21 January 2021
The key contribution of Artificial Intelligence to the prevention of COVID-19 disease proved crucial for the development of a new vaccine.
After the authorization by Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco (AIFA) to Moderna’s vaccine for the prevention of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), two vaccines are currently approved in Italy, namely Pfizer and Moderna, a result that would give hope for a successful vaccination campaign implemented by the Government.
However, in order for this plan to actually come into full swing, more doses are needed, as Minister Speranza states, emphasizing that “we are still at the beginning of the journey and the doses we have are still clearly limited.”
In the meantime, last Monday, January 11, 2021, the first 47,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Italy and will be distributed to the regions based on the population over 80, with a big “but” that changes the distribution rules. In fact, the regions that so far have proved more effective in the administration of the vaccine could be rewarded.
Although controversy and doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccine are inevitable, progress in science is being made thanks to new technologies including Artificial Intelligence, which is increasingly essential to support researchers and scientists in order to improve and speed up the process of developing new drug treatments.
The use of AI in the pharmaceutical field is certainly not new. As a matter of fact, the enormous potential of this technology still surprises us today and represents more and more the cornerstone for the success of companies. This also concerns its application in Research, which accelerates and optimizes the development phases of a new drug. For this reason, many companies in the Pharma & Life Science sector have chosen to implement their research plans for a vaccine against the Coronavirus pandemic, resorting precisely to the use of Artificial Intelligence.
What does this entail? A “record” time for the development and commercialization of the new vaccine, since this process usually takes in average 18-24 months.
Among the first companies, we find Moderna. The American Biotech Company, with the support of bioinformatics, a scientific discipline where the key contribution of Artificial Intelligence plays a key role, was able to significantly reduce the time needed to develop a prototype of anti-Covid vaccine testable on humans, thus saving scientists months of experimentation.
Specifically, the report “AI and the fight against the Covid-19 Coronavirus” drafted by CAHAI (the Council of Europe’s Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence) states that:
“American start-up Moderna has distinguished itself by mastering a biotechnology based on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) for which the study of protein folding is essential. It has managed to significantly reduce the time needed to develop a prototype vaccine that can be tested on humans thanks to the support of bioinformatics, of which AI (Artificial Intelligence) is an integral part.”
This important milestone gives credit to companies in the industry that believe in the progress and opportunities that technologies like AI can offer, to revolutionize Science and solve some of the most complex problems in modern biology.
However, it would be a mistake to assume that the use of AI is limited to the sole creation of drugs.
Indeed, artificial intelligence also takes on a versatile role in the drug R&D and manufacturing process. For example, enhancing the ability to identify new targets, discover new molecules, optimize the manufacturing and distribution phase, or to rapidly analyze available clinical and immunological data.
But it’s not over. Indeed, AI has also been instrumental in sharing knowledge about the Coronavirus. A meaningful example of this are Microsoft Research, the National Library of Medicine and the Allen Institute for AI (AI2), which, On March 16, 2020, presented their work, collecting and preparing more than 29,000 documents related to the new virus and the broader coronavirus family. The interesting aspect is that 13,000 of these documents were processed so that computers could read the underlying data, as well as information about the authors and their affiliations. In addition, last year, during 2020 Berlin Science Week, a group of experts pointed out that AI and other technologies such as Machine Learning are able to pull together a huge amount of data drawn from multiple experiments, thus uncovering patterns that the human brain, while being a wonderfully complex organ, would not be able to detect so quickly.
From this project we can see that sharing is crucial, especially when dealing with a huge amount of data.
As previously mentioned, the technology of Artificial Intelligence is useful in many ways within Pharma & Life Science companies, both in terms of operational and strategic aspects, in order to achieve specific objectives. For this reason, Information Technology companies operating in this area know that nowadays an IT solution needs Artificial Intelligence in order to ensure the optimization of sales performance and the implementation of a truly effective strategy, which intelligently involves all channels (that is why we talk about omnichannel).
That is why Trueblue, thanks to the recent collaboration with Microsoft, has developed AiDEA, the Smart Customer Engagement solution able to bridge the gap between strategy and execution, where AI is natively integrated with the operational and analytical areas, enhancing and facilitating customer engagement by providing the right information at users’ fingertips.
How would this relate to the development of a Coronavirus vaccine? Without the sharing and integration of multiple data from multiple sources, this would not be possible. To be honest, if pharmaceutical companies did not have this information upstream, developing a strategy and consequently achieving their goals would be almost impossible, especially when considering the high competition currently present in the market.
In conclusion, we can deduce that the key contribution future of Artificial Intelligence in Pharma is still full of surprises, alongside companies to improve and speed up the process of new drug treatments.
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