Artificial intelligence provides inspiration in drug development

In the area of drug development, artificial intelligence (AI) can help researchers to find new ideas and make treatments available to patients sooner.

Orion has been using AI in its pharmaceutical R&D for several years. One of the main goals is to try, develop and find solutions that are suitable for Orion in particular for various applications. AI can inspire researchers to find new ideas through molecular structures, target receptors and mechanisms of action. A researcher can, for example, reject tens of thousands of scientific articles in a few seconds with AI and find semantic connections in them to the theme that is being researched. While one person can study only a limited number of scientific articles in a day, AI can examine a host of publications in a moment and offer completely new and different ideas for researchers to try.

For example, AI can be programmed to study a specific gene or illness and the related patents, clinical trials and publications. When data sources and findings important for Orion are combined, entirely new semantic meanings and, consequently, connections can be found for them. In other words, AI can discover ideas that the human brain is simply incapable of finding.

Another example of AI’s benefits for research is monitoring the world outside Orion. Major global pharmaceutical companies have huge numbers of people who constantly follow global developments. Orion does not have the resources for this, so it has harnessed AI for this purpose. This provides Orion information on what to focus on in research while also helping it to keep up with and close in on larger companies.

AI may not only significantly reduce the amount of time required for research, but also considerably improve the accuracy of development work. Everyone benefits if more personalised treatment solutions can be made available to patients more rapidly and cost-effectively. The development programme for a new drug currently takes 12–16 years on average. In the future, AI is expected to shorten this time significantly.

In the future, AI may be able to offer even more benefits for clinical trials and the treatment of patients. Instead of carrying out measurements at the doctor’s surgery or in a laboratory setting alone, it is now possible to collect huge amounts of various data on people’s daily lives, lifestyles and health. This data can be analysed with AI and be used to develop new drugs and optimise treatments for patients. Orion is also developing algorithms that can guide the treatment process and therefore help doctors, nurses and patients.

However, AI can never fully replace the most important drug development tool: people. Intelligent, insightful and persistent people will always be needed in R&D, but AI can provide invaluable support. Artificial intelligence is, in fact, auxiliary intelligence.


Sammeli Liikkanen
Digitalist, Head of X-Lab at Orion

9 October, 2019