AI in pharma: How living with AI is nothing new

Hannah Roe
By Hannah Roe

AI in drug development has been a hot topic in recent months, but there is often a misunderstanding of how we are already using AI in our lives, and how it can be used in the life sciences sector.

The main barrier at present is the skepticism about its safety, accuracy, morality, and human redundancy. While we don’t deny these are valid concerns, it’s important to remember AI isn’t real-life I, Robot. Although we’ve all had the debate of whether Will Smith’s character was right to have his guard up…

Common misconceptions

A common misunderstanding is that AI is a brand-new technology that has emerged out of nowhere in the past decade, but that’s not the case.

The term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ was coined in the 1950s by American mathematician and computer scientist, John McCarthy at the first national conference specifically focused on AI, the Dartmouth Conference. It’s also important to acknowledge the foundations laid by the influential English mathematician Alan Turing in the 1940s with the invention of his Turing Test, designed to determine a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior.

You’re already using AI

There are so many ways AI is already integrated into your everyday life – let’s take a look at some examples.

Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, all utilize AI for natural language processing and understanding to answer queries and perform tasks.

Recommendation systems: Platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify use intelligent software to suggest personalized content or products based on user behavior.

Predictive text: Integrated into platforms like Google’s email and document software for many years, it employs AI and natural language processing (NLP) techniques to anticipate and suggest words or phrases as users type.

Chatbots: Employed by businesses for customer service, they provide automated responses and assistance through websites or messaging apps. Although some are better than others…

Smartwatches: AI algorithms interpret sensor data to track activities, monitor heart rate, and analyze sleep patterns to provide personalized recommendations.

Fraud detection: Financial institutions and e-commerce platforms use AI algorithms to detect unusual patterns and identify potential fraudulent activities.

Language translation: Services like Google Translate utilize AI to translate text and speech between different languages, which can come in handy during an international drug development partnership!

Email filtering: Something you’ll likely be very grateful to AI for is its ability to use algorithms to automatically classify and filter emails, distinguishing between spam and legitimate messages.

Financial trading: Algorithms are used to analyze market data and execute trades at high speeds, used by hedge funds and financial institutions for algorithmic trading.

Smart home devices: AI powers devices like smart thermostats, lighting systems, and security cameras to learn user preferences and adapt to their behavior for increased efficiency and convenience.

The impact of AI in drug development

Hopefully, you are now feeling a little more familiar with our old friend AI and can see how it touches many aspects of your life.

That being said, the impact AI will have, and indeed is already having, on our sector is immense. But we can’t ignore the concerns. Some key issues include:

  • Ethical considerations regarding patient privacy, consent, and data ownership
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance, and assessing safety and efficacy
  • Job displacement and socioeconomic impacts on the pharmaceutical workforce
  • Cybersecurity risks like data breaches and unauthorized access
  • Long-term safety and efficacy of AI-generated drug candidates
  • Bias or inaccuracies in the data training AI algorithms

Artificial Intelligence is evolving every day, thousands of times a day, as is its nature. Although we don’t have all the answers, addressing the issues of our current AI capabilities requires industry-wide collaboration to foster responsible innovation.

Implementing those guard rails to ensure we are harnessing the power in the right ways is going to be crucial. Whether you’re up for the challenge is your decision…

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