New Novartis CEO pushes for AI, telemedicine

The new CEO of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, is pushing the drug company to embrace artificial intelligence, telemedicine and automation as keys to its future.

Narasimhan, who began his tenure as CEO in February, started by building the software system called Nerve to track patient data on 550 clinical trials using Novartis drugs. Additionally, Nerve uses an analytics software capable of predicting potential errors in the clinical trials.

"When you look at history, it takes the medical establishment 50 to 75 years to actually change how we do clinical studies," Narasimhan told Forbes. "The first clinical study was done in 1670, the first placebo-controlled study in 1880, the first randomized controlled clinical trial in the 1940s. So now we enter a world where we do some things better than we used to, but fundamentally, we've not rethought how we do clinical trails. So we really approach it from the perspective of 'How could we use technology just to leapfrog many of the challenges?'"

As Novartis shares continue to increase, up 12 percent in the past five years, Narasimhan believes the future of the company relies on its ability to incorporate artificial intelligence, telemedicine, automation and quantum computing to develop new drugs with improved efficiency and safety.

"Our odds at Novartis of finding bad decisions, then making the right decisions, go up when we are powered by these machine capabilities and artificial intelligences,” Narasimhan said.

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