Novartis enters AI partnership with Oxford University


Novartis enters AI partnership with Oxford University

NicoElnino /

Novartis and the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute (BDI) have joined forces to use artificial intelligence (AI) for improving drug development, initially in the areas of multiple sclerosis, dermatology and rheumatology.

The five-year deal, announced on Friday, January 18, seeks to make drug development more efficient and targeted by transforming how datasets are analysed and interpreted. The aim is to spot disease patterns and signals earlier than is currently possible.

Using the BDI’s machine learning technology, the alliance will focus on “ultra large” and multiple datasets, starting with anonymised data from approximately five million patients and also from Novartis clinical trials. AI technology will try to identify data patterns that humans would not be able to on their own.

John Tsai, head of global drug development and chief medical officer at Novartis, said the partnership will enable the organisations to combine different types of data, such as clinical, imaging and genomics, and “change how we look at diseases and discover new insights”.

He added that Novartis may be able to transform how it designs and conducts its clinical development programmes in the future.

For the BDI, the collaboration will enable projects to span traditional boundaries and scientific disciplines, “and leverage technological innovation for the benefit of patients”, said Professor Gil McVean, the institute’s director.

Mark Toms, chief scientific officer, Novartis UK, added that the partnership with the BDI is aligned with the UK’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy, published in August 2017, and offers the opportunity to expand the understanding and capabilities in data science “at scale”.

Novartis is not the first company to invest in AI technology partnerships for medical research.

Earlier this month, US-based medical technology company GE Healthcare announced it had entered into a five-year partnership with Vanderbilt University Medical Center to develop cancer immunotherapies using AI. And in December, the UK government joined forces with life sciences stakeholders to use AI to detect diseases at an early stage, with UCB providing £1 billion ($1.27 billion) in research and development funds.

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Novartis, AI, Oxford University, drug development, partnership, artificial intelligence