Artificial intelligence (AI) in the pharmaceutical industry hit a big milestone in January as the first drug designed entirely using AI entered human clinical trials.
The compound, created by Oxford-based biotech company Exscientia, is aimed at treating obsessive-compulsive disorder and reached this stage in less than a year — five times faster than it usually takes to get a drug to this stage.
With the average time to market for new drugs averaging from 10 to 12 years, it is the speed of this breakthrough that made the pharmaceuticals industry sit up and take notice – which begs the question, is AI the solution for an industry desperately looking for ways to speed up?
We may not naturally consider the pharmaceuticals and technology industries as being synonymous, but AI has permeated nearly every sector, providing invaluable ways of making processes more efficient and effective.
Using AI-powered tactics in the pharmaceutical industry means using automated algorithms to handle tedious tasks performed by humans. To date, AI has streamlined and impacted the pharmaceutical industry in many ways, ranging from creating new and better drugs to combatting fast-growing diseases.
So, let’s look at how AI is impacting the pharmaceutical industry in context. Let’s consider Covid and the crisis response.
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis AI tools and techniques have helped policymakers and the medical community understand the virus in a multitude of ways. AI has accelerated research on treatments by rapidly analysing large volumes of research data.
In addition. AI text and data mining tools have been used to uncover the virus’ history, transmission, and diagnostics, management measures, and lessons from previous epidemics. Deep learning models are being used to help predict old and new drugs or treatments that might treat COVID-19, indeed several institutions are using AI to identify treatments and develop prototype vaccines.
AI is such a key tactic in managing and understanding the virus that revolutionary techniques to accelerate learning and knowledge on the subject have been developed and shared, in a global response to a global pandemic. Dedicated platforms or fora have been designed to allow the consolidation and sharing of multidisciplinary expertise on AI. The US government, for example, has initiated a dialogue with international government science leaders that includes using AI to accelerate analysis of coronavirus literature made available using the Kaggle platform.
Computing power for AI is also being made available by technology companies such as IBM, Amazon, Google and Microsoft; individuals donating computer processing power; and by public-private efforts like the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium and AI for Health.
What does this mean for talent and AI opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry?
Though the technology may still be in its early stages and emerging, one can safely say that artificial intelligence is going to transform the pharmaceutical industry, among many others.
We’re already seeing the benefits. By seamlessly using Artificial Intelligence to drive forward drug adherence and discovery, AI has streamlined healthcare procedures. By accelerating research and discovery, it’s helping us to tackle a global pandemic.
According to sources, more than 70% of pharmaceutical business owners believe Artificial Intelligence is crucial, while 11% haven't even considered using AI in healthcare.
AI is undoubtedly the next big thing for the pharma industry and companies that are flexible enough to adapt AI-based techniques, and hire the right talent to drive this forward, will undoubtably gain a strategic advantage.
The pharmaceutical industry is notoriously competitive, and indeed the highest competition is currently seen among professionals with skills relating to artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as manufacturing experts with knowledge on cell and gene therapies.
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Adrian is a Director at the Bridge and has worked in IT recruitment since 2003, delivering top quality consultants across the full IT spectrum from helpdesk support to programme management.
For over 10 years he has been recruiter of choice for the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company at their R&D head office. This has been balanced with massive recruitment programmes at global media enterprises and a range of utility companies.