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Video Brief – Parexel’s Jonathan Shaw on Digital Transformation



Welcome to the HBR video brief. I’m Todd Pruzan, Senior Research and Special Projects Editor at the Harvard Business Review. Today I’m here with Jonathan Schaf, CIO of Parexel, one of the world’s largest clinical research organizations. Jonathan has over 30 years of IT experience and joined Parexel in November 2022 to lead the development of innovative technologies and solutions to meet customer needs in an ever evolving and growing clinical trial environment.

Jonathan is here to talk about the importance of digital transformation and its impact on the research industry, as well as the impact of modernized technologies on clinical trial patients. Jonathan, thank you so much for being with us today.

Jonathan: Thank you very much for inviting me. I am very happy to be here and I appreciate that you asked me to do so.

TP: Thank you, Jonathan. What is a Clinical Research Organization (CRO) and how has technology changed the industry?

DS: That’s a great question. First of all, CRO is a contract research organization that provides clinical trials and research services primarily to pharmaceutical and biotech companies, and sometimes to non-pharmaceutical and non-biotech companies. CROs typically test the safety and efficacy of new drugs, vaccines, and other medical procedures, such as medical devices, before they are made available to patients. So this process includes early clinical research, also known as prehuman research, and what we like to call first human research.

The CRO industry is relatively young – it started in the 1980s. Although there were tools such as Microsoft Excel, some databases, and of course pen and paper, for many years there were not many technologies that supported clinical research. But if you look back from 2010 to 2011, there’s a whole industry that has coalesced around contract research and pharmaceutical research and development in general, and it’s really expanded around the world.

TP: So what does digital transformation look like at Parexel? What are you trying to achieve?

DS: You know that there are two macro problems in our industry. One of them is finding and retaining patients in clinical trials (and it is very expensive to take this into account when developing a new drug). Therefore, at Parexel, we use a patient-centered approach for this. And in my role as CIO, I see the importance of empowering our teams with the best tools and technology, and the compelling opportunities that I call them digitized to streamline and improve the efficiency of the entire process.

An example would be investing in the use of real evidence, such as electronic medical records and electronic claims, or real data. This means using people’s social activity data to help us find patients. The second problem is finding places to conduct clinical trials, as participation in clinical trials requires patients to be referred somewhere to actually participate. So, we are looking at how to combine these two things with the help of technology.

TP: Good. So, Jonathan, what does all this technological innovation mean for patients and their communities?

DS: The work we do ultimately allows us to achieve the goal of providing a safe and effective therapy or treatment for them. We want to make it easier for patients to participate in clinical trials. We want to raise awareness and educate people that participating in clinical trials can help produce clinically relevant results that can reach patients faster, as we saw with pre-COVID therapy during the pandemic, right? So whether it’s orphan drugs, rare disease therapy, CNS therapy, or oncology, we want to use technology to bring these patients, researchers, and the work we do at CRO together so we can get these vaccines and treatments to market faster. .

TP: Well, Jonathan, thank you so much for the great conversation and all your ideas today.

DS: Todd, thank you, I really enjoyed it. This is a great way to convey the message that being in this industry is important for our health and the impact it has on our daily lives. Thank you very much.

TP: To find out more, click on the link below.


Sam Altman, Creator of ChatGPT and CEO of OpenAI Calls for Senate to Regulate AI



The tone of congressional hearings involving technology industry leaders in recent years can best be described as antagonistic. Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and other tech luminaries have been denounced on Capitol Hill by lawmakers unhappy with their companies.

But on Tuesday, Sam Altman, chief executive of San Francisco-based startup OpenAI, tested before Senate subcommittee members and basically agreed with them on the need to regulate the increasingly powerful artificial intelligence technology being built internally by his company and others like Google. and Microsoft.

In his first testimony before Congress, Mr. Altman pleaded with lawmakers to regulate artificial intelligence as committee members showed promising understanding of the technology. The hearing highlighted the deep concern technologists and governments have about the potential harm of AI. But this concern did not extend to Mr. Altman, who had a friendly audience among the members of the subcommittee.

The arrival of Mr. Altman, a 38-year-old Stanford dropout and tech entrepreneur, marked his baptism as a leading figure in the field of AI. Boyish Mr. Altman swapped his usual pullover and jeans for a blue suit and tie for a three-hour hearing.

Mr. Altman also spoke about his company’s technology at a dinner with dozens of members of the House of Representatives Monday night and met privately with a number of senators ahead of the hearing, according to people who attended the dinner and meetings. He proposed a loose framework for managing what happens next with rapidly evolving systems that some say could revolutionize the economy.

“I think if this technology goes wrong, it could go completely wrong. And we want to announce it,” he said. “We want to work with the government to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Mr. Altman made his public debut on Capitol Hill as interest in AI skyrocketed. Tech giants have poured effort and billions of dollars into what they call transformative technology, even amid growing concerns about AI’s role in spreading disinformation, destroying jobs and once equaling human intelligence.

This brought attention to the technology in Washington. President Biden said this month at a meeting with a group of AI executives that “what you’re doing has great potential and great danger.” Top leaders in Congress have also pledged to regulate AI.

