Novartis is tapping AWS to revamp manufacturing processes with AI and data analytics

Novartis is tapping AWS to revamp manufacturing processes with AI and data analytics

The Swiss pharmaceutical titan is embarking on a multiyear alliance with Amazon’s cloud-computing business — Amazon Web Services (AWS) — to leverage AI, data analytics, and cloud-based “Insight Centers” to revamp the many steps involved in drug manufacturing, FierceBiotech reports.

This marks the latest team-up for Novartis in its race to digitize and streamline all phases of its operations — an initiative spearheaded by Chief Digital Officer Bertrand Bodson, a former Amazon leader who joined the company last year.

Most US Healthcare Organizations Are Prioritizing Cloud Computing

AWS is swooping in to help Novartis fend off some of the pharma industry’s most persistent pain points — like suboptimal production models and murky supply chains.

Novartis is leaning on AWS’ data analytics prowess and predictive AI capabilities to better produce hard-to-develop drugs, which could pave the way for the faster development of more personalized meds. Novartis is diving deeper into cell and gene therapy development, but these sorts of treatments are incredibly complex to produce since they’re custom to each patient — meaning development hinges on mining through tons of data. So, by upping its AI tech capabilities, Novartis can better keep tabs on quality and usher in more precise therapies, while streamlining production.

Additionally, US political figures and consumers have bashed Novartis for astronomical gene therapy prices — and pharma cos are facing pressure to slim those price tags. So, deploying AI to help cut down the time it takes to bring drugs to market — and, thus, the amount of time it takes to start turning a profit on new products — should be advantageous for the drug maker if it’s coerced into slashing drug prices. 

Novartis also gains access to an AI model that could help it keep better track of inventory and clamp down on costly supply chain mishaps. Novartis is unlocking a connection to AWS-powered “computer vision” — an AI approach that essentially replicates a human’s visual system, giving computers the ability to see and recognize — to analyze video footage from the front lines of production to keep tabs on inventory and orders, STAT notes in its weekly newsletter.

“Poor supply chain visibility” has been pegged as a top problem plaguing pharma cos partly since not having real-time insight into manufacturing conditions can lead to costly snafus: When firms slack on quality control practices, drugs can become defected, leading to recalls that weigh on profits. But computer vision — which could catch issues as they arise — could theoretically help maintain a high level of quality and regulatory compliance, and help firms avoid recalls down the line.

Because giant, multifaceted healthcare companies have a wide range of cloud-computing needs, opportunities abound for tech giants leveraging their cloud divisions to edge deeper into the health realm. Just a couple of months before announcing this team-up with AWS, Novartis tapped Microsoft’s cloud arm to bring AI to its R&D departments.

The fact that it’s engaging in multiple cloud deals reveals that tapping a single cloud vendor might not be realistic for massive health organizations with varied needs — and that cloud computing businesses could strategize to find their niche in a healthcare ecosystem that’s becoming more dependent on their infrastructure: About 80% of healthcare pros peg cloud as a priority for their organizations in the year ahead, according to a HIMSS Media survey of 200 leaders from across the industry.

As big tech firms race to capitalize on the $11 billion healthcare cloud opportunity, we’ll likely see the companies rolling out new features to woo specific segments of the healthcare market: AWS just released a transcription tool for physicians, which could help it land deals with hospitals, for instance.

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