When will there be a “miracle pill” that will cure all our sores?

Pfizer uses IBM Watson, a system that uses machine learning to increase oncology drug discovery. (Photo: 123RF)

GUEST BLOG. Of all the technological revolutions, none is as eagerly awaited as that of health! Wouldn’t it be so simple to have access to the “miracle remedy”, which would be able to cure all our sores? Science fiction on the subject is also very vast and has long promised us mechanisms and remedies that will quickly cure any disease, even going so far as to regrow an arm or a leg that you would have lost in a accident…

More realistically, remember that even today, cancer remains the leading cause of death in Canada, with nearly two out of five people who will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime, and one in four will die. This is why research in this field is considerable and requires a lot of funding in order to eventually find a “miracle cure”, but also to improve the treatments already available and offer patients the best possible care.

However, the development of a drug is laborious work, but above all expensive: its cost is estimated at 2.6 billion US dollars. Moreover, treatments must be researched, tested, approved and duly regulated before they end up in our pharmacies and hospitals, a process that can take several years.

Biomedical is a titanic industry, although often misunderstood, fed from all sides and always on the lookout for the latest technological advances to continue in its progress. It is therefore not surprising to note that artificial intelligence has carved out a place for itself in the pharmaceutical field in recent years.

Because at the level of research and development, artificial intelligence is a real gold mine. Indeed, AI algorithms have the potential to increase new drug discovery through centralized data, better understanding of molecules, higher success rate, and faster and much less costly processes.

New drug development platforms, enabled by artificial intelligence, are helping companies use large sets of patient data to better target diseases and, therefore, which treatments to prioritize. Technological advancements in recent years have made it easier to store the large volume of digital medical patient information. AI platforms can thus exploit these exhaustive databases in order to develop drugs more quickly and with a greater chance of success.

Already, the pharmaceutical giants are riding this wave of great possibilities. For example, Pfizer uses IBM Watson, a system that uses machine learning to increase cancer drug discovery. For its part, Sanofi uses an artificial intelligence platform to research therapies for metabolic diseases, and Genentech uses algorithms to study cancer treatments.

AI can also help redirect new drugs. Machine learning algorithms are able to identify molecules that failed in certain clinical trials and predict how those same compounds could be used to target other diseases.

According to some studies, these technological improvements could lead to 50 additional new therapies over a 10-year period, a financial opportunity of more than $50 billion.

Of course, such results could be game-changing not only for patients with hard-to-treat conditions, but also for at-risk populations, for whom medications are not always affordable or accessible.

And all this is just one angle of the use of AI in the vast pharmaceutical world. Added to this are other great uses, such as intelligent quality control, critically important in pharmaceutical research, which helps reduce waste and improve reuse through predictive maintenance; or machine learning that can help predict and prevent over- and under-demand as well as address supply chain issues and plant failures.

The effect of AI on traditional drug discovery is still in its infancy, because transforming an industry as big and strong as biomedical takes time, even if AI-driven innovations artificial intelligence are already showing impressive results. Despite everything, we are most certainly allowed to dream of a healthier world and better equipped to deal with diseases thanks to more effective and less expensive drugs. Until then, let AI bring us closer to that not-so-distant future!

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When will there be a “miracle pill” that will cure all our sores?

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