Catalyzed by an exciting range of new disruptive technologies, the pharmaceutical industry needs to reimagine its future. The need to reimagine is being driven by shifts which are disturbing the industry’s status quo – pressure to reduce costs and demonstrate greater value, shift from treatment to prevention and personalized treatments. These shifts are challenging the overall business model of the pharmaceutical companies.
Within the realm of these emerging technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics are being increasingly adopted by the industry in many diverse and interesting ways. The value of these technologies come from their ability to process large amount of complex, both structured and unstructured data, at a rapid pace to generate actionable insights and thereby reduce costs, improve time to market and gain competitive strength in the marketplace. While a lot of interesting applications are in the areas related to drug discovery, applications in other areas such as drug dosage and safety, manufacturing, supply chain and commercialization is being further explored.
Pharmaceutical companies are choosing their fields with a growing emphasis on collaboration and partnership. Accordingly, the industry is witnessing many such partnerships including with technology start-ups.
Some of the prevailing trends in the industry include:
Pharmaceutical R&D: Major companies are either developing their own AI capabilities or are partnering with AI driven start-ups to accelerate the drug discovery process and personalization of medicines.
Drug dosage and safety: With AI, the dosages are customized for each patient depending on the patient’s stage of illness and characteristics. AI is implemented at each stage of safety value chain to improve the overall quality and compliance.
Manufacturing and Supply chain: AI is being used to optimize drug identification and verification across the manufacturing process along with identification of counterfeit drugs.
Commercialization: Growing use of AI for patient segmentation, drug efficacy and understanding adverse events.
In India, pharmaceutical companies have started to demonstrate significant interest in AI application for various R&D and supply chain needs. Drug discovery remains the most common area of digitalization in the industry where AI is leveraged to scan through the available database on a particular molecule for a medicine.
For pharmaceutical companies, it will not be enough to recognize the two shifts — reducing prices and demonstrating greater value from their therapies, and a shift from treatment to prevention, diagnostics and cure. The biggest challenge will be to translate the impact of these changes on business and operating models in a holistic way, to adapt swiftly and decisively to these shifts.
Several factors such as automation, efficiency and collaboration shall play a fundamental role in reshaping this patient-centricity of the pharmaceutical industry.
The integration of these technologies is expected to grow at a rapid rate and transform the overall outlook of the pharmaceutical value chain. The companies are gradually loosening their reigns and are investing in AI-driven technologies, be it in terms of collaborating with AI-driven startups or developing their internal capabilities. While only a few of the pharmaceutical value chain elements currently have embraced these technologies in true sense, in next few years, the key differentiator for a pharmaceutical company would be the level of advancement in firm’s processes in terms of technology.
Going forward, the industry is likely to witness a rapid adoption, driven by high return for the front-runners thereby leading to competitive pressures on others to adopt, and secondly the breadth of ways in which these technologies are finding application, especially fueled by drive of the start-ups. At the same time, the regulators will need to update their traditional approaches for medical device approvals and equip themselves sufficiently with knowledge and people required to evaluate and approve these emerging technologies faster.
(The author is Co-Chairman, FICCI Pharmaceuticals Committee and MD, Alembic Pharmaceuticals Ltd)