During the COVID-19 pandemic, the biotech company has focused its efforts on community service and support. In collaboration with Microsoft Azure, in just 8 days Roche implemented a digital solution to enable cloud labs, which allowed the company to process three times as many COVID-19 tests, providing relief to the city of Guayaquil in an unprecedented time in history.
Roche is a biopharmaceutical company that has been in business for more than 124 years globally, and 40 years in Ecuador. By combining science and research, from diagnosis to treatment of multiple diseases, Roche transforms the lives of Ecuadorian patients. The biopharmaceutical company is committed to developing innovative, effective and safe medicines to solve unmet medical needs, with the goal of making a real difference in patients’ health and quality of life.
Roche is a leader in oncology, having developed therapies for breast and lung cancer, melanoma and hematologic malignancies. Additionally, it has developed innovative drugs for diseases that have not enjoyed significant breakthroughs in years, including multiple sclerosis, hemophilia, rheumatoid arthritis and, more recently, spinal muscular atrophy and neuromyelitis optica.
Gonzalo Arias, Marketing & Access Manager at Roche Ecuador, explains: “We are the biotech company that invests the most in research & development in the world. Our vision is to contribute to health systems for the well-being of people and patients.” Ana Cevallos, Corporate Communications Manager at Roche, highlights: “By applying innovative solutions, we are able to diagnose and treat highly complex diseases. From there, it is possible to positively transform the lives of our patients and their families”.
Azure cloud labs
Roche Ecuador comprises two important divisions: pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. The latter is in charge of supplying diagnostic equipment and solutions to labs and hospitals in Ecuador. Due to the volume of data they process, these teams require ample space for hardware storage, as well as long periods of time — sometimes several months— for implementation.
In response to these space and time challenges, Roche developed an innovative suite of digital solutions for native labs in the Microsoft Azure cloud, the first of its kind in the world. The project was born in 2019 in collaboration with a company called Xenturion IT. Juan Carlos Blum, General Manager at Xenturion IT, says: “Roche remains strong thanks to its constant drive for innovation in the face of new challenges. Together with Microsoft we have proved how this project is becoming increasingly robust”.
With Microsoft Azure’s support, the emerging data processing need from Roche’s diagnostics arm is met by virtual machines hosted in the cloud. This has provided greater flexibility and agility in analyzing diagnostic information. Functions such as obtaining and distributing data — which previously had to be processed on different physical machines and even through traditional media, such as paper — have been digitized and automated.
Christhian Chamba, Digital Solutions Manager at Roche explains: “Thanks to Azure we have been able to generate innovative solutions that improve the patient’s experience, and protect their health. These include scheduling appointments and checking test results, among others. We are the first lab in the world to be hosted in the cloud, and we want to boost this project for the benefits it can bring to the health system”.
In addition, through the Web Application Firewall, Application Gateway, and Azure Disaster Recovery features, the company boasts a secure technology infrastructure that can safeguard the data and prevent malicious attacks.
Automated COVID-19 detection tests
The alliance with Xenturion IT made it easier for Roche to press ahead with projects that support the Ecuadorian health sector in a historic moment. After the health emergency brought on by COVID-19, Roche’s digitization has made it possible to take advantage of the time factor and provide the Ecuadorian public health system with a real-time vision of the status of the pandemic, which has become essential in fighting and controlling the disease.
Microsoft’s services have made it easy to use virtual machines that were developed especially for Roche. Faced with a critical health situation generated in Guayaquil by COVID-19, Roche was able to enable cloud labs — including the digital solution on Azure — in just 8 days, without the need to implement large physical server platforms. Thanks to Roche, the city of Guayaquil went from processing 400 to 1,400 tests per day. The company’s work has been instrumental in managing a historic and unprecedented health crisis in the region.
“The arrival of the virus took us all by surprise. In order to have better visibility and be able to react, it was necessary to process tests in large volumes. Not having the appropriate technology platform implied the potential collapse of the systems due to the large amount of information generated in a pandemic. Thus, it was important to develop data management tools that would allow accessing test results in real time, which would in turn enable online data driven decision-making”, explains Christhian Chamba.
A healthy Ecuador
Azure’s features have made it possible to serve patients and the Ecuadorian public health system efficiently. The data generated by the COVID-19 diagnostic tests is processed in a scalable, fast and secure way. Mario Albuja, Digital Solutions Coordinator at Roche, says: “The biggest challenge was to make a robust platform available in a short period of time. With Azure it was possible to connect highly complex and remotely located biomedical equipment in a dynamic way”.
Given the critical situation caused by the pandemic, Roche, in conjunction with public health organizations, was able to process diagnostic tests on a massive scale and thus achieve better monitoring and management of the virus in the country. Gonzalo Arias, Marketing and Access Manager at Roche Ecuador, concludes: “With the implementation of automated processing of COVID-19 tests in the public sector, we have managed to combat the pandemic. In fact, we increased the possibility of testing by +300%. The most important thing is that our lab, and our cloud-based digital solution is allowing us to provide relief at a difficult time”.
“Thanks to Azure we have been able to generate innovative solutions that improve the patient experience and protect their health”
Christhian Chamba: Digital Solutions Manager, Roche Ecuador
“By applying innovative solutions, we are able to diagnose and treat highly complex diseases. From there it is possible to positively transform the lives of our patients and their families”.
Ana Cevallos: Corporate Communications Manager at Roche Ecuador