The astonishing speed of digital disruption today calls for new and emerging technologies that are capable of long-term value creation. Poised at this intersection of digital revolution, business and accelerated scientific discovery, leaders across verticals have formulated a vision to begin their transformative journey.
Though laggards at the beginning, the pharmaceutical industry has eventually started taking advantage of new-age technologies in areas from clinical trials to manufacturing.
AI is already known to be speeding and improving the drug discovery process, owing to its capability of sifting through and making sense of heaps of scientific data related to research and development. It has also started making inroads into newer and more diverse areas like drug manufacturing and supply chains, which are the least explored in the Life Sciences space, yet have the capability to offer maximum benefits.
AI in drug manufacturing
The pharma industry generates gigantic volumes of complex data that is primarily related to research and development of new drugs, machines and risk management. Going forwards, this data is only going to increase. Moreover, creating new drugs can be time consuming, expensive and usually there is uncertainty over the outcomes.
Big data and AI make streaming and effective use of the data deluge simpler. The gigantic volume of data these Life Sciences companies have to deal with will only increase going forwards. AI systems can analyse the heaps of data and help streamline the entire drug development process operations, reducing time and cost, as well the impact on the environment.
Pharma plants usually operate with fixed parameters to ensure standard quality and specifications. These complex processes can be made simpler with AI-based technologies. Pharma manufacturers need technologies that are capable of ensuring that products reaching patients are safe, pure and are of the required quality.
Algorithms that can detect inconsistency and take into account good manufacturing practices are key. The processes involved in manufacturing (such as granulations, compression, blending and synthesis) can be optimised in real-time to get the required quality. Machine learning algorithms can monitor and collect data continuously that can then be utilised for making informed and real-time decisions. It will completely revolutionise the pharma manufacturing processes and the whole process may undergo a paradigm shift.
A clear understanding of the logics and patterns, predicting changes and adjusting the process to pre-empt product failures will help minimise redundancies, ensure consistency and improve yield. AI-enabled processes exhibit complete regulatory compliance through continuous monitoring, tracking the ongoing processes and evaluating the data generated to avoid failures.
Pharma manufacturing requires stringent quality control norms and is a time-consuming and cost-intensive process. Pharma executives face two major challenges during manufacturing:
- Machinery failure, accidents and other undesirable events that affect the quality of the product
- Technical incapability to run continuous manufacturing, which directly affects ROI
Pharma companies can address these challenges through custom sensors, powered by AI. These sensors communicate the machine’s performance (number of cycles, temperature etc.) to a computer system in the plant. The system then compares this data with the digital format of the machine’s manuals to help manufacturing executives identify the chances of any potential machine breakdown. This way, the company can prevent technical failures during product manufacturing cycles and can strive towards continuous manufacturing.
AI in pharma supply chain
Chatbots are another AI-powered technology that are starting to make their way to healthcare. They will not only improve patient care but will also connect pharmaceutical companies to alternative providers and innovative services. Chatbots can also be an effective solution in streamlining the supply chain. From orders to payments and tracking, chatbots can help simplify supply chain operations. By providing easier data retrieval and efficient interaction with ERP systems, chatbots are crucial in the digital transformation of the sector.
Supply chain in pharma is an intricate mechanism that requires well-defined workflows, strong inter-team communication and competent information management. There are factors like seasonality, weather and air quality that can affect the sales and consumption of pharmaceutical products. AI predictive models can help determine the demand and the possible supply chain problems to ensure substantial cost savings across manufacturing and logistics. The sales teams can improve efficiency and provide medical institutions and patients with medical supplies, if and when they need it.
Right product, right place, right time and right quality - that’s what supply chain in pharma is all about.
AI can help pharma companies in serving this cause better. Through an AI-based collaborative framework, pharma companies can analyse Google search trends and information from government health organisations, such as the CDC, to find out what medical supplies people are searching for at a particular location. Such data can give pharma companies insight into the demand for certain drugs and vaccines at a hyper-local level, and they can then stock local pharmacy retailers with the optimum quantity of supplies.
Similarly, in the event of unfavourable situations such as earthquakes, fire outbreaks or strikes, AI will mine social media, weather updates and other new reports to analyse the diffculties. It can then assist the user in enabling a smart supply chain by rerouting the delivery to help it reach medical professionals and patients on time.
An efficient manufacturing process and dynamic supply chain is now critical for pharma companies to thrive in a cutthroat global industry.
Technology is not only transforming the way the pharma industry is evolving, it’s also offering drug manufacturing companies innovative ways to enhance brand value. Pharma companies that take advantage of cutting-edge technologies are finding themselves in leadership positions in the industry.
AI will be key in bringing pharma businesses to the forefront of digital transformation and growth, while emerging technologies such as Blockchain, Digital twins, 3D bio printing and Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) will also play a huge role.
As AI improves further, it can revolutionise the drug manufacturing and supply. It is gradually making inroads into supply chain operations and can help to improve manufacturing and delivery through expansion beyond big data.
Subhro Mallik, SVP and Head of Life Sciences, Infosys