Faster, cheaper, better: How China and AI are helping pharmaceutical development

Mark Vermette spoke with TechNode to discuss AI and China in the context of Pharmaceutical Development. 'Faster, cheaper, better' was originally published by TechNode, and we've included Mark's section below.  Click here to read the full article.


China market view
Traditionally the West has excelled in pharmaceuticals development. As AI and other technologies become mainstream in the field, however, the balance is shifting. There will be opportunities for cooperation, but competition will be strong, Mark Vermette told TechNode. Vermette is a principal consultant with experience of the impact of AI and machine learning on the drug development industry at Boston-based biotech consulting group Halloran.

“This is a case of ‘coop-etition’. The health problems we’re experiencing are global, and the benefit of drugs and devices being researched in any region are likely to benefit other regions,” said Vermette, “This is a highly competitive market, and China will have a different approach than the rest of the world. AI is highly competitive and shows a lot of value in healthcare and research, so I think collaboration will be primarily between researchers using the technology, not the technology companies themselves.”

As with many aspects of big data handling in China, the current levels of privacy protection could be of benefit to the country’s drug development.

“There are opinions that China’s ability and willingness to aggregate and share patient health data across drug development in China is an advantage,” said Vermette, “Data is a key input to AI for drug development for patient recruitment, outcomes analysis, genotyping, etc. This could be an advantage in drug development but a major challenge to patient privacy, which is a substantial consideration in Europe and the US.”

China’s drug industry is going through significant changes in line with the country’s development and government policy. “When it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, we know that China has been focusing on the production of generic drugs. The market sector is huge here. But we can tell that there are commitments from the Chinese government that they now want to upgrade from the production of generic drugs to their own drugs, or new drugs,” said Novoheart’s Ron Li.

“The good thing is by producing generic drugs, they have the infrastructure, facilities, and scale and with experience. All they have to do now is come up with their own formulations. They need to have IP-protected formulations and then they can go ahead and produce new drugs, and, with the advances in the last decade or so and the returnees, you can see that new drug candidates are starting to emerge. This is a huge market.”