AstraZeneca made an impressive leap to claim first place in this year’s index. Building on the significant foundations laid in previous years, AstraZeneca’s propulsion (from tenth place) to top spot was driven, in part, by its significant digital investments and initiatives in the clinical space.
Like many of its peers, AstraZeneca is leveraging AI to support with drug target discovery. However, AstraZeneca took a multipronged approach, capitalizing the different facets of AI in unique collaborations to bolster its pipeline. One example is the company’s collaboration with Illumina, which leverages Illumina’s AI-based tools (PrimateAI and SpliceAI) to pinpoint genetic variations that lead to disease, with the learnings supporting the development of effective therapies.
AstraZeneca also explored the use of digital twin technology (via Insilico Medicine) which uses AI to generate virtual replicas of a real-world person (or physical entity) to optimize drug development processes. The company also sought academic input, in the form of a collaboration with the University of Sheffield, to develop AI technology to reduce the cost and accelerate the discovery of new drugs.
Beyond using AI and deep learning for novel targets and pathway exploration, AstraZeneca also investigated integrating AI technology and efficiencies in patient diagnosis and management. A commendable example of this was AstraZeneca (in collaboration with Clinithink) developing the first technology capable of deciphering unstructured medical notes. The program focused on patients with early-stage lung cancer and looked retrospectively at patient notes leveraging machine learning and natural language processing to identify and flag high-risk individuals.
The collaboration also impressed at Biotech Week Boston (September 2022), where AstraZeneca and Clinithink won the award for innovative use of technology-enabled healthcare. Additional initiatives ranged from one with Idoven to develop AI to detect cardiovascular disease, to another with Ibex Medical Analytics (alongside Daiichi Sankyo) to advance an AI-based HER2 scoring tool for breast cancer diagnosis optimization.
Rounding off its investments, the British giant unveiled a €800M investment in an R&D center in Spain, creating 1,000 new jobs. This follows the announcement of AstraZeneca’s new Africa Health Innovation Hub, which aims to use technology to increase healthcare access across the continent for up to a billion people by 2025.
It is no wonder that AstraZeneca has climbed to the first place in the Index, with its range and depth of innovative digital partnerships and investment, not only in AstraZeneca’s existing disease strongholds (e.g. oncology, cardiovascular, and renal disease), but heavy investment in the future through their considered collaborations for pipeline optimization and new drug target discovery.
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