Novartis signed a five-year deal with Microsoft for data science expertise and support using AI in drug discovery, as it continuing a major push to digitalise and build up partnerships with tech firms.
The Swiss pharmaceutical multinational says it will use AI to support “personalised delivery of therapies and optimisation of cell and gene therapies at scale”. Terms were not disclosed.
As part of the partnership the two will ramp up UK investment: Novartis said joint research activities will include establishing co-working environments on Novartis Campus (Switzerland), at Novartis Global Service Center in Dublin, and at Microsoft Research Lab (UK) – starting with tackling personalised therapies for macular degeneration; cell and gene therapy; and drug design.
Novartis says “overall investment” will include capital for project funding, subject-matter experts, technology, and Microsoft tools.
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The drug development process is a notoriously time and capital-intensive one.
The process from identifying a new molecule to it getting to market as an approved drug has typically previously taken between 15 and 20 years, with success rates to develop a new drug around 5 percent — and costing over $2 billion per new medicine.
The use of AI and machine learning to tackle the problem is a growing trend. BenchSci (a platform that transforms published data into experiment-specific recommendations) has identified 76 startups using AI in drug discovery.
Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, said, “Alliances like this will help us deliver on our purpose to reimagine medicine to improve and extend patients’ lives.
“Pairing our deep knowledge of human biology and medicine with Microsoft’s leading expertise in AI could transform the way we discover and develop medicines.”
Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, added, “Together, we aim to address some of the biggest challenges facing the life sciences industry today and bring AI capabilities to every Novartis employee so they can unlock new insights as they work to discover new medicines and reduce patient costs.”