Novartis enlists Microsoft to speed AI implementation

In a move closely partnering big pharma with big tech, Novartis and Microsoft have jointly announced a strategic alliance.

Under the agreement, the two giants will leverage AI to guide the Swiss drugmaker’s R&D and support its business operations over the next several years.

The partnership will enable Novartis to tap Microsoft’s AI toolsets and know-how, expanding its agility for not only discovering and developing but also commercializing new drugs, according to a Microsoft announcement.

As part of the plan, Novartis will set up an AI innovation lab with the core aim of putting AI tools in the hands of every Novartis employee.

Meanwhile the lab will focus Novartis’s efforts to “tackle some of the hardest computational challenges within the life sciences, starting with generative chemistry, image segmentation and analysis for smart and personalized delivery of therapies, and optimization of cell and gene therapies at scale.”

The company’s investment in the project will include funding for subject-matter experts as well as technologies and tools.

“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,” says Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan in the announcement.

Microsoft CEO Staya Nadella adds, “Together, we aim to address some of the biggest challenges facing the life sciences industry today.”

Joint research activities will roll out at Novartis locations in Switzerland and Ireland as well as at Microsoft’s U.K. research lab. Along with drug design and gene therapies, initial joint efforts include a project concentrating on treatments for macular degeneration.