Big pharma is using AI and machine learning in drug discovery and development to save lives

AI and machine learning in drug discovery_4X3

Summary List Placement

The pharmaceutical industry has been slow-moving when it comes to adopting digital health technology, and pharma companies overall have taken a long time to implement AI and machine learning strategies — making broad-scale digital transformation difficult.

Amazon Pharmacy

There is ample opportunity for drug discovery and development, but it relies on the ability of companies to implement advanced health tech into everyday strategies. 

While the healthcare industry is rapidly adopting digital tech, the pharma industry is lagging on digital maturity, and any measures even early movers are taking to catch up are patchworked due to a lack of strategy and digital-focused leadership.

AI & Machine Learning in the Drug Development Process

An incredible amount of time and money goes into drug development — bringing a drug to market costs about $2.8 billion dollars over 12+ years, according to Taconic Biosciences’ tally.  

Utilizing AI and machine learning can help at every stage of the drug discovery process. Healthcare AI startups were able to raise over  $2 billion in Q3 2020, and those using AI to streamline the drug making process were the recipients of some of the heftiest sums compared with startups deploying the tech in other healthcare segments.

AI in Drug Discovery (Phase I)

The drug discovery process ranges from reading and analyzing already existing literature, to testing the ways potential drugs interact with targets. According to Insider Intelligence’ AI in Drug Discovery and Development report, AI could curb drug discovery costs for companies by as much as 70%.

AI in Preclinical Development (Phase 2)

The preclinical development phase of drug discovery involves testing potential drug targets on animal models. Utilizing AI during this phase could help trials run smoothly and enable researchers to more quickly and successfully predict how a drug might interact with the animal model.

AI in Clinical Trials (Phase 3)

After making it through the preclinical development phase, and receiving approval from the FDA, researchers begin testing the drug with human participants. Overall, this is a four-phase process and usually considered the longest and most expensive stage in the drug making journey. 

AI can facilitate participant monitoring during clinical trials—generating a larger set of data more quickly—and aid in participant retention by personalizing the trial experience. 

Pharma Investments in AI

Big tech investments in pharma are at an all time high. Specifically, big tech firms with a broad range of AI and cloud solutions make valuable partners to drugmakers, which have varied needs when it comes to AI.

Big tech investments in pharma are at an all time high

For example, Moderna leverages Amazon’s AWS cloud platform to speed up its drug development process. And while Moderna has recently made headlines as a top contestant in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, the company should also be recognized for its success in developing a cancer vaccine in just 40 days while leaning on AWS. 

Moderna is just one example of the many pharma companies taking advantage of Big Tech’s growing interest in the digital health industry. And Insider Intelligence expects Big Tech to continue using their AI brawn to forge pharma tie-ups.

Here are the companies analyzed in the report:

  • AbbVie
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • AstraZeneca
  • Atomwise
  • Biofourmis
  • Eli Lilly
  • Exscientia
  • Google
  • Insilico
  • Litmus Health
  • Microsoft
  • Moderna
  • Novartis
  • Otsuka
  • Pfizer
  • Recursion Pharmaceuticals
  • Repurpose.AI
  • Roche
  • Sanofi
  • TriNetX
  • Verily
  • Verisim
  • XtalPi

Interested in getting the full report? Here’s how you can gain access:

  1. Join other Insider Intelligence clients who receive this report, along with thousands of other Digital Health forecasts, briefings, charts, and research reports to their inboxes. >> Become a Client
  2. Purchase the individual report from our store. >> Buy The Report Here

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How AI could transform post-pandemic healthcare

