Why pharma needs to embrace AI to reimagine drug discovery

27 April 2018

Ian Churcher, vice president of drug discovery at BenevolentAI, argues that pharma needs to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) to solve the issues which underlie the stagnation of drug discovery, in an Expert View piece.

The pharmaceutical sector is crying out for a revolution in thinking and practice; the traditional methods of drug discovery and development are clearly no longer working as well as they have done in the past. A staggering 97% of drug candidates fail1. This tells us that, as an industry, we are making bad decisions in target selection and that there are extraordinary inefficiencies involved in creating the drugs that do succeed. To continue to prosper, we must either lower R&D costs or drastically increase the rate at which new drugs are discovered.

Pharma must embrace the shift required to generate new candidates from in-house R&D but is ill-prepared to as an industry, often looking elsewhere to boost flagging pipelines. The worry is that as major pharma companies continue to move away from driving innovation and towards a model of growth, driven by M&A and venture capital initiatives, we are becoming a commercialization vehicle. As a scientist by trade, that is disheartening.

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