The popular topic that is technology and life science

What is the one aspect we cannot deny technology brings to the table? An unlimited supply of topics and scenarios we can discuss across all industries, whether it be on a small or large scale of adoption.

July 2020

The popular topic that is technology and life science

Written by David Filby - Senior Vice President at iPharm Consulting (North America)


What is the one aspect we cannot deny technology brings to the table? An unlimited supply of topics and scenarios we can discuss across all industries, whether it be on a small or large scale of adoption. How can MedTech, life science and biopharma organisations use digital transformation to create new value and make sense of the decades of accumulated data? Let’s be honest, humans are notorious for allowing too many variables and we cannot expect individuals to handle the magnitude of information that a company produces … that is where technology comes in.


The integration of artificial intelligence technology and life science is encouraging the development of innovation. Not only is it taking over the mundane tasks that drain a lot of resources away the important work, but it is finding the patterns that humans would otherwise take longer to recognise. Automation is phenomenal and it is time we put old habits to one side and allowed for new waves of technology to help organisations face the challenges of 2020 head on.

A journey that is speeding up


It is not surprising 2020 is turning out to be the greatest hurdle in digital technology adoption. Albeit slightly sped up, Covid-19 has given a push in the right direction for tech and its capabilities to be experienced on a global scale in a short amount of time.

The biggest trends we have seen thus far includes, but not limited to, artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning and Internet of Medical Things. Artificial intelligence, having the potential to make the biggest impact on humanity. This integration will provide a strong framework for the entire clinical development cycle. However, it is worth noting this idea is not founded on mere hype and dreaming, a number of governments are investing huge amounts of money into innovating clinical trials including, most recently, the UK and Australia.


Real world case studies

Although these topics can seem as if they have been overly discussed with no real application, this is not the first introduction life science has had with artificial intelligence;

  • GSK, the pharmaceutical powerhouse, invested 33 MGBP into AI technology for small molecules discovery developed by the UK based Exscientia. This was in fact a huge deal that was made in 2017 between big pharma and AI. In 2019, the impressive duo produced its first drug candidate using AI, a possible therapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
  • This AI capability caught the attention of disease drug developer Celgene. Starting in 2019, worth 25 MUSD, Celgene is working to discover three preclinical candidates for cancer and autoimmune disease within three years.


An industry under pressure to stay ahead


Life science is without a doubt, one of the highest-ranking industries that is under increasing pressure to stay ahead, stay productive and stay profitable. As a result, it has been put under the spotlight to evolve and create a successful relationship with artificial intelligence. There is room for incredible success if leveraged in the right way not only for the end result, but from product mapping, planning, profiling and the manufacturing stages.


The pharma industry is relying heavily on the promises from new technologies to speed up their drug discovery deadlines. AI is notorious for its ability to handle mass amounts of data, and that is where it really works best. Luckily, the life science industry is sitting on mountains of data and new information is being added every single hour. Start-up’s in particular over the last few years have been experimenting with AI to become more cost effective and time efficient, a huge help in the beginning stages of their establishment.


We should expect challenges along the way


Automation is undoubtedly a demand across life science, but there are few companies truly embracing technology, and its potential, to its full capacity. Another battle consistently discussed is that of benchmarking humans against machines; overall a pointless exercise. Both are needed for organisations to reap the rewards, which leads to a topic that concerns every business, regardless of its size and global reach, and that is how to attract the right talent into life science.


To obtain good quality talent your candidates and employees need three essential factors: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Life science has the ability to offer them, but what are you doing to make your company attractive? Embracing new technology will have a positive effect but how ‘sexy’ is your business in the eyes of an ambitious candidate?


Management need to look closely as to how jobs can be designed to create machine-human partnerships. Meaningful work and the chance to be a part of emerging technologies could entice the next generation of talent. I don’t know about you, but I am very excited and intrigued to see what 2020 brings for technology and life science.