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Novartis and Microsoft to develop drugs using AI

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Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis and computer giant Microsoft have signed a five-year partnership deal aimed at transforming the Basel-based pharma’s business – from finance to manufacturing – using artificial intelligence.

The new Novartis AI innovation lab, with Microsoft as its strategic AI and data-science partner, aims to “significantly bolster Novartis AI capabilities from research through commercialization and help accelerate the discovery and development of transformative medicines for patients worldwide”, the two firms said in a statement.

Joint research activities will be carried out at the Novartis Campus in Basel, Switzerland, at the Novartis Global Service Center in Dublin, Ireland, and at the Microsoft Research Lab in Cambridge, Britain.

They hope to start focusing on personalized therapies for macular degeneration, cell & gene therapies and drug design.

Novartis Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan said, “As Novartis continues evolving into a focused medicines company powered by advanced therapy platforms and data science, alliances like this will help us deliver on our purpose to reimagine medicine to improve and extend lives. Pairing our deep knowledge of human biology and medicine with Microsoft’s leading expertise in AI could transform the way we discover and develop medicines for the world.”

As part of the strategic collaboration announced, Novartis and Microsoft have committed to a multi-year research and development effort. This strategic alliance will focus on two core objectives:

  • AI Empowerment. The lab will aim to bring the power of AI to the desktop of every Novartis associate. By bringing together vast amounts of Novartis datasets with Microsoft’s advanced AI solutions, the lab will aim to create new AI models and applications that can augment our associates’ capabilities to take on the next wave of challenges in medicine.
  • AI Exploration. The lab will use the power of AI to tackle some of the hardest computational challenges within the life sciences, starting with generative chemistry, image segmentation & analysis for smart and personalized delivery of therapies, and optimization of cell and gene therapies at scale.

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