Move over Medtech, Pharma Is Embracing AI, Too!

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Merck and Bayer announced separate initiatives diving into artificial intelligence and machine learning.

It’s no secret the medtech industry has embraced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Pharmaceutical companies are leaping into the AI/ML space, too.

There have been about 100 partnerships that have been established between pharmaceutical companies and AI vendors, according to a report from clinicaltrialsarena.com citing GlobalData Healthcare data.

Earlier today (Wednesday), Merck announced its plan to dive deeper into the space. The pharma powerhouse said it was launching the Merck Digital Sciences Studio (MDSS), which will help early-stage biomedical startups with direct investment, access to powerful Azure Cloud computing, and opportunities to pilot their technologies in collaboration with discovery and clinical scientists at Merck.

The Rahway, NJ-based company said it welcomes applications for 12 spots for the first MDSS cohort. Merck said startups developing AI and ML applications will be prioritized.

The MDSS is a collaboration between Merck and the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), a New Jersey Institute of Technology corporation, with investments from the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, Northpond Ventures, and McKesson Ventures. Technology support will be provided by Microsoft for Startups. The MDSS will have locations in Newark, NJ and Cambridge, MA.

“The biopharmaceutical industry has only just started to harness the tremendous opportunity presented by emerging technological developments in AI, and ML,” said Fiona Marshall, senior vice president, Discovery, Preclinical and Translational Medicine at Merck Research Laboratories. “The MDSS will provide a collaborative and entrepreneurial setting where scientists have access to the tools and expertise to fuel important innovations that advance drug discovery and development.”

Merck isn’t the only pharmaceutical company that has announced AI initiatives this week. Bayer launched Calantic Digital Solutions, a new cloud-hosted platform that delivers access to digital applications, including AI-enabled programs, for medical imaging. 

Specifically, the Leverkusen, Germany-based company said the Calantic platform includes a suite of apps to help manage radiologist workload, help with lesion detection, and patient management.

This isn’t Bayer’s first rodeo with AI. In 2019, Bayer entered into a licensing agreement with One Drop, a developer of digital therapeutic solutions for diabetes and other chronic conditions. 

The agreement called for One Drop’s AI platform to be used in Bayer’s bio-digital efforts in therapeutic areas such as oncology cardiovascular disease, and women's health. 

Bayer is also in collaboration with Huma to build an AI-powered tool that will analyze CT scans to improve lung cancer diagnoses.

 

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