It was clear that members of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and Law did not plan to question Mr. Altman harshly, as they thanked Mr. Altman for meeting privately with them and for agreeing to attend the hearing. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, has repeatedly referred to Mr. Altman by name.

Altman was joined in the hearing by Christina Montgomery, IBM’s director of privacy and trust, and Gary Markus, a renowned professor and frequent critic of artificial intelligence technology.

Mr. Altman said his company’s technology could destroy some jobs but also create new ones, and that “it will be important for the government to figure out how we want to mitigate this.” Echoing an idea proposed by D. Marcus, he proposed the creation of an agency that issues licenses for the development of large-scale AI models, safety regulations, and tests that AI models must pass before they are released to the general public.

“We believe the benefits of the tools we have deployed so far far outweigh the risks, but keeping them secure is vital to our work,” Mr. Altman said.

But it was unclear how lawmakers would respond to the call for AI regulation, as Congress’ track record in tech regulation is grim. Dozens of privacy, free speech and security bills have failed over the past decade due to partisan disputes and fierce opposition from tech giants.

The United States lags behind the world in terms of privacy rules, free speech, and child protection. It also lags behind AI rules. European Union lawmakers are set to introduce regulations for this technology later this year. And China has created artificial intelligence laws that match its censorship laws.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate College, said the hearings were the first in a series to learn more about the potential benefits and harms of AI in order to eventually “write the rules” for it.

He also acknowledged that Congress has not kept up with the introduction of new technologies in the past. “Our goal is to demystify and hold these new technologies accountable in order to avoid some of the mistakes of the past,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “Congress failed to meet the moment on social media.”

Members of the subcommittee proposed the creation of an independent agency to oversee AI; rules that force companies to disclose how their models work and what datasets they use; and antitrust rules to prevent companies like Microsoft and Google from monopolizing the nascent market.

“The devil is in the details,” said Sarah Myers West, managing director of the AI ​​Now Institute’s Center for Policy Studies. She said Mr. Altman’s proposals on the rules didn’t go far enough and should include restrictions on the use of AI in police and the use of biometrics. She noted that Mr. Altman showed no signs of slowing down the development of the OpenAI ChatGPT tool.

“It’s such an irony to see a pose of concern for the harm of people who are quickly releasing a system responsible for this very harm into commercial use,” Ms. West said.

Some lawmakers in the hearings continued to demonstrate the continuing gap in technological know-how between Washington and Silicon Valley. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, repeatedly asked witnesses whether the word liability protection for online platforms like Facebook and Google extended to AI.

Mr. Altman, calm and unflappable, tried several times to distinguish between AI and social media. “We need to work together to find a whole new approach,” he said.

Some members of the subcommittee have also shown a reluctance to push too hard on an industry that has great economic prospects for the United States and competes directly with adversaries such as China.

The Chinese are building artificial intelligence that “reinforces the core values ​​of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese system,” said Delaware Democrat Chris Koons. “And I’m concerned about how we’re advancing AI that empowers and strengthens open markets, open societies and democracy.”

Some of the most challenging questions and comments to Mr. Altman came from Dr. Altman. Markus, who noted that OpenAI has not been transparent about the data it uses to develop its systems. He expressed doubt about Mr. Altman’s prediction that new jobs would replace jobs destroyed by AI.

“Here we have unprecedented opportunities, but we are also facing the perfect storm of corporate irresponsibility, large-scale deployment, lack of proper regulation and inherent insecurity,” the doctor said. Marcus said.

Tech companies argue that Congress should be wary of any general rules that unite different types of AI. At Tuesday’s hearing, IBM’s Ms. Montgomery called for an artificial intelligence law similar to proposed European rules that outlines different levels of risk. She called for regulations focused on specific uses rather than the technology itself.

“At its core, AI is just a tool, and tools can serve different purposes,” she said, adding that Congress should take “an AI fine-tuning approach.”

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Some U.S. solar producers criticize Biden’s tax break as too weak for China



The Biden administration’s rules released Friday to determine which companies and manufacturers can benefit from new tax breaks for the solar industry are being criticized by U.S. solar makers, who say the rules don’t go far enough to try to bring production back from China. .

The rules stem from President Biden’s sweeping clean energy bill, which proposes a combination of tax breaks and other incentives to try to spur the building of more solar plants in the United States and reduce the country’s dependence on China for clean energy goods needed to mitigate the impact. climate change. change.

The Treasury Department, in its guidance released Friday, said it would offer a 10 percent additional tax credit to businesses that assemble solar panels in the United States, even if they import the silicon wafers used to make those panels from foreign countries. Under the Biden administration’s new climate legislation, solar and wind farms can apply for a 30 percent tax credit on the value of their facilities.

Senior administration officials told reporters Thursday they are trying to take a balanced approach that leans towards forcing supply chains back into the United States. But China’s dominance of the global solar industry has led to the cunning calculus of the Biden administration, which wants to boost U.S. solar manufacturing while also ensuring a plentiful supply of low-cost solar panels to reduce carbon emissions.

Officials said the Biden administration would have the opportunity to change the rules as US supply chains get stronger.

