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Life Sciences trends that make me excited for 2020 (and beyond)

Posted on January 20th, 2020 by in Pharma R&D

Beginning a new year offers an important opportunity to reflect on the past one. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned in 2019, and where I believe my industry is going as we continue further into 2020.

To start, I would say that the biggest lesson I took from this past year is that AI and machine learning are becoming the key to growth for every Life Science industry. From early-stage discovery to clinical trials, pharmas and other sectors want to leverage AI to accelerate the drug discovery process. The recent partnership of Novartis and Microsoft is one of the most notable examples of these types of initiatives. (As you can read here, the partnership will involve Microsoft putting AI tools on every Novartis employee’s desktop.)

Taking stock of our most significant challenges is one of the best ways of determining where we are headed next. For virtually every organization in the Life Sciences industry, the major problem right now is the rapid growth of data (omics, patient data, clinical trial data, etc.). Not only are there several challenges in analyzing the data, but the biggest challenge is how to manage such rapidly growing data. Life Sciences industries are looking for solutions and platforms for systematic storage, search and retrieval of integrated data.

In addition to that, there are numerous areas where the industry uses AI effectively today (see some interesting examples of this here). Natural language processing techniques are being used to identify knowledge gaps and extend content coverage by extracting information from not only literature but also from different patents, electronic health records (EHRs) and clinical overviews. Medical device safety and risk management is also an area that the industry has been shifting its focus to.

Another good way of recognizing which way the wind is blowing is to examine where the industry is investing. As this article on venture capital and biotech explains, gene therapy, neuroscience and the microbiome are all areas of particular interest to Life Science-focused funders. AI is also attracting major investment, with one of the most notable recent examples being the spate of big initiatives in Amsterdam, including Kickstart AI and AI Technology for People.

These trends are all very important, and I’m excited to see what else this new year has in store for us. Thinking ahead, I have noticed that many pharma and academic centers are focusing on oncology. It will be interesting to see the outcomes of some of the Datathons in the year 2020 in that area, such as this one from the Pistoia Alliance focusing on a rare form of cancer in children.

If you would also like to learn what some of my colleagues on the Life Sciences team here at Elsevier are excited about for 2020, take a look at this previous blog post.

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