Industry Sharing Series: MSD


On 29 February, the Faculty organised an industry sharing session featuring speakers from Merck & Co. (known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada) on the topicBig Data Enabling Big Science in the Pharmaceutical Industry.” MSD, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has a rich heritage of bringing ground-breaking products to the market, including prescription pharmaceuticals and vaccines to treat diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and infectious diseases, to name a few.


The speakers were Ivan John CLEMENT, a data scientist with MSD’s Global Innovation Network in Singapore, Roy GOH, Director (Data Science and Analytics) and Sarayu PARIMAL, a senior scientist with the MSD Translational Medicine Research Centre in Singapore. The speakers shared on the current state and evolution of the pharmaceutical industry and the growing importance of data science to address challenges, such as voluminous data in the healthcare sector and the lengthy and risky process of testing, developing and bringing new drugs to patients. On average, putting one drug to the market can take up to 12 years and $2.5 billion of investment. 


In his current role, Mr Clement collects data across the organisation and builds computational models driven by advanced analytics and machine learning. Using these models, he helps the company to deliver the right drugs to the right patients at the right price. In his talk, Mr Clement highlighted key trends in the pharmaceutical industry, such as increased research & development (R&D) spending on developing new drugs and biologics and the impact of combining big data and big science to benefit patients. These benefits include the development of safe and effective medicines through better prediction of molecular activity from chemical structures and the identification of key opinion leaders (KOLs) – doctors who greatly influence medical and drug prescribing practices – through their medical journal submissions.


In his talk, Mr Parimal spoke about his translational research to develop novel biomarkers (i.e. indicators of biological and / or pathological processes or pharmacological responses to therapeutic intervention), the use of data analytics for neuroimaging and leveraging big heart data for drug discovery.  He also described how imaging biomarkers can reduce the time and cost spent on drug discovery.


Citing the example of heart failure studies, Mr Parimal shared that imaging techniques could be used to predict structural and functional changes in the heart and to understand disease mechanisms through cardiac data sharing. Big heart data could also be leveraged for drug discovery, early predictions of the disease activity and to assess treatment effects.


Last but not least, Mr Goh spoke about building a cross-functional analytics team from ground-up and how to maximise the returns on investment (ROI) on analytics. He spoke about delivering on “quick-win” projects and engaging the top leadership on the value of data science and analytics for the company. Apart from developing top-notch technical capabilities, Mr Goh suggested that aspiring data scientists should also develop domain expertise and business acumen to be effective in accelerating value-generation for the company.



The invited speakers from Merck & Co. (MSD)
From left: Mr Ivan John Clement,
a data scientist with MSD’s Global Innovation Network in Singapore; Mr Sarayu Parimal, a senior scientist with the MSD Translational Medicine Research Centre in Singapore; and Mr Roy Goh, Director (Data Science and Analytics)



Addressing queries from the participants during the Q&A segment