“The Domestic Content Bonus under the Inflation Reduction Act will stimulate American manufacturing, including in the iron and steel industry, so American workers and companies continue to benefit from President Biden’s Invest in America program,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen. “These tax breaks are key to attracting investment and ensuring that all Americans participate in the growth of the clean energy economy.”

Critics said the new rules are not enough to give companies incentives to pull the solar energy supply chain out of China.

Mike Carr, executive director of the Solar Power Coalition for America, which includes U.S.-based solar companies such as Hemlock Semiconductor, Wacker Chemie, Qcells and First Solar, called the move “a missed opportunity to build a domestic solar supply chain.” ”

“Just the fact that today’s announcement is likely to reduce planned investment in critical solar wafer, ingot and polysilicon manufacturing areas,” he said in a statement. “China produces 97 percent of the world’s solar wafers, which gives them substantial control over the production of both polysilicon and cells. We fear this guidance will solidify their dominance over these critical links in the solar energy supply chain.”

The Biden administration has set itself the ambitious goal of generating 100 percent of the country’s electricity from carbon-free energy sources by 2035. more than double the annual rate solar installations.

The United States remains heavily dependent on Chinese manufacturers of low-cost solar modules. although many Chinese factories now produce these goods in Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.

China also supplies many of the key components of solar panels, including more than 80% of the world’s polysilicon, which most solar panels use to absorb energy from sunlight. And much of China’s polysilicon comes from the Xinjiang region, where the US government has banned imports over concerns about forced labor.

Other companies in the solar supply chain that rely on imported components were more positive about the Finance Ministry’s guidance.

Abigail Ross Hopper, executive director of the Solar Energy Manufacturers Association, said the guidance is an important step forward that “will spark a flood of investment in US-made clean energy equipment and components.”

“The solar industry and energy storage in the US strongly supports building a domestic clean energy supply chain, and today’s leadership will complement the resurgence in manufacturing that began when the historic Inflation Reduction Act was passed last summer,” she said.

Republicans in Congress have already railed against the Biden administration’s climate legislation, saying it does not set hard rules on manufacturing in China and that it can funnel federal dollars to Chinese-owned companies that have set up in the United States.

The Biden administration is also allocating funds to develop the production of semiconductors and batteries for electric vehicles. The guidelines for this money include restrictions on access to so-called foreign entities of concern, such as Chinese-owned companies. But the Inflation Reduction Act contains no barriers to federal dollars going into Chinese solar companies’ operations in the US.

At a congressional hearing on April 25, Representative Jason Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, pointed to the facilities of JinkoSolar, owned by a Chinese manufacturer, in Florida that are eligible for federal tax credits.

“Works at the plant include robots placing strings of solar cells, mostly sourced from China, on the base of a solar panel,” according to a fact sheet published by Mr. Smith.

Mr. Biden also clashed with domestic solar producers over a separate trade case that would impose tariffs on solar products imported by Chinese companies based in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Biden’s decision to lift tariffs for two years angered Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, who said American manufacturers deserved more protection. In recent weeks, the House and Senate have approved a measure to overturn the president’s decision, which Biden is expected to veto.

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Here’s what the mail-in ballots mean on results day



Votes are being counted for the Karnataka State Assembly elections. Although the results are expected by evening, mail-in ballots are counted before regular people’s voting begins.

According to early trends, the Congress leads in the count of votes, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in second place, and the Janata Dal (secular) [JD(S)] on the third place.

What is mail-in voting?

Mail-in voting is an option provided to a limited number of voters who can remotely cast their vote on a ballot paper and then mail it back to the election commissioner. These votes are counted before the opening of electronic voting machines (EVM).

The returning officer must print a ballot for eligible voters within 24 hours of the last withdrawal date and then mail it within the next 24 hours.

After receiving it, voters can mark their preference with a check mark or a cross in front of the candidate’s name. They also need to complete a properly certified declaration, Form 13-A. The ballot and declaration are then placed in a sealed cover and sent to the returning officer.

Who can vote by ballot?

Members of the armed forces such as the army, navy and air force, members of the armed forces of the state police (out-of-state employees), civil servants located outside of India and their spouses are only eligible to vote by mail. They cannot vote in person.

Special electors such as the President of India, Vice President, Governors, Allied Cabinet Ministers, Speaker of the House of Representatives and government officials on duty at the polling stations have the option to vote by mail, but they must apply in the prescribed form to avail of this facility. .

Absentee voters who are unable to physically cast their vote due to their service, such as out-of-state rail workers, may cast their vote by mail ballot.

How are mail ballots counted?

At the counting center, each counting table receives a maximum of 500 ballots in each round of counting, with up to four tables dedicated to counting mail ballots only.

Mail-in ballot counting personnel are specially trained in all aspects of mail-in voting. First, postal voter declarations are checked for errors. All legitimate applications are then collected and sealed before the ballots are opened and counted.

After the count, the observer and the returning officer count all score ballots. The process must be filmed to ensure secrecy. The video must be sealed in a separate envelope.

Do mail ballots show real trends?

Mail ballots show trends over a small number of voters. There is no need for early trends to persist after the opening of the EVM.

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