Shionogi & Co. is a Japanese pharmaceutical company that’s getting onboard with artificial intelligence (AI) in an attempt to speed up the drug development process. Incorporated almost 100 years ago, the company is a well known name in the field of pharmaceuticals.
When it comes to pharmaceuticals, IT specialists are few and far between. Even director and senior executive officer of Shionogi, Takuko Sawada recognizes that the company’s been a little slow on the uptake when it comes to AI. However, that’s all about to change as the pharmaceutical giant prepares to team up with global professional services firm, Accenture. Together the two companies are looking to develop a system that’s able to predict and analyze the efficacy of chemical compounds.
The current drug development process is very long and drawn out and is unsurprising that firms are turning to AI for help. To get a drug approved for public use takes around 10 years. And even then, only 1 in every 25,000 or so gets approved. Using AI to discover what works and what doesn’t is a much better way to get accurate results and fast. Both Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are both investing heavily in AI drug discovery.
At the end of 2016, a collaboration was formed in Japan between a number of different drug manufacturers in which to combine their AI drug discovery efforts. In theory this could help accelerate drug discovery to a success level of around 1 in 2,500. Using AI also means results will be much faster, therefore costing less too.
Predictions for this financial year ending in March 2018, include a 33% profit margin, and a 2% climb in sales to a staggering 345 billion yen. These are solid results that are expected to continue much through the next year. In teaming up with Accenture, “the company can cut its costs and channel those resources into the nurturing of personnel for tasks like AI drug discovery,” explained Fumiyoshi Sakai, analyst at Credit Suisse Securities.
With next-generation drugs on the rise, so are costs. In order to survive drug manufacturers will have to utilize AI as much as possible, but this in itself will be a costly process. In the financial year that ended March 2017, Shionogi reported spending around 18% of its total sales revenue on research and development into new drugs and new AI processes.