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Novartis taps Microsoft for new AI initiative on drug discovery, development

Novartis has also announced that it will be opening a new AI innovation lab.
By Laura Lovett
01:18 pm

Novartis is teaming up with Microsoft on a new artificial intelligence initiative focused on drug discovery and development. The new efforts will primarily be focused in Novartis’ newly announced AI innovation lab. 

As part of the deal Novartis will be employing Microsoft’s AI tools to help its scientist with computational hurdles in life sciences including generative chemistry, image segmentation and analysis for smart and personalized cell and gene therapies. The new effort is also expected to help associates at Novartis build new AI models from the pharma's array of data sets. 


Drug discovery is a long and very expensive road. Taking into account the cost of failures, the average coast of discovery and development of a successful drug is around $2.6 billion, and the average time of development is around 10 years, according to Pharma Research Progress Hope. Increasingly the pharma industry is turning to AI as a way to speed up drug development and accelerator research. 

“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,” Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, said in a statement. “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.”


It’s no secret Novartis has put digital at the top of its priority list. 

“Our CEO Vas Narasimhan has really made a huge effort on making sure that we embrace and take advantage of the digital revolution that’s coming, not only in terms of digitizing our data,” Ronenn Roubenoffglobal head of translational medicine discovery & profiling and musculoskeletal translational medicine at Novartis, said during an event in Switzerland in September. 

But it isn’t just saying it — the Swiss pharma company has made a number of big bets on digital. Last month it teamed up with the NHS and Verily to fund a new accelerator. 

It also has a track record of partnering with digital companies on life science initiative. In 2018 it teamed up with Medidata Solutions subsidiary Shyft Analytics for its new intelligent platform for life sciences. 


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