data to effectively treat disease. To combat this “avalanche” of information, the pharmaceutical industry needs a powerful solution to identify, process and align scientifically validated data to drug development workflow.
There has always been a wealth of clinical data, but rapid advancements in technology allow for huge volumes of both good and non-validated data dissemination. Add a volume issue to an existing myriad of clinical data interoperability challenges and pharma is left with a problem that both expediates and slows drug development.
Seeing this inefficiency within the drug development process, Donna identified the whitespace that informed SciMar ’s mission to build a solution that expedites drug development. Today, Donna’s work centers around SciMar’s proprietary technology solution called The Scientific Data Engine (SDE). The SDE is an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered drug development platform that accelerates cross-functional drug development. SciMar was recently accepted into Microsoft for Startups, a global program to help build and scale the SDE.
Translating Science with Evolving Technology
Donna began SciMar as a consultancy in 2003 when she left a successful, fast-track career in pharma to have a family. As a consultant, she helped pharmaceutical clients translate complicated science into meaningful market needs. She developed, executed, and implemented drug development plans with strategies that delivered results, all while raising four children.
In 2014, as technology advanced, Donna transitioned SciMar from a consultancy to a small business. With a new vision, she led the company in building early-version technology solutions to identify useful data from mounds of clinical information. In 2015, SciMar offered a basic version of the SDE to solve a small portion of clinical data management challenges. These early solutions were customized for Fortune-500 pharmaceutical companies.
Although building and selling sole-proprietor solutions was beneficial, it was rate limiting, allowing SciMar to only work with one pharma company at a time in a specific disease. When drugs failed the drug development process, or divisions were sold, the SDE was no longer needed. More concerning was the loss of significant data insights/analytics that could continue advancing patient care.
Seeing an opportunity to better meet the needs of multiple clients and progress healthcare globally, Donna made a strategic decision in early 2020. She would pivot SciMar ’s business and re-imagine the SDE as a SaaS solution. This innovative and more comprehensive SDE would offer three distinct advantages:
1) SPEED to compile and sort mounds of validated clinical data instantly 2) FLEXIBILITY with disease-specific data models that quickly and easily adapt to any disease, and 3) UNDERSTANDING with deeper analytical capabilities that provide clients the exact information needed to develop datadriven, innovative drugs.
The incorporation of advanced technology was required to adopt this vision. The SDE was enhanced with AI powered
technology including Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML). The goal of reimagining the SDE to accelerate innovative drug development was underway.
Today the SDE system solves significant challenges within pharmaceutical drug development and gets life-saving therapies to market 2-3 years faster.
The most significant advancement is the shift of clinical data analytics from humans to technology. This shift streamlines drug development workflow and translates to significant savings of more than $34M for every drug in development. Currently, there are 204 drug development teams working on just the top 6 emerging diseases which equates to a $7 billion dollar savings to the pharmaceutical industry.
Global Impact Awards and Recognition
The decision to pivot the business and focus on progressing global healthcare resulted in recognition of the SDE’s alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 3: Good Heatlh and WellBeing.
In the fall of 2020, the SDE was honored as a top 10 idea solving the United Nations SDGs in the AI Solutions 2030 design contest sponsored by Ideagen® and Women in Cloud. In February 2021, the SDE solution was chosen by Microsoft for its #BuildFor2030 campaign which supports Microsoft partners aligned to the UN SDGs and making a difference by enabling an inclusive economy, creating opportunities, and positive business outcomes.
Micosoft’s Women in Cloud Microsoft Accelerator
Navigating the Women in Cloud opportunity during a global pandemic created several interesting challenges and successes for Donna. Participating in the accelerator program, she learned the value of flexibility, resetting the course and challenging her current knowledge base.
The Women in Cloud program helped Donna gain the skills required to overcome many business hurdles of reimaging the SDE. Specifically, she revamped the business model and reevaluated the SDE’s value propositions. SciMar’s partnership with Microsoft’s Women in Cloud helped secure industry leading technology advisors and advance the SDE technology with global expertise. In addition, the COVID-19 SDE became available to prospective pharma clients through both the Microsoft Commercial Marketplace and the Women In Cloud Commercial Marketplace to quickly expand the customer base.
Expanding Opportunities for Women
Throughout her career, Donna has maintained a passion for creating work environments that support women – especially working mothers. She developed SciMar’s work-from-home model years before it was an accepted practice, to accommodate her own need for work-life balance with four children. This need evolved into a strong belief of attracting talent over physical presence. “What I learned is there were so many smart, talented women who wanted it all, but were struggling,” said Donna. “Yet there is an inherent efficiency in these women that translates to strong work born out of the desire to accommodate both family and a career.”
Over the years, this need transcended beyond women and therefore, SciMar is committed to building programs that hire talented people who would otherwise leave their careers because of life events. Donna has established a program providing flexible roles that allow people to build and maintain their careers and skills while balancing life. This flexibility not only attracts high talent, but fosters growth of SciMar’s employees, so they continue building a career at their own non-traditional pace.
Donna is eager to expand and create new opportunities for women at the executive level as she grows her company. Goals include women representing more than 50% of the Board of Directors, executive management, and advisory boards.
In addition, SciMar proactively partners with women-owned companies, and is establishing internship and mentoring programs with at least 50% enrollment for women in STEM.
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