While the biopharmaceutical industry has been impacted and pressured by various factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic, inflation, the Ukraine-Russia war, ongoing supply chain issues, and a challenging economic environment, collaboration between pharma companies and emerging technologies providers continues to grow, especially in the research and development (R&D) field, offering some resilience in times of geopolitical and economic disruptions.

One such emerging technology, artificial intelligence (AI), is expected to play an important role in the pharmaceutical sector in 2023. According to survey data published in GlobalData’s The State of the Biopharmaceutical Industry – 2023 report, 39% of surveyed healthcare industry professionals believed that AI would trend as the most disruptive emerging technology in the sector during this year (Figure 1).

AI has been voted as the most disruptive emerging technology every year since 2020, according to the survey tracker. The report also suggested that Big Data was thought to be the most important partner to AI, in terms of introducing technology-related changes in the pharmaceutical sector (Figure 2). Together, AI and Big Data are seen as key solutions to help save time, labour, and financial cost in the pharmaceutical value chain, which consists of many complex processes and functions.

With successful AI use cases increasing, the industry has been gaining trust in emerging technologies. Recent cases in the pharmaceutical sector include Poolbeg Pharma finding more than one respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine candidate with AI by going through a vast amount of early stage clinical data to prioritise candidates and reposition them as novel treatments for RSV infection. Moreover, Insilico Medicine’s INS018_055, an AI-designed candidate, has produced positive topline results in its Phase I clinical trial for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) treatment. In addition to collaborating with AI-technology providers, pharma companies are also engaging in vertical integration. For example, BioNTech has agreed to acquire British AI start-up InstaDeep for up to $682 million.

AI is still at the nascent stages of growth, but its potential is immense. With more pharmaceutical companies tapping into AI technology to enhance the processes within their value chains, AI will continue to evolve over time. This technology will continue to gain momentum and will see much bigger uptake for the foreseeable future.

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