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AI in the Pharmaceutical Industry




AI is making a big impact in the pharmaceutical industry, from treatment discovery to patient experience. Drug companies and researchers are using AI and machine learning in various ways. The applications are leading to better quality medications and vaccines, faster product development and an improved patient experience. 

Applications of AI in the Pharmaceutical Industry

AI is often considered a future technology, but scientists are putting it to work today. It is helping researchers develop medicines more efficiently, safely and effectively. 

1. Drug and Vaccine Development

Pharmaceutical researchers can set up a computer modeling program that uses AI to run through thousands of potential combinations of different compounds. It can screen every blend autonomously and predict the results of each one. It could take a human months or even years to do the same thing manually. 

Researchers can step in after the AI has identified potential treatments that could be effective for the condition in mind. This allows them to only focus on the most promising possibilities rather than the extensive initial list. The AI may even find possible cures or uses for substances humans might not have thought of trying. 

This technique has already been in use successfully for years. The first AI-generated human-grade drug was developed in 2019 by a team of researchers in Australia. They had an AI analyze a database of potential compounds until it found the best possible new flu vaccine. 

2. Disease Identification

The faster doctors and researchers can figure out what a disease is, the faster they can find the right pharmaceutical to treat it with. AI can help speed up this process without sacrificing accuracy. 

For instance, doctors can use AI to rapidly identify the most likely causes of a patient’s symptoms, saving them hours, days or possibly even longer to make a diagnosis. This is possible due to AI’s rapid data analysis capabilities. It can rapidly analyze many possible solutions until it finds a few that are the best possible fit. 

This can lead to faster, more accurate disease diagnoses. Plus, once the problem is identified, AI could also be used to help doctors quickly pinpoint the best pharmaceutical to treat their patients with. 

3. Data Processing and Analysis

Pharmaceutical development relies heavily on processing and analyzing large amounts of information. For example, a research team needs to handle data on sample properties, the development process, clinical trial patients and trial results. 

Throughout the development process, researchers must carefully analyze the data collected to refine and improve the drug or vaccine they are developing. 

AI allows researchers to reduce the time required for data processing and analysis. AI algorithms might not be the sentient, emotional robots seen in science fiction yet, but if there is one thing this tech is good at, it’s analysis. 

An AI algorithm can autonomously process massive amounts of data and extract valuable insights and patterns. In fact, it will likely even identify patterns and trends that a human may have otherwise missed. 

4. Clinical Trial Screening

Clinical trials are a vital part of the pharmaceutical development process. However, a successful one relies on having the right pool of patients. Someone with a variable unique to their body, condition or situation could impact the trial result’s accuracy. Researchers must be careful about who they accept in these programs. 

AI is perfect for making the candidate selection process more efficient. Researchers can input the characteristics they are looking for in clinical trial candidates, such as age, gender or specific condition type. The AI can then autonomously screen every candidate’s profile to find the best fit and those who do not meet the necessary criteria. 

Benefits of AI in the Pharmaceutical Industry

AI is highly effective for numerous applications in the pharmaceutical industry, but what are the benefits of using it? A few, in particular, have a major impact on the sector and patient outcomes. 

1. Higher Efficiency

One of the most commonly cited benefits of AI is increased efficiency. This applies across virtually every industry. AI can significantly reduce the time required to develop, test and prescribe pharmaceuticals. This is great for researchers, doctors and patients. 

Researchers can test more potential treatments safely by using AI modeling and analysis tools. AI can also analyze clinical trial data rapidly, allowing researchers to do more in less time. The same applies in doctors’ offices. Physicians can get patients the best possible treatment in less time with the help of AI diagnosis tools. 

Plus, using AI to compile and analyze digital data makes collaboration between research teams much easier, improving efficiency even further. This is especially true for AI models that use cloud computing, which allows life sciences researchers to collaborate efficiently without being tied to expensive server infrastructure. Collaboration helps treatments get developed faster and with greater accuracy and effectiveness. 

2. Improved Safety

AI improves safety in the pharmaceutical industry in several ways. For example, researchers can autonomously test new treatments rather than analyze data from physical tests or digital modeling. The AI allows researchers to test treatments more thoroughly so they are safer when they get to patients. 

3. Higher Treatment Accuracy

AI can improve treatment accuracy in development and practice. It can be used to test thousands of possible treatment compounds in a short amount of time. This increases the likelihood of researchers finding the best possible cure. 

Doctors can use AI the same way. It might identify a possible treatment for a patient that a physician could have overlooked. Ideally, an AI model can look at someone’s symptoms objectively, while doctors may have unintentional biases that sway their judgment. However, AI has faced some backlash in recent years over data bias that reflects the underlying prejudices of humans. AI models would have to be carefully trained to be truly objective for their benefits to be fully realized. 

4. Reduced Waste

Improved accuracy and efficiency reduce waste in terms of time, money and resources. Using AI to digital test potential treatments and filter out only the best ones minimizes the need to waste physical testing tools and materials on potential cures that are not promising. Doctors that use AI to rapidly identify the best possible pharmaceuticals for their patients reduce wasted time and money spent on identifying and trying medications that are not the best fit for a patient. 

The Pharmaceutical AI Revolution

AI is revolutionizing the pharmaceutical industry and the life sciences at large. AI models and machine learning still need work and perfecting, but this technology is already helping researchers and doctors every day. It allows new pharmaceutical treatments to be developed faster and with greater safety for everyone so doctors can rapidly provide the best possible cure. The pharmaceutical industry can save more lives every day with the help of AI.

Zac Amos is a tech writer who focuses on artificial intelligence. He is also the Features Editor at ReHack, where you can read more of his work.