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How AI Is Helping Speed Drugs to Market Through Simulating Trials


We are living in a time of huge scientific innovation in the field of life science. This promises longer and better lives to all human beings. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how research and pharma companies can work really quick and effectively, coming up with a number of vaccines in a few months instead of many years. Still, drug development costs and timelines continue to rise, and very few new molecules actually reach the market: the large majority are discarded after many years of studies and big investments.

Together, the top 20 pharma companies spend approximately $60 billion on drug development each year, according to a recent McKinsey research, and the estimated average cost of bringing a drug to market (including drug failures) is now $2.6 billion, showing a 140% increase in the past 10 years (1-2).

The core activity of pharma companies is the development of new molecules and other innovative products that will become drugs to treat or cure diseases, and this accounts for an expenditure of a full 15% of their sales on R&D. A significant part of this investment goes into innovation. Always trying to improve the R&D process, many Big Pharma companies are more and more frequently adopting computational chemistry’s digital tools, such as modelling and simulation, and artificial intelligence (AI), while small- and medium-sized companies, such as biotechs, are lagging behind.

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About the Author

Luca Emili is an Italian entrepreneur and investor, Founder and current CEO of InSilicoTrials Technologies, the first global platform that is making easy to use modelling and simulation to accelerate the pace of innovation in the healthcare and life science industry. Using a ‘crowd science’ approach makes it easy for pharma companies, medical device producers, hospitals, and clinicians to identify and use the best digital models available worldwide. The idea comes from Luca’s previous experiences as an entrepreneur.

From 2001 to 2010 he was CEO of Emaze, a cybersecurity company that became one of the market leaders in Italy by automating security analysis for complex networks and devices. He later became CEO of Promeditec, where he led the development of innovative technology for clinical trials, including solutions for remote monitoring that are now booming in the COVID-19 era.

He is a member of the Cloud Security Consultative Group in EMA and responsible for the research collaboration agreement between InSilicoTrials and the FDA. He is also a member of the Board of Avicenna Alliance, and member of the committee for the adoption of the in silico medicine of the Italian Ministry of Health.

Luca also worked in mergers and aquisitions, and his many passions brought him to be a journalist, an entrepreneur in the internet services business, a startup investor, and an IT lecturer at the MIB School of Management of Trieste, Italy. He has a degree in Economy and Business from the University of Trieste, where he still lives when he’s not travelling across the US and Europe.
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