In 2022, the launch of the generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform ChatGPT broke the record for the fastest-growing consumer application in history. Following the rapid adoption of AI technologies, the pharma sector is now exploring the capabilities and challenges of generative AI as it remains one of the key trends in the industry.

However, despite the recent progress in the use of AI in real-world situations, we are still in the early stages of the AI roadmap, research director at GlobalData Josep Bori, at the recently concluded Clinical Trial Supply (CTS) Europe 2024 meeting.

Generative AI is a technology capable of generating text, images or other data using generative models, often in response to prompts. Explaining how generative AI works, Bori said: “AI is trying to optimise the output to the input, [but] it doesn’t have a concept of what’s true and what’s false or what is ethical, what is not ethical.” Because of this, sometimes we will get answers that are not appropriate, he added.

Generative AI has the potential to be used in all aspects of the industry: drug development, research, sales, production, and even clinical trials. “This is an industry that should thrive on AI,” says Bori.

Bori explained that although there is a place for AI in businesses, it’s still too early to use it in its current form in some areas: “If you misallocate a trial candidate to the wrong trial, or you give a misdiagnosis in a medical setting, that is devastating, there is no tolerance for that,” he says.

Bori pointed out the cases where generative AI is ready to be applied, with many businesses already implementing the technology into daily procedures and workflow. Technologies such as AlphaFold, a protein structure prediction model, have been used to predict the structure of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which the virus uses to enter cells – a significant advancement in biology.

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While there are worries about self-aware AI such as “humanoid robots with a conscience” taking over, Bori said this is “more science fiction” than reality. “But the idea that systems become larger and more capable than even we are – I think we are quite far away from that,” he adds.

According to GlobalData, the total AI market will be worth $908.7bn in 2030. Within that, the global specialised AI applications market will be worth $477.6bn in 2030.

GlobalData is the parent company of Pharmaceutical Technology.

The Clinical Trial Supply Europe conference took place in Barcelona from 6-7 March 2024.