AI in healthcare

AI success in pharma industry – was this really meant to be? Five years ago, Berg, an American startup was challenged to improve the detection of prostate cancer. This was a huge concern for a Department of Defense since the illness was most common among the jet pilots. And in the year 2017, the first artificial intelligence-driven tool was already tested on more than a thousand lucky patients. The results were remarkable. So it is no surprise that machine learning, AI and Big data are making talk of themselves in a health-tech startup market. And despite the predictions on how much exactly those shiny new healthcare technologies will make an impact, billions of dollars are being invested in order to shuge jump in investment from both health tech group ventures and big pharma companies. According to Deep Knowledge analytics, at least 15 companies have integrated artificial intelligence in their drug discovery processes. Chief executive of an AI-driven drug discovery company Exscientia Andrew Hopkins stated, that they have “seen a huge interest from many of the major pharma companies in the past 18 months”.

Today we will take a closer look at some of the most prominent companies that have already integrated AI in their drug discovery processes and study their accomplishments.


This pharmaceutical company is probably one of the most active in terms of applying AI to drug discovery. This company went as far as creating their own in-house artificial intelligence unit called “In silico Drug Discovery Unit”. The company has been partnered with numerous startups, including Insilico Medicine and Exscientia. The partnership made with Excelencia in the year 2017, was one to discover novel and selective small molecules for up to ten disease-related targets across numerous unrevealed medical areas. The partnership GSK made with Insilico Medicine was to identify novel biological targets and pathways. This partnership was established during the year 2017 as well.

GSK is also a valuable member of ATOM (Accelerating Therapeutics for Opportunities in Medicine) Consortium, which is looking to improve the artificial intelligence treatment as we know it today. ATOM got access to more than 2 million compounds of both biological and chemical data, thanks to GSK. Their ultimate goal is to go from drug target to a patient-ready therapy in the process of the following year.

In July 2018, GSK has invested 300 million dollars in a Silicon Valley gene testing company 23andMe, which by the way also has a backup of the Google itself. Thanks to this deal, GSK now has an access to an extensive DNA database, providing the correlation between genes and their diseases. Majority of 23andMe customers, which is more than 5 million, granted access to their data to be included in various research programs.

BenevolentAI and Janssen

This development partnership was first announced back in November 2016. It has been stated that a London-based BenevolentAI would license the right to develop, manufacture and commercialize clinical-stage drug candidates from Janssen, after using AI to identify an untapped potential in company’s portfolio. The deal had a promising feeling behind it, right from the get-go, considering BenevolentAI’s recent phase 2b trial launch for a newly-received drug, that will be able to treat sleepiness in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, BenevolentAI appeared to be a company, which have fundraised the most amount of money during the previous year – they closed a $115 million dollar round back in April, reaching a prominent mark of $2 billion. All of these achievements, undoubtedly put BenevolentAI in a very solid position comparing to its competitors. And what about Jansen? Early in the year, 2018, Johnson & Johnson Innovation announced a partnership between Janssen and Winterlight Labs, in order to make an attempt of predicting dementia and neurodegenerative diseases from voice samples, that are going to be obtained with the help of Janses clinical records.

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sirenas

In February 2018, Bristol-Myers Squibb entered into a multi-target research collaboration partnership with Sirenas, a biotech company that applies machine-learning based computational approaches in order to discover therapeutics derived from the global microbiome. Bristol-Myers Squibb seeks to apply its licensed drug discovery platform against multiple cases of undisclosed therapeutic challenges. This research collaboration will require the expertise of one of the Sirenas’ finest and most advanced technologies – ATLANTIS. This technology will help to identify potential drug candidates among Sirenas’ personal chemical library, separated from global microbiome collections. Another important area of Sirenas’ expertise is the state-of-the-art organic synthesis, which helps the company to not only deliver accurate predictions but also unorthodox by its natural chemical compounds.


The company that was previously most known for its innovations in digital media, took a new turn with its new CEO Vas Narasimhan. He was quite vocal about the company’s intention to partner with various AI and data analytics companies. Thanks to an article published in January 2018, it was revealed that Novartis partnered with McKinsey’s QuantumBlack in order to analyze clinical trial operations with the help of machine learning technologies. The article claimed that the work has reduced patient enrollment times by 10-15%. Later that year, Novartis also partnered with IBM Watson to improve clinical trial recruitment and the usage of the so-called “digital cortex” in order to predict medications efficiency. And in May 2018, Novartis got mentioned by MIT, as being a member of their Machine Learning for Pharmaceutical Discovery and Synthesis Consortium. During that time, Intel was also public about working with Novartis in applying artificial intelligence to high content screening.

An interview of the president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research Jay Brander got published in Business Insider, in June 2018. In the interview, Bradner was talking about the progress their company made with the use of artificial intelligence. He stated that around 4% out of the six thousand scientists that are working at their institute is indeed data scientists. Novartis is currently rebuilding its technology infrastructure in order to try and connect all of its data in one single hub.


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