Summary List PlacementThe toll on medical professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic has been huge. In the UK, nearly 100,000 members of the National Health Service (NHS) workforce are currently off sick – around one in 10 employees. Half of those are absent because they are sick themselves, or have been forced to self-isolate because of their proximity to someone with COVID-19.
The absences are stretching healthcare provision in the country to its limits. But it’s not just frontline doctors and nurses who are struggling to keep going due to illness. Human labor has been pushed and pulled due to the pandemic in pharmacies and laboratories processing tests and coming up with new drugs. It’s something Joanna Shields, the CEO of BenevolentAI, an artificial intelligence-powered drug discovery startup, has been working on.
“The coronavirus pandemic reinforced how human intelligence partnered with purposeful technology can achieve inspirational results, even when the world is locked down,” she told Insider. “While AI models and algorithms will never fully replace scientists and clinicians, they can save time and money — which is crucial in our current climate.”
In the early days of the pandemic, BenevolentAI set its technology to work on the pandemic, trying to come up with treatments that could help alleviate pressure on medical systems. “Our AI models ingest scientific literature at scale, deriving contextual relationships between genes, diseases, drugs, and biological pathways leading to the proposal of novel or optimal drug targets and mechanisms, as well as the identification of the patients who will respond to treatment,” Shields said. “Such relationships may be completely new, previously or previously unrecognized due to the overwhelming volume of biomedical information that is now available.”
One solution they hit upon by combing through the literature was the use of one drug, barcitinib from Eli Lilly, that could help treat COVID patients. A November 2020 paper published in Science Advances by frontline doctors who took the signals from the machine learning trawl through literature and decided to test it on patients through the National Centre for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the US reported positive results. The drug, identified by BenevolentAI, contributed to a 71% reduction in mortality in patients with moderate to severe COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US used those results to grant it emergency use authorization on a wider scale, and it’s been used in hospitals there since the end of 2020. In the UK, barcitinib is currently undergoing tests as part of the UK Recovery Trial, where patients recuperating from COVID-19 are being given various drugs to see how best to treat future ill patients.
Quick action like this could transform post-pandemic healthcare, Shields thinks. “Experiencing a global health crisis on this scale, we have never been more aware of the fragility of human life,” she said. “One positive outcome of COVID-19 is that it has united science and tech for good, accelerating data-sharing agreements and encouraging the open publication of research results. This new environment of collaboration has provided a glimpse of the beginnings of a more open and adaptable R&D model that can accelerate the delivery of innovative and life-changing outcomes for patients.”
It’s also having an impact on those being drawn to participate and collaborate on finding solutions for healthcare problems that are blighting the world. In a trying time, Shields believes pharma- and med-tech have stepped up – and that success could draw more people into the field who can help cause future leaps forward. “We have also seen a significant increase in tech talent being drawn to healthcare or pharmaceuticals, driven by a desire to solve real-world problems and improve quality of life,” she said. “I believe that this passion and intelligence, partnered with new technologies, will propel us forward and bring new discoveries, new cures, and new hope to patients.”
It’s one that’s proven more necessary than ever before — and while AI has come under its fair share of criticism, there’s real hope, based on its use in this pandemic, that it could be harnessed for good by the time the next pandemic comes.SEE ALSO: Vaccine experts report that the rapid progress on COVID-19 trials is a result of unprecedented global cooperation and focus
SEE ALSO: The coronavirus pandemic disrupted clinical trials. A top ALS researcher explains how that helps the work she’s doing.
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A biotech known for its sleep and brain drugs just made a $7.2 billion bet that medical cannabis is crucial to its neuroscience ambitions

Summary List PlacementJazz Pharmaceuticals is making a $7.2 billion bet on the future of medical cannabis. 
The drugmaker said on Wednesday it will acquire GW Pharma, the maker of CBD-based epilepsy treatment Epidiolex, in a cash-and-stock deal. It’s the largest cannabis-industry deal so far. 
The deal, in which Jazz Pharmaceuticals will pay $200 in cash and $20 in Jazz shares for each GW share, represents a 50% premium on GW’s Tuesday closing price — a strong signal that the pharmaceutical giant is bullish on the future of cannabis-based medicines. 
The news sent stocks in the cannabis sector soaring on Wednesday morning, with GW shares surging over 46%. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of this year. 
Analysts from the investment bank Stifel called the deal an “outstanding outcome” for GW Pharma in a Wednesday morning note. 
In 2018, GW was the first company to receive FDA approval for a cannabis-based drug, Epidiolex. The drug, which is essentially an ultra-high dose of cannabidiol, or CBD, is designed to treat seizures linked with two rare forms of childhood epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
Cannabis is considered a Schedule I drug by the US federal government, a class of drugs reserved for those with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Regulators moved Epidiolex to Schedule 5, similar to codeine-containing cough syrup. 
While CBD has since become a widely used consumer product, appearing in everything from lattes to skincare products, Epidiolex is so far the only FDA-approved cannabis-derived drug. 
A ‘new era’ for cannabis-based drugs
Jazz CEO Bruce Cozadd said Epidiolex has “near-term blockbuster potential” on a Wednesday morning call with investors, adding that neuroscience is a key focus area for the company.
“We think this is just the beginning for Epidiolex,” GW Pharma CEO Justin Gover said on the call. He added that what GW Pharma has been able to demonstrate over its 20-year history is that cannabinoids — the active compounds in the cannabis plant — are “real and compelling science.”
“We have potential first-in-class candidates across disease states such as autism, schizophrenia, and other neuropsychiatry targets,” Gover said. 
Getting a cannabis-based drug approved in the US was an uphill battle, GW Pharma CEO Justin Gover told Insider in an interview in 2019. He called Epidiolex’s approval the start of a “new era” for medical marijuana.
“If one applies the same rigorous standards to cannabis as they do to other drugs, they should be able to get a drug approved,” Gover said.

GW is also conducting Phase III trials for Nabiximols, a potential multiple sclerosis drug containing both THC, the main psychoactive component in cannabis, as well as CBD. The company said in the Wednesday investor call that it expects to submit a new drug application (NDA) to the FDA in the next one or two years. Nabiximols is already approved as Sativex in countries outside the US. 
The FDA has approved another THC-containing drug, AbbVie’s Marinol, which treats nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite associated with chemotherapy and AIDs treatment. That drug contains a synthetic version of THC.
Analysts from the investment bank SVB Leerink said the deal is an “interesting strategic fit” with Jazz’s neurosciences focus, and “adds a platform of innovative cannabinoid product candidates.” 
Goldman Sachsand Centerview Partners served as financial advisors to GW, and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and Slaughter and May provided legal advice. Evercore and Guggenheim served as lead financial advisors to Jazz Pharmaceuticals, which also received advice from BofA Securities and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC. 
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Macfarlanes LLP and Arthur Cox LLP served as Jazz’s legal advisors. 
The cannabis industry is on a dealmaking tear, a stark reversal from last year 
The GW Pharma deal is the latest blockbuster tie-up for the rejuvenated cannabis industry, which has been buoyed by hopes that a Democratically-controlled Senate and White House will lead to relaxed regulations, and perhaps in the most optimistic scenarios, full-scale federal decriminalization or legalization.
To be sure, much of the US cannabis industry exists in a legal gray area, because many of its products are federally illegal. That isn’t the case for GW Pharma.
Many cannabis investors, analysts and other experts told Insider they predicted rapid consolidation in 2021, in a bid for scale as investors return to the industry after a horrid 2020. 
In December, Canadian cannabis heavyweights Tilray and Aphria agreed to merge in a deal that would give the combined companies a near $4 billion valuation. And the biggest US cannabis companies, like Curaleaf, TerrAscend, and Cresco Labs, among others, raised nearly $1 billion in January to fuel dealmaking. 
Nawan Butt, the portfolio manager of the European Medical Cannabis and Wellness UCITS ETF said he expects dealmaking on the medical side of the cannabis industry to ramp up.
“Today’s events should draw attention to other companies doing work in this sector and the opportunities they are exploring,” he added in an email.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A top economist explains how weighted voting could change democracy

THE RISE OF GENETIC TESTING IN HEALTHCARE: How leading genetic testing companies like Ancestry and 23andMe are carving into healthcare with the promise to fuel more personalized care

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Insider Intelligence publishes thousands of research reports, charts, and forecasts on the Digital Health industry. You can learn more about becoming a client here.
The following is a preview of one Digital Health report, The Genetic Testing in Healthcare Report. You can purchase this report here.

Since the first human genome was sequenced in 2003, the genetic testing market has evolved rapidly alongside consumers’ interest in how their genetic makeup affects their health.
The human genome was sequenced — or read in its entirety — for the first time in 2003 after more than 20 years of work and nearly $5 billion was put into the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) Human Genome Project — which marked a huge step in helping scientists and medical researchers understand how genes and gene interactions impact disease development and progression. In the ensuing decades, genetic information catapulted into mainstream healthcare, driven largely by the rapid decline in cost for DNA sequencing technology.DNA testing firms like Ancestry and 23andMe broke onto the genetic testing scene via direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests, and consumers have flocked to their products seeking to gain insights into their individual health risks. Ancestry and 23andMe both offer cheaper, but less comprehensive, DNA testing — their products come at a price point between $100-$200, which is likely more enticing to average consumers than higher-cost tests that explore the entire, or a larger portion of, the genome.
Of the 26 million global consumers who took a DNA test in 2019, Ancestry and 23andMe tested 25 million. This marks a meteoric rise in consumer adoption over the course of the 2010s: In 2015, for example, fewer than 1.5 million global consumers had taken at-home genetic tests. 
The ability to provide genetic tests at a lower cost has opened up new opportunities in preventative medicine. For example, chronic illness accounts for 90% of the US’ more than $3.7 trillion of annual healthcare spending — and healthcare stakeholders are actively looking for ways to assess population health risks and intervene earlier. Genetic testing is an attractive proposition for healthcare players that want to paint a picture of an individual patient’s health risks — and use that information to help guide care plans that could mitigate the development or progression of a condition and steer drug development for more precise medications.
In this report, Insider Intelligence will examine the industry forces that have helped evolve genomic information from a consumer novelty to a transformative healthcare technology. We outline how some of the key players in the genetic testing space have altered their business models to appeal not only to consumers but also healthcare players across the industry, including health systems and pharma companies. We provide a glimpse at what’s next for the implementation of genomic information — namely, the barriers that are holding genetic testing companies back from reaching new customers, including how the coronavirus pandemic could impact growth in the space.
The companies mentioned in this report are: 23andMe, Almirall, Ancestry, Apple, Calico, Color, Diploid, Genelex, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Helix, Illumina, Invitae, Jungla, LunaPBC, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, MyHeritage, NorthShore University Hospital , Novartis, Ochsner Health, Pfizer, PWNHealth, Salesforce, Stanford Medicine, TrialSpark, Verily, Veritas, and YouScript.
Here are some key takeaways from this report: 

The use of at-home, direct-to-consumer genetic tests skyrocketed during the 2010s, but has been tapering off over the last couple of years. 
The slowdown in the DTC market has catalyzed genetic testing companies to veer into healthcare — teaming up to give legacy healthcare players access to rich sets of data that could guide care and treatments, which could help boost customer bases. 
Health systems can add genetic testing into care regimens to gain a more comprehensive image of patients’ health risks. Payers can front the costs of tests for their members, the results of which could empower them to take proactive approach to care management and reduce costs in the long-run; and drug-makers can unlock troves of genetic data in order to design more precise medications.
Myriad barriers are still holding back genetic testing companies from cementing their position in the healthcare industry, including privacy and accuracy concerns, the inability of healthcare professionals to operationalize genetic data, and a continued drop in consumer interest. 
The coronavirus pandemic and accompanied economic slowdown could weigh on genetic testing companies further, as consumers will likely put off nonessential purchases like genetic tests, and healthcare companies may focus resources and time on initiatives more directly related to the virus and recouping lost revenue.

In full, the report: 

Provides an overview of the ways in which prominent US genetic testing companies are using their products to edge deeper into the healthcare landscape.
Highlights how leading telehealth vendors have reacted to a sudden, rapid uptick in adoption of their services.
Outlines how legacy healthcare players — including health systems, payers, and drug-makers — are leveraging genetic testing companies’ products to make use of insights into genetic variants.
Identifies the barriers that genetic companies are staring down that could hinder growth and adoption. 

Interested in getting the full report? Here’s how you can gain access:

Join other Insider Intelligence clients who receive this report, along with thousands of other Digital Health forecasts, briefings, charts, and research reports to their inboxes. > > Become a Client
Purchase the individual report from our store. > > Buy The Report Here

Are you a current Insider Intelligence client? Log in and read the report here.Join the conversation about this story »

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