“The use of AI in the Indian pharmaceutical industry is still in its infancy”

Bengaluru: The pharmaceutical industry has faced many challenges in recent years, from varying demand, pressures on input prices, or the need to speed up new product pipelines. . However, Ganesh Ramachandran, global chief information officer, Alkem Laboratories, said the industry is still in its infancy when implementing advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of objects (IoT) and blockchain. In an interview, he discussed the role of emerging technologies in the pharmaceutical industry and the way forward to collect the right data without raising privacy concerns. Edited excerpts:

What types of emerging technologies are deployed in the pharmaceutical industry today?

We are seeing many newer technologies being adopted globally throughout the value chain, with research and development (R&D) at one end and the front office at the other. Indian pharmaceutical majors are quickly looking to expand adoption. Significant monitoring of the entire R&D pipeline follows to reduce product launch time. The technology is also used to reduce the number of rejections and meet the appropriate requirements from the point of view of the management of the project as a whole at different stages of the classification.

Where are technologies like AI, IoT and blockchain implemented?

Multinationals overseas use a substantial amount of AI, while in the Indian context it is still in its infancy. In the global context, they discover use cases in various business operations and current manual processes to eradicate human intervention and make processes more precise. In India, in recent years, the focus has been on developing the right data models and ensuring the quality of the data, which is a key requirement for boosting the use of AI. Cost sensitivity should also be assessed, as labor costs are not as high as seen overseas. That said, we’re starting to see sales teams looking to harness the power of AI and machine learning (ML), although they are currently more in the proof-of-concept stage.

Quality is an area where immense technology is used. While blockchain is used for the seamless sharing of data between contractors or manufacturers of supplies, adoption is only gaining ground in India. I see blockchain use cases emerging between pharmaceutical majors and contract manufacturers to ensure that the levels of quality are right, from inputs to the finished product.

We’ve seen breaches of some big pharmaceutical companies lately; how is the security issue resolved?

Although we talk about IoT as one of the main pillars of Industry 4.0, linking IT and operational technology is seen as a potential area for a security breach. Some of these concerns prevent organizations from going all the way in implementing IoT. One thing may be IoT implementation for local areas, but that doesn’t justify the kind of investments required. So many organizations that started implementing Industry 4.0 before the lockdowns have slowed down due to security concerns, especially during the pandemic. Many organizations have sought to strengthen their cybersecurity posture. We’re seeing zero trust, AI / ML come into play, along with analytics for automated threat responses.

What do you think is the way forward for pharmaceutical companies?

Unlike consumer packaged goods, where manufacturers have a good idea of ​​the demand generated at retail, stock movements at resellers and consumer behavior, pharmaceutical manufacturers in India have a limited view of needs and behaviors. dealers, chemists, doctors and patients. . To add to this, a pharmaceutical organization typically has multiple divisions within an organization, with each division dealing with a particular therapy.

The way forward is to start by collecting the right data, keeping privacy concerns in mind and pooling different data sources.

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