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The Prescription for Pharma’s Digital Future



Before the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, the global pharmaceutical sector had shown interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, but had yet to embrace it as wholeheartedly as other industries.

Some analysts put the slow adoption down to the highly regulated nature of the industry, others to the lead times involved in the discovery and commercialisation process.

Pharma is a sector with development cycles measured in years, if not decades. The costs of developing new medicines run into the billions, and the success rate for an approved treatment is around one in ten. Rightly or wrongly, many pharma executives questioned the return on investment in a technology viewed as esoteric and unproven.

However, fast forward just 18 months, and one global pandemic, and that mindset could be shifting. According to a report earlier this year from data analytics and consulting company, GlobalData, AI was the top Industry 4.0 technology pharma companies were interested in. More than one in three pharma executives predicted it to have the largest impact on their sector, closely followed by Big Data (20%) (1).

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Andrew Borland is Head of Commercial of the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre. He leads the new Cheshire and Warrington 4.0 programme offering SME pharma manufacturers in Cheshire and Warrington fully funded, hands-on support with industrial technologies, through the European Regional Development Fund.

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