As we enter a new decade, our belief in the the impact of Artificial intelligence (AI) is only getting stronger. Supporting the industry to drive the right drug to the right patient at speed is a huge responsibility that we take very seriously. Towards the end of the last decade we have seen great progress made within life sciences and the use of AI, but moving into 2020 the spotlight on commercial teams and gaining competitive advantage with AI will intensify.
Section: Biopharma Insights View all sections
There is a plethora of analytics reports, including ones by Deloitte, DKV Global, and Ernst and Young, all pointing out to a declining business performance of the pharmaceutical industry. They all convey a similar bottomline message: the decline is not due to a lack of innovation (the innovations are growing). And not because sales are falling or markets are shrinking (revenues are growing in general, and the markets are expanding with the expanding and ageing population). The key reason of the declining financial performance is the fact that research and development (R&D) costs are growing substantially faster over an average investment period, than the actual revenues over the same period. This kills operational profits, leading to a decline in the overall business gain. A direct consequence of that -- an increasingly stagnating industry, cutting sometimes promising R&D programs, jobs etc.
There are two more relevant questions here:
1) why R&D costs are growing faster than revenues, considering that technological progress is seemingly providing more and more optimal and powerful technologies to pharma companies at a constantly decreasing specific price (e.g. costs of computation, sequencing, screening and many other things are falling), and
2) what to do about it to reverse the decline in pharma industry performance?
/Last update -- 24 Dec 2019/
A background context -- opportunities and challenges
Current widespread interest towards artificial intelligence (AI) and its numerous research and commercial successes was largely catalyzed by several landmark breakthroughs in 2012, when researchers at the University of Toronto achieved unprecedented improvement in the image classification challenge ImageNet, using their deep neural network “AlexNet” running on graphics processing units (GPUs), and when that same year Google’s deep neural network managed to identify a cat from millions of unlabeled Youtube videos, representing a conceptual step in unsupervised machine learning.
The application of artificial intelligence (AI) in the pharmaceutical industry has become a long-term strategic priority for most companies. However, the efficiency of this endeavor depends greatly on the availability of large volumes of properly curated quality data, which is not always the case.
While pharma organizations generate huge volumes of data across all stages of drug discovery, development, and commercialization, not all types of data are equally useful for building efficient machine learning (ML) pipelines. For instance, it is relatively easier to apply AI-tech to consumer-related business processes, where lots of well-understood and properly labeled data is available, than it is for basic research tasks, where data is complex, often poorly labeled and extremely domain-specific.
The above situation leads to a faster pace of progress with AI application in such areas as financial analysis, consumer-behavior prediction, patient classification, marketing, and so on.
One of the important hurdles that pharma companies are trying to solve using AI tech is brand management. Indeed, understanding peculiar features of various patient categories, their purchasing behaviors, reactions to different products, revealing possible risks and side-effects for each class -- those things become essential for pharma companies to be able to develop and implement truly patient-centric brand management strategies. Luckily, this is one of the most fruitful areas for the application of machine learning (especially deep learning) models.
To get a better understanding of how it can be done, I have asked several questions to Agnieszka Wolk, Senior Director, Data Science, IQVIA, who recently presented this topic at the PMSA 2019 European Summit in Basel, Switzerland. .
In this interview, Rasim Shah, Director at OKRA Technologies provided a glimpse into how the company applies state of the art machine learning technologies to solve real world challanges in the life sciences. Rasim also agreed to answer several questions about a more general context of AI in pharma, its current challanges and future perspective, as well as describe the current efforts the European Union puts into supporting the AI ecosystem in the region.
Rasim Shah, Director at OKRA Technologies:
OKRA Technologies is a leading European artificial intelligence (AI) company for life sciences. Our goal is to empower life science executives at their desks or whilst on the move, with explainable AI outputs. OKRA’s solutions deliver suggestions, predictions and explanations to enable life sciences executives and operational teams to drive the right drug to the right patient with humanised and understandable AI outputs. The OKRA engine learns from real-world data, structured, unstructured, clinical, commercial and scientific literature to drive the right insight to the different teams in life sciences. Our deep expertise in AI, combined with in-depth medical and product knowledge from life science leaders, has allowed us to develop and co-create products that can transform the way life sciences approach traditional industry challenges. We focus on operationalising AI in an ethical way by placing users of these systems at the centre.