Novartis announced Tuesday a key step in reimagining medicine by founding the Novartis AI innovation lab and by selecting Microsoft as its strategic AI and data-science partner for this effort. The new lab aims to bolster Novartis AI capabilities from research through commercialization and help accelerate the discovery and development of transformative medicines for patients worldwide.
As part of the collaboration announced, Novartis and Microsoft have committed to a multi-year research and development effort. This strategic alliance will focus on two core objectives of aiming to bring the power of AI to the desktop of every Novartis associate. By bringing together vast amounts of Novartis datasets with Microsoft’s advanced AI solutions, the lab will aim to create new AI models and applications that can augment our associates’ capabilities to take on the next wave of challenges in medicine.
The lab will use the power of AI to tackle some of the hardest computational challenges within life sciences, starting with generative chemistry, image segmentation & analysis for smart and personalized delivery of therapies and optimization of cell and gene therapies at scale.
As part of its work with Novartis, data scientists from Microsoft Research and research teams from Novartis will also work together to investigate how AI can help unlock transformational new approaches in three specific areas. The first is about personalized treatment for macular degeneration – a leading cause of irreversible blindness. The second will involve exploring ways to use AI to make manufacturing new gene and cell therapies more efficient, with an initial focus on acute lymphoblastic leukemia. And the third area will focus on using AI to shorten the time required to design new medicines, using pioneering neural networks developed by Microsoft to automatically generate, screen and select promising molecules.
While Microsoft is just at the beginning of a long process of exploration and discovery, this alliance marks a collaborative effort that promises to have a profound impact on how breakthrough medicines and treatments are developed and delivered.
With the depth and breadth of knowledge that Novartis offers in bioscience and Microsoft’s delivers computer science and AI, the alliance has a unique opportunity to reinvent the way new medicines are created. Through this process, the companies can lead the way forward toward a world where high-quality treatment and care is significantly more personal, more effective, more affordable and more accessible.
Microsoft and Novartis will also collaborate to develop and apply next-generation AI platforms and processes that support future programs across these two focus areas. The overall investment will include project funding, subject-matter experts, technology, and tools.
Novartis is focusing itself as a medicine company powered by advanced therapies and data science. Going big on data and digital is a key strategic pillar that helps Novartis realize that ambition. Data science and digital technologies allow the company to reimagine how to innovate in R&D, engage with patients and customers, and increase operational efficiencies.
Novartis focuses its efforts around four digital priority areas of scaling 12 digital lighthouse projects that help build a strong foundation and jumpstart digital transformation; make Novartis digital by sharing, learning and talent acquisition; becoming key in the tech ecosystem by bridging Novartis with external expertise; and leading through future disruptive healthcare scenarios with large-scale partnerships.
In the biotech industry, there have been amazing scientific advances in recent years that have the potential to revolutionize the discovery of new, life-saving drugs. Because many of these advances are based on the ability to analyze huge amounts of data in new ways, developing new drugs has become as much an AI and data science problem as it is a biology and chemistry problem. This means companies like Novartis need to become data science companies to an extent never seen before.
Central to our work together is a focus on empowering Novartis associates at each step of drug development to use AI to unlock the insights hidden in vast amounts of data, even if they aren’t data scientists. That’s because while the exponential increase in digital health information in recent years offers new opportunities to improve human health, making sense of all the data is a huge challenge.
“As Novartis continues evolving into a focused medicines company powered by advanced therapy platforms and data science, alliances like this will help us deliver on our purpose to reimagine medicine to improve and extend patients’ lives,” said Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis. “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 for the world.”
“Our strategic alliance will combine Novartis’ life sciences expertise with the power of Azure and Microsoft AI,” said Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. “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.”