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Is AI a panacea for pharma’s productivity gap?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a disruptive force and promises to help speed up drug identification; improve patient selection; create digital twins; improve manufacturing; tailor marketing material; enhance customer engagement; predict chronic diseases; and support health equity (1). However, there are some disadvantages with AI that need to be taken into consideration.
The following article discusses AI in the bio/pharmaceutical industry and its effect on who, what, when, and why its adoption is of interest.
Many experts argue that if pharma does not invest in AI it will fall behind because a rule-based AI model can help analyze large quantities of data to support decision-making, drive efficiencies, and increase profitability. Aran Maree, chief medical officer, The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies (J&J) posted on LinkedIn that, “Single cell datasets are transforming the field of drug discovery. By leveraging AI and Machine learning, we’re able to analyse individual cells, identify specific genes involved in disease progression—and then identify potential ways to better treat these diseases … my company announced that we are joining a new pre-competitive consortium, led by Rancho BioSciences, that will help us leverage the power of single cell datasets to drive the discovery and development of innovative medicines. The mission of the consortium is to find a common industry standard around how single cell datasets are created and formatted. This is an exciting example of how we can use the power of data science to advance precision medicine and shape the future of healthcare to benefit patients everywhere” (24). Expect to see and hear more partnership announcements as the bio/pharmaceutical industry feels its way forward.
1. L. Kwo, “Contributed: Top 10 Use Cases for AI in Healthcare,” MobiHealthNews.com, July 1, 2021.
2. CB Insights, State of AI Global 2021, 2021.
3. QWay Healthcare, “Top Trends in AI in Healthcare for 2022,” QSY Healthcare.com, blog post, 2022.
4. iMedia, “AI Pharmaceutical Industry Welcomes IPO Again, with a Market Value of Over US$3 Billion,” min.news, May 21, 2022.
5. BenevolentAI, “Benevolent AI and Odyssey Acquisition Business Combination,” Press Release, Dec. 6, 2021.
6. Global Data Healthcare, “Big Pharma Forging More Partnerships with AI Vendors for Drug Discovery, ClinicalTrialsArena.com, Jan. 22, 2021.
7. Benevolent AI “BenevolentAI Announces 3-Year Collaboration Expansion with AstraZeneca Focused on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Heart Failure,” Press Release, Jan. 13, 2022.
8. Exscientia, “Exscientia and Sanofi Establish Strategic Research Collaboration to Develop AI-driven Pipeline of Precision-Engineered Medicines,” Press Release Jan. 7, 2022.
9. Elix, “Elix, Inc. Begins Collaboration With Shionogi & Co., Ltd. on Elix Synthesize (AI Drug Discovery Module) for Verification of Practical Retrosynthetic Analysis,” Mar. 25, 2022.
10. Shionogi, “Shionogi and NEC collaborate on hep B vaccine development,” Press Release, Apr. 18, 2022.
11. Iktos, “Collaboration with Astrogen to Use AI Platform,” Press Release, Jan. 5, 2022.
12. Iktos, “Collaboration With Ono in Artificial Intelligence for New Drug Design,” Press Release, Mar. 30, 2022.
13. Iktos, “Iktos and Teijin Pharma to Co-Develop New Technology for Small Molecule Drug Discovery,” Press Release, Apr. 5, 2022.
14. S.L. van Winkel, et al., Eur Radiol, 31, 8682–8691 (2021).
15. University of Cambridge, V. Antun, et al., On Instabilities of Deep Learning in Image Reconstruction and the Potential Costs of AI, PNAS 117 (48) 30088-30095, May 11, 2020.
16. ByteBridge, “Why the High-Quality Training Data is so Important to AI Machine Learning?” Becoming Human: Artificial Intelligence Magazine, May 24, 2021.
17. Lexalytics, AI in Healthcare: Data Privacy and Ethics Concerns, Feb. 10, 2021.
18. M. Ayers, et al., “Adopting AI in Drug Discovery,” BCG, March 29, 2022.
19. K.K. Mak, M.K. Balijepalli, M.R. Pichika, Expert Opin Drug Discov., 2022 Jan;17(1):79-92.
20. The Business Research Company,
AI In Pharma Global Market Report, March 2022.
21. K. Parkins, “Five AI-enhanced Clinical Trial Start-ups to Watch in 2021,” Clinical Trials Arena, July 29, 2021.
22. IDEA Institute on Artificial Intelligence, AI Communication Facilitation between Stakeholders, July 15, 2021.
23. D. Paul, et al., Drug Discovery Today, 26(1), 80–93 (2021).
24. A. Maree, post on LinkedIn, May 2022.
Cleo Bern Hartley is a pharma consultant, former pharma analyst, and research scientist.
Vol. 46, No. 6
When referring to this article, please cite it as C.B. Hartley, “Big Pharma in the Balance,” Pharmaceutical Technology 46 (6) 2022.