Novartis and Microsoft are joining forces to apply AI to intractable healthcare

Novartis and Microsoft are joining forces to apply artificial intelligence to some of the most intractable problems in healthcare, in one of the most expansive tie-ups so far between big pharma and big tech.  Under one part of the five-year agreement, which will be reviewed annually, Microsoft will work on new tools intended to make it easier to apply AI to all areas of the Swiss pharmaceutical company’s business, from finance to manufacturing. A second part of the work will focus on using deep learning — the technique that has brought the biggest recent advances in AI — to improve the speed and precision with which it develops new medicines… The pharma industry, initially slow to recognise the potential of digital technologies, has been picking up the pace in recent years, with companies ranging from GlaxoSmithKline to Sanofi exploring how big data can accelerate R&D… The companies will initially focus on three areas: tackling personalised therapies for the eye disease macular degeneration; cell and gene therapy; and drug design. Joint research will take place at the Novartis campus in Switzerland and the company’s global service centre in Dublin… The cost of discovering and commercialising a new drug has barely shifted in decades, taking an average of 14 years and costing up to $2.5 billion. 

Sarah Neville and Richard Waters