In episode 2 of AI Meets Life Sci, DeviceTalks Managing Editor Kayleen Brown, and Pharma Editor Brian Buntz explore how Big Tech is developing artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure in a variety of healthcare organizations.
Elena Bonfiglioli, global business leader for Health and Life Sciences at Microsoft, weighs in on the subject, also sharing that she found her passion for technology while programming welfare policy simulations and being continually intrigued by finding the insightful hidden gems held within population data. She explains that changing the DNA of an organization and shifting mindsets are imperative for future businesses to enable the responsible use of AI in healthcare.
Jen Nwankwo, founder and CEO of 1910 Genetics and a Microsoft collaborator, holds an impressive pedigree in biochemistry and biophysics, eventually earning her PhD in pharmacology. She emphasizes that her goals with AI and machine learning (ML) are to solve longstanding problems in developing small- and large-molecule therapeutics. Jen highlights the common pitfall of creating a tech tool first without first clearly defining a core problem it can solve at the outset.
Microsoft and its role in AI-driven healthcare transformation
Bonfigliol shares that Microsoft recently released DAX Copilot Dragon Ambient Experience (formerly DAX Express) after finalizing the acquisition from Nuance, to automate structured, EMR-ready, HIPAA-compliant clinical summaries while retaining physician oversight and sign-offs. Microsoft inked a partnership with Epic, an EMR-provider holding a 35.9% market share in hospitals and a 47.6% market share in beds, respectively, in the U.S. This aggregator now makes room for more unstructured data to provide valuable clinical insights and leverage untapped data sources. DAX Copilot was developed to address the staggering numbers in physician burnout, with many physicians spending more time documenting instead of doctoring. The 2023 Medscape survey noted that physician burnout rates were 53%, a 6% jump over 2021 figures. Microsoft’s vision for this new tool is to create a common analytic architecture to cohesively and usefully combine EMRs, PACs, medical devices, and more with modern open data standards, FHIR, DICOM, etc. This infrastructure now reduces the number of silos and elevates computation to the value of scientific discovery. Ultimately DAX Copilot aims to solve the overly complicated, rampant clinical workflow problems in healthcare without losing clinician oversight.
More robust insights generated faster implore us to dig deeper into understanding disease and move closer to cures over treatments. In the same manner that with great power comes great responsibility, these advances will create even more unstructured data to be managed responsibly. These advances will also shift us towards site-less or decentralized clinical trials with more emphasis on precision medicine. Decentralized clinical trials have become more popular along with at-home care delivery practices such as Medable and Dispatch Health, respectively.
Generative AI and the need for new mental infrastructure
As far as generative AI is concerned, Bonfigliol seemed to advocate building a new mental infrastructure for us all. She explains that the speed of iteration now means yesterday is a distant memory and today is the future. Research-hunting occupies much of our time, with the primary human-advantage being context. Now that AI can deliver reasonable results with continuity, Microsoft has established partnerships with players like Novartis, Novo Nordisk, UCB, and so on to accelerate medical discoveries through simulations and modeling. Microsoft has a strategic focus on empowering the ecosystem of healthcare players and stakeholders by building new capabilities, specifically reflected in the development of Azure Quantum Elements to address pharma and life science challenges. It is no surprise to learn the future lies delicately in the hands and minds of the Microsoft Health Futures team led by Desney Tan, with dedicated research centers continually thinking through the design and delivery of our healthier future.
Microsoft is also collaborating with Paige to “transform cancer diagnosis and patient care by building the world’s largest image-based artificial intelligence (AI) models for digital pathology and oncology.” The magnitude this model will reach with proper training will be a scale of its own, bringing the moonshot cure for cancer closer to home. In the same vein of patient reach, large language models, too, unlock the opportunity to streamline clinical trials and expand into real-world evidence (RWE), a process that traditionally takes years to gather and is fraught with pitfalls. Read more about AI in clinical trials in a recent interview with ConcertAI’s Jeff Elton.
Solving complex challenges in developing small and large-molecule therapeutics
1910 Genetics is developing a fully-integrated drug discovery stack to advance small molecule and protein therapeutics. It started as a Y-Combinator company that eventually caught the attention of Microsoft’s Venture Fund to fuel their Series A. Nwankwo and her team have used unimodal and multimodal computation models fed by varying data sets to build the platform, to then partner with pharmaceutical companies and expand patient reach. In June of 2023, 1910 had the opportunity to become the only biotech drug discovery customer of Microsoft Azure Quantum Elements, serving as a pivotal occasion in the company’s trajectory. ELVIS and ROSALYND are 1910 Genetics’ small and large molecule drug discovery engines, respectively, consisting of multiple AI platforms.
Prominent investors in 1910 Genetics also include Playground Global and Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and former president of Y-Combinator. Other investors include FoundersX Ventures, Y Combinator, Scientia Ventures, Emles Advisors, Tuck Lye Koh of Shunwei Capital. 1910 Genetics’s website has more details. Read more here.
Haley Schwartz is a passionate commercialization expert with over 10 years of sales and marketing experience in medtech. She started Catalyze Healthcare to work with medical device companies struggling to commercialize in the U.S. by focusing on developing marketing plans, launch plans, go-to-market strategies, competitive analysis, pricing models and more. Contact her at email@example.com or via LinkedIn for advice on your next product launch.
The opinions expressed in this contribution are the author’s only and do not necessarily reflect those of Drug Discovery & Development or its employees.
Filed Under: AI Meets Life Sci, machine learning and AI, Podcast, Women in Pharma and Biotech