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Novartis forges AI alliance with Oxford University

Part of Novartis drive to become 'data-driven' pharma company

Novartis

Novartis has entered into a five-year collaboration with Oxford University to apply artificial intelligence to predicting how patients respond to drugs for inflammatory diseases.

The Swiss drugmaker said that the programme with Oxford’s Big Data Institute (BDI) will tap into anonymised data from around five million patients from the UK and international partner organisations to improve drug development, as well as Novartis’ in-house data sets.

The overall aim is to “spot disease patterns and signals much earlier in their manifestation, translating more quickly into methods that will support clinical decision making,” it said in a statement.

Novartis has been one of the pioneers in the application of digital technologies to healthcare, and already has a number of artificial intelligence initiatives on the go, including a two-year-old project with IBM Watson Health applying AI to real-world data to improve insight on the expected outcomes of breast cancer treatment.

It says the Oxford University alliance will be “transformative for how Novartis adopts data science at scale from multiple data sources, beginning with flagship programmes in multiple sclerosis, dermatology and rheumatology.” Novartis will be contributing clinical and MRI data from more than 35,000 MS patients gleaned from its clinical development programmes for drugs like Gilenya (fingolimod).

The two partners say they will use AI and machine learning to find patterns in data – including imaging, genomics, clinical and biological information – which would not be possible by humans alone.

Through that effort they hope to gain insights into the characteristics of diseases like MS and psoriasis, greater understanding of factors that drive disease progression, and identify crossovers between diseases that could help guide the development of new drugs.

john tsai

Novartis' John Tsai

“Our work with the Big Data Institute will enable us to combine different types of data such as clinical, imaging and genomics, and use advanced analytical capabilities to change how we look at diseases and discover new insights” said John Tsai, Novartis’ head of global drug development and chief medical officer.

“This has the potential to transform how we design and conduct our clinical development programmes of the future.”

The alliance also brings in other partners, including the Medical Research Council (MRC) Harwell Institute – which will carry out data ‘wrangling’, i.e. converting and mapping raw data to make it more suitable for specific tasks – and Oxford University’s Department of Statistics.

Article by
Phil Taylor

18th January 2019

From: Research

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