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AI to be most disruptive technology across pharma industry in 2021 and beyond

GlobalData analysis shows that while four partnerships were forged between AI vendors and large pharma companies in 2015, they rose to 27 by 2020, an increase of 575 per cent in just six years

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Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform the pharma industry in the coming years by delivering productivity improvements and efficiencies across the entire pharma value chain, says GlobalData.

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘The State of the Biopharmaceutical Industry 2021’, reveals that AI is expected to be the emerging technology that will have the greatest impact on the pharmaceutical industry in 2021, as indicated by *36 per cent of 198 surveyed pharmaceutical industry professionals.

Kitty Whitney, Director of Thematic Research, comments, “Compared to other industries, pharma has generally been slow to adopt this technology. However, the AI ecosystem in pharma has grown significantly over the past number of years, with this trend expected to continue as the benefits of the technology are realised. The urgent need for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments is thought to have hastened the adoption of AI in drug discovery and repurposing, and could be a tipping point for the widespread adoption of the technology across the pharma industry.”

In drug discovery, many pharma companies have partnered with AI vendors or start-ups to take advantage of their technology and expertise. Examples of leading AI vendors operating in this space include Exscientia, Atomwise, Recursion Pharma, Insilico Medicine, and BenevolentAI. Pharma companies are also beginning to set up more in-house capabilities, as seen by GSK and Novartis. Additionally, in February 2020, Eli Lilly’s Olumiant (baricitinib) was identified in just three days by UK-based start-up BenevolentAI as having the potential to treat COVID-19, and it received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November.

A recent analysis by GlobalData identified almost 100 partnerships between AI vendors and large pharma companies for drug discovery since 2015, with increasing numbers witnessed in recent years. Analysis shows that four partnerships were forged in 2015, which rose to 27 by 2020, an increase of 575 per cent in just six years.

Whitney adds, “The pharma industry is under increasing pressure, with rising costs of drug development, manufacturing, and marketing eroding profit margins. As well as drug discovery, AI can be applied across a wide range of other functions, allowing for improved clinical trial design and recruitment, smarter and more efficient supply chains, and targeted sales and marketing.”

*A total of 198 GlobalData Pharma clients and prospects participated in the 10-minute survey, which was fielded from November 17, 2020 to December 11, 2020

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