We are in the middle of a global humanitarian crisis. Global issues like the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates a strong and collaborative fight worldwide. As the pandemic poses one of the greatest challenges to the humankind, while weakening the healthcare systems, it is becoming increasingly important to address and resolve the issue quickly and responsibly.
Pharmaceutical companies are rapidly trying to develop a vaccine against the virus, while investing heavily in the R&D activities after the genetic sequence of the virus was published earlier this year. As the world’s population has its hope tied to the abilities of pharma companies to develop a cure quickly, it is life-critical that the sector reciprocates with the similar levels of efficacy in the result they produce.
There are over 100 vaccine candidates in the landscape of COVID-19 vaccine R&D and more than three dozen vaccines are under development. It is expected that a vaccine will be available by early 2021. However, with the continuous daily increase in the number of cases, the vaccine is needed much earlier. In the current circumstances, the drug regulatory authorities are also offering relaxations in their otherwise tight protocols. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine drugs, which are used in Malaria and may be used as a potential therapy against the COVID-19 disease.
McKinsey suggests, “One of the top priorities of a pharma company’s commercial organization must be ensuring that the delivery of high-quality patient care is ongoing and the supply of critical drugs is shored up to avert potential drug shortages in the future.” Speed is of essence in the anti-COVID-19 drug development. While typically it would take about 10 to 15 years for developing a new drug, technology is proving to be a helpful in shortening the time-to-market significantly. The pharma companies will need to forget about the competition among them and forge alliances such that all can benefit from the collective R&D and an effective drug is produced early and at scale. Collaboration with one another and smart technology solutions are the two strongest pillars that can help the pharma industry to quickly fulfill the global demand for a vaccine.
Artificial Intelligence redefining the Pharma industry
AI-driven solutions, by taking over the time-consuming & labor-intensive processes in a drug development journey, can help the pharmaceuticals companies to shorten the time required to bring a drug to the market. With the help of machine learning and deep learning algorithms, Artificial Intelligence can perform thorough analysis of huge datasets and extensive review of the available scientific literature.
It can enhance the R&D activities such as design and identification of new molecules, discovery & validation of target –based drugs. By doing so, AI-based pharmaceutical software can reduce the timeline for trials, approvals, and release. Further, AI can also help improve the production processes by facilitating quality control, design, predictive maintenance, waste reduction, and reusability. This results in faster production and efficient outcomes, while minimizing the possibilities of errors.
In COVID-19 vaccine development process, AI & ML can sift through, analyze, and offer insights gained through the vast data available on the SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, and the coronavirus group to help pharma companies identify the best potential treatment for the disease.
Smart automation enabling remote R&D
Over the past three months, majority of pharma companies have mobilized their employees to remote working conditions. In such a scenario, automation helps them continue the essential processes unobstructed. Automation in drug discovery not only improves the reliability of the entire process by minimizing manual errors, but also augments the throughput and enhances the ability to reproduce. Automation, integrated with AI, can be significantly helpful in conducting end-to-end multi-step chemical synthesis of drugs even in the absence of a manual resource.
Although AI and automation together can bring a range of benefits to the table, they cannot eliminate the need for the analytical skills and expertise of the trained scientists. As the pharma industry is looking to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine development, and scale the production once the viable drug is found, they need to employ the three-way solution involving AI, automation, and expert scientists.
To sum up
Combining the technical skills of scientists with smart automation and AI & ML algorithms is helping pharma companies to level up their battle against the COVID-19 pandemic while making the drug discovery process nimble & efficient. Smart automation solutions are allowing them to continue with the vaccine development without risking the health of their employees.