Exploring the use of AI in R&D at the US Pharma and Biotech Summit

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Regeneron’s Bari Kowal, senior vice-president, head Development Operations & Portfolio Management, gave insight into how the biopharma industry views the application of AI in R&D.


Speaking with BioPharm International® at the US Pharma and Biotech Summit, Bari Kowal, senior vice-president, head Development Operations & Portfolio Management, Regeneron, discussed the increasing relevance of artificial intelligence (AI) in the R&D space in terms of drug discovery work and analytics. Kowal noted that Regeneron has applied AI for quite some time, and, although not necessarily a new technology, AI has allowed the company to leverage many large language models and advanced searches for the past few years. As a result, the company has built up collections of data in different areas, including in genomics, protein databases, or for operational uses, such as patient populations, study-level data, information about investigators, quality of documents, etc.

“[Much] of our work is crossing over multiple facets of the drug development lifecycle early on in the discovery space, looking at how we manufacture and improving those processes, but also really looking at how we execute trials and reach out to the patients create diversity in the populations,” Kowal said. “We utilize some of the genomic data for finding the targets and more personalized medicine. [There are many] ways that we're leveraging AI.”

However, she emphasizes that the real value of AI is the ability to use it for existing data, especially in the search for optimizing operational efficiency. “Looking in the future, how do we use this to help our decision making and really better predict molecules that will have a tremendous effect? The biggest benefit that I can see, at least today, is that operational efficiency. If we can streamline drug development, from start to finish, our mission is to bring important medicines to patients at the end of the day, and so the time it takes today for drugs to be developed is too long. It's not measured in years, it's measured in decades,” she remarked. “If we can go from the research space to the development space in [a] few years, that is so much better and more beneficial to the patients that are waiting for those treatments.”

While speaking on a panel at the summit about diverging schools of thought on how AI should be used in R&D, Kowal observed that there were not necessarily divergent views by the panelists on how to use AI, but rather that the panelists had like-minded views on the topic. “I think we all believe that AI can be transformative. I think we believe that, ultimately, we're scratching the surface of what AI can do, but we also understand the human component and the context of human intelligence that you have to apply,” she stated.

The US Pharma and Biotech Summit occurred on May 16, 2024 in New York, NY.