Is AI the Cure? BioPharma’s year of innovation and ethical reckoning

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags AI Artificial intelligence Data management machine learning Ethics Research

Pharma companies need to take greater ownership to make sure data quality and governance is accomplished - and it is important to keep in mind the ethics of AI use will remain front and centre for the pharma industry.

This is the view of Raj Sundaresan​, chief executive officer of digital business enablement company, Altimetrik​, who spoke with senior editor, Liza Laws, about the outlook for biopharma and the integration of AI into pharmaceutical businesses in the coming months.

OSP: What areas of AI do you think will have the most impact in 2024?

I expect to see substantial progress being made through enhanced drug discovery processes, hyper-personalised medicine development, and more efficient clinical trial management. The key here is personalisation. Through AI I expect we will see better, more refined targeting of therapies for individuals and better precision medicine to treat specific diseases. All of this is made possible through the vast amounts of information and complex data sets that AI models can ingest.

OSP:​What are broader use cases for AI in Pharmaceuticals?

My expectation is we will see an increased integration of AI into more complex tasks across the BioPharma space. I believe increasingly advanced decision-making processes will be instituted thanks to the insights brought through using AI.

OSP: ​Do you see any ethical concerns with AI adoption?  

It is important to keep in mind that the ethics of AI use will remain front and centre for the Pharma industry. For example, concerns around patient data privacy, algorithmic bias and job displacement brought by AI will no doubt be key considerations discussed within the industry. The use of AI will need careful implementation into existing processes and any biases inbuilt into its systems addressed before any AI system can be used within Pharma. And, let’s not forget that this is an industry that is highly regulated, so any technology implementation or new ways of working needs to be model tested, and externally validated for enterprise wide impacts in order to satisfy those regulatory requirements. 

Raj Sundaresan Altimetrik

OSP: ​Will collaborative partnership between pharmaceutical and technology firms continue in 2024?

Over the coming year careful implementation and strategic collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and technology firms will continue to evolve thanks to improved data quality. Factors such as governance, predictive analytics and interoperability will be a focus for both of these industries when working together. I expect this to lead to new drug discovery and better AI-driven tools for clinical trial optimisation, something both industries have been working on throughout 2023.

OSP: ​What do you think is at the heart of this collaboration?

Through the collaborative pooling of resources and knowledge sharing, the potential to accelerate progress in fields of new drug discovery and clinical trial optimisation is massive. In 2024 and beyond, it is critical that strong data quality​ and governance is prioritised across the BioPharma sector. At the heart of this is the need for a Single Source of Truth​ (SSOT), a natural precursor to building an effective AI practice. An SSOT ensures there is a single place where all data is kept and uploaded in the same manner. This helps ensure accuracy and consistency. After all, AI is only as good as the data with which it is fed.”

OSP: ​How do you anticipate AI security being addressed in 2024?

Ensuring responsible AI usage and subsequent safeguarding of data will continue to be front and centre for many years to come. Specifically, both the technology and Pharma industries will continue to place patient data privacy, usage of personal information and intellectual property ownership as high priorities. Much of our success at Altimetrik rests on our ability to help our partners create a digital-first culture. Through this culture we expect to contribute to an acceleration of innovation in drug discovery, enabling rapid iterations, adaptive trial designs, and greater collaboration among multidisciplinary teams. Our approach results in more adaptable and agile drug development processes, helping decrease time to market.

OSP: ​What impact do you believe increased ownership of data quality will have?

The need for pharma companies to take greater ownership to ensure that data quality and governance are attained is vital. And without an SSOT, companies cannot bring enterprise data together. Leaders must drive towards fostering collaboration and cultivating an adaptable culture. If this cultural adoption is done correctly, investment is likely to follow. But without this investment, achieving desired business goals will prove exceedingly challenging.

OSP: ​If you only had one piece of advice to give BioPharma companies, what would it be?

BioPharma companies must be prepared to invest in AI talent, infrastructure, and training to reap the full benefits of this transformative technology. Without adequate investment, achieving desired business goals and keeping pace with the rapidly evolving landscape will be difficult. This year continues to hold immense promise for AI in BioPharma. By embracing collaboration, fostering a digital culture, and addressing ethical considerations, the industry can unlock the true potential of AI to improve human health and well-being.

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