5 Pharma companies using Artificial Intelligence

We take a look at the implementation of Machine Learning in five pharmaceutical companies and examine the AI applications for each company individually
Thu 30 Apr 2020

In the past years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have become drivers of unprecedented productivity improvements across the value chain in the pharmaceutical industry. The various AI applications are building a momentum on how companies are pushing innovation and forming their business strategy. Over the years, AI has streamlined and impacted the pharmaceutical industry in many ways, from creating new and better drugs to combating rare diseases.

We take a look at the implementation of Machine Learning in five pharmaceutical companies and examine the AI applications for each company individually.


Pfizer is an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation, and one of the world's 2019s largest pharmaceutical companies. The company develops and produces medicines and vaccines for a wide range of medical disciplines, including immunology, oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, and neurology.

In 2019, Pfizer announced a partnership with Concreto HealthAI, in order to advance the work in Precision Oncology using AI and real-world data. "Pfizer believes real-world data has tremendous potential to inform how we develop and use medicines to improve patient outcomes", said Chris Boshoff, Ph.D and Chief Development Officer in Pfizer's Global Product Development department.

The goal of the collaboration is to detect and help patients who may suffer from solid tumors and hematologic malignancies. By combining Pfizer's real-world data with Artificial Intelligence and data science, the company aims to identify new and more precise treatment options, completely redefine study designs, and speed up the completion time of the outcomes studies.

Janssen Pharmaceutica

Janssen Pharmaceutica is a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Beerse, Belgium, and is part of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies.

In 2019, Janssen announced a collaboration with a French startup in order to develop an AI-powered drug design system. The AI startup will develop an in silico system, based on neural network models called deep generative models. Janssen's new drug design system is said to address a major challenge in the process of discovering new medications, like fast identification of molecules in the drug discovery process. Based on its capacity to explore chemical space (the space covering all possible molecules and chemical compounds) with speed and efficiency, the new AI system should enable the identification of molecules that meet the desired criteria in each research project.


Sanofi is a French multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Paris, France. The company works in the field of development, manufacturing, and marketing of pharmaceutical drugs. Sanofi covers seven major therapeutic areas like cardiovascular, central nervous system, diabetes, oncology, internal medicine, thrombosis, and vaccines.

In 2018, Sanofi partnered with an AI startup in order to build an AI solution which would automate medical literature review. At that time, the COO Mauro Cozzi said "In Sanofi, we are working with a small communication team, and they are in charge of every day reviewing 100 to 200 articles on Type 2 diabetes. This team of 10 people was spending 30 hours a week reviewing all this information, and they were making a lot of mistakes because they were doing it very quickly, so sometimes they would miss a critical paper or they wouldn't send it to the right person". After the three-month pilot project of the new AI solution, Sanofi recognized that utilizing an AI software reduced the review time from 13 minutes per paper to about one second per paper.

The AI document processing solution is using natural language processing (NLP) to read and review scientific articles, summarize them, and determine to which departments they are most relevant. Furthermore, the platform is able to categorize scientific papers at a high level, determining, for example, whether the paper is an observational study or an experimental study. Following that, the platform reads a large number of papers for specific details and sends researchers a custom stream of appropriate papers culled for their respective specialty and interest. The business benefit is obvious: "Reviewing scientific information is fundamental to everything we do, and AI is disrupting how that happens, making it much faster, far simpler, and much more accurate" - explained a Sanofi representative participating in the project pilot.


Novartis is a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland. It is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies by both market capitalization and sales. As a leading global pharmaceutical company, Novartis uses innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments in areas of medical need.

In September 2019, Novartis and Microsoft announced a multiyear partnership that will leverage data and Artificial Intelligence to transform how medicines are discovered, developed, and commercialized. The strategic collaboration will focus on two core objectives : AI Empowerment and AI Exploration. By bringing together Novartis's datasets with Microsoft's AI technology, the AI Empowerment lab aims at creating AI models and applications that will assist Novartis's associates in overcoming the next generation of challenges in medicine. The objective of the AI Exploration lab is to use the power of Artificial Intelligence to solve some of the hardest computational challenges within life sciences. Starting with generative chemistry, image segmentation and analysis for smart and personalized deliveries of therapies, and optimization of cell and gene therapies at scale.

Novartis aims to address some of the biggest challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry today, by bringing AI expertise to every employee so they can work to discover new medicines at scale and reduce costs.


Bayer is a German multinational pharmaceutical and life science company, with headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany.

In January 2020, Bayer partnered with a UK-based AI-driven drug discovery company to a multi-target collaboration. The two companies will work on early research projects using the AI drug discovery platform and Bayer's large amount of data. They aim to identify and optimize novel lead structures for potential drug candidates to treat cardiovascular and oncological diseases. The AI collaboration has the potential to accelerate drug discovery and improve drug development productivity in terms of quality, cost, and by reducing the time of the drug discovery and development cycle.

"We are going towards digital transformation in R&D as we believe that digital technologies such as AI can simplify and speed up the discovery and development of new drugs for patients", said Dr. Joerg Moeller, Bayer's Head of Research and Development